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St Paul’s call for information on WWI soldiers sees worldwide response

A request by St Paul’s Cathedral for information about more than 100 wounded soldiers from World War One has seen details flood in from across the world.

In March, the Cathedral put out a call to find descendants of soldiers who worked to embroider an elaborate altar frontal, used for many years after the War at the high altar.

Details have now been found about many of the 137 men, from the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa, and some direct descendants will come to St Paul’s for a special service of the Eucharist on Sunday 3 August at 6pm - at which the altar frontal will be used for the first time since the 1940s and to which all people are most welcome.

Amongst those at the service will be Ida Missing, daughter of Driver Percy Cooney, and Ronald Barnes, son of Private Herbert Barnes. Also in attendance will be the grandchildren of Lance Corporal James Ernest Muth of the Royal Regiment of Canada, who will fly to London from Ontario especially for the occasion.


The altar frontal shows intricate floral and bird designs with the chalice of the Eucharist and palm branches of martyrdom. It was created by men recovering in various hospitals, as part of their rehabilitation. Individual pieces were sent to the Royal School of Needlework to be stitched onto the frontal as a whole. Embroidery was a classic device for the rehabilitation of soldiers during WWI, because this intricate work greatly helped to reduce the effects of shell shock.


As part of its plans to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, St Paul’s will display the newly restored altar frontal in a special display case for four years, to enable worshippers and visitors to mark the events of 1914-18, with the frontal as the main focus.

As well as relying on the worldwide web and local newspapers for help, the Cathedral has also greatly benefited from the expertise of The Western Front Association (WFA), the premier organisation for study, learning and research into all aspects of the Great War. The WFA has unearthed details of many of the men, as well as further information including pension records.

The Reverend Canon Michael Hampel, Precentor of St Paul’s Cathedral, said: "When we began this search we hoped we may get details for a small number of the men, so the response and level of detail received has been overwhelming.

"The personal stories that we can now attach to these men’s names makes the human cost of World War One seem ever more real. It is a testament to these men, shell-shocked and injured from the trenches, that they could create something so beautiful.”