St Paul’s Cathedral to display stunning altar embroidery by First World War blind veteran

18 March 2014 16:00

An incredible embroidery, part of which was embroidered by a blind First World War soldier nearly 100 years ago, is to go on display at St. Paul’s Cathedral for the first time in over 70 years.

World War One soldier, Sergeant-Major George Eades, was one of 133 wounded First World War soldiers, who embroidered an incredible frontal nearly 100 years ago which will go on display at St. Paul's Cathedral for the first time in over 70 years.

Born in Berkshire in 1870, George was already an experienced soldier by the breakout of the World War One. He had served in 39th (Berkshire) Company of the Imperial Yeomanry, a volunteer cavalry regiment, during the Boer War.

George then emigrated to Canada and went to serve in the First World War as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, before being blinded after a head injury at St. Eloi in 1917. George then came to Blind Veterans UK, where he received support to help him live independently with sight loss.

Blind Veterans UK was founded in 1915 and we have been providing rehabilitation and training to vision-impaired veterans for nearly 100 years.

While at Blind Veterans UK, George trained in typewriting, Braille, basket-making and poultry farming - all despite his blindness. A talented embroider, George was also part of a team of disabled First World War veterans which produced a stunning altar frontal for St. Paul's.

The frontal, which depicts the Holy Grail, was presented to the Cathedral in 1919, but was stored away for safe-keeping during the Second World War. This will be the first time since the War that the frontal has been on display for the public.

Blind Veterans UK's magazine, Review, described the embroidery at the time as "designed to represent victory gained through suffering, its centre panel portraying the Holy Grail in golden silk, representing suffering, and those on either side bearing the palms of victory".

While at Blind Veterans UK, George also led a contingent of blinded soldiers on their Armistice Day celebrations. The group marched to Buckingham Palace, where King George V personally accepted their salute.

George went back to Canada and, with the training he had received from Blind Veterans UK, became a poultry farmer. He later became a teacher for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), where he taught the same skills he had learnt at Blind Veterans UK.

George returned to his native Berkshire in 1922 and made baskets in Reading until sadly passing away in 1927.

The frontal will be unveiled on 3 August, nearly 100 years after Britain declared war on Germany and will stay on display until 2018, the centenary of the end of the War.

If you know an Armed Forces or National Service veteran struggling with sight loss request free support by calling 0800 389 7979.