St Jude’s Boulton Paul Defiant Stained Glass Window Puzzle


St Jude’s Church has a conundrum that we hope someone can help us with. In the bottom right hand corner of our main East Window is a stained glass image of a WWII aircraft. It is placed below St Christopher, well known as a Patron Saint of Travellers in a larger window with St George for Soldiers, St Nicholas for sailors – and St Christopher. (As well as Jesus and St Jude)

This window was damaged by bombing in the Plymouth Blitz and was replaced after the war with this new design as a memorial to Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen. This aircraft is patently suggesting St Christopher could represent a Patron Saint for Airmen. The puzzle – why THIS aircraft? Surely a Spitfire or a Hurricane or a Lancaster Bomber? No – this is a Boulton Paul Defiant.

St Jude’s Church sits above a major WWII rail junction and central station – Friary Station (No longer in existence though the rail line cutting is still there with a single shunting track). As you can see from the post war photograph here, the bombing didn’t just hit Plymouth’s Navy Dockyard, it hit housing. (St Jude’s is the church in this picture)

St Jude’s has two War Memorials. Its WWI plaque has 81 local men listed – from a parish of only 0.3 square miles, and 17 of those men had been members of our Boys Brigade. However, in WWII the numbers are much larger as you can see in the image below – 104 servicemen and 23 neighbours, killed in their homes or on our local streets .

As the coronavirus emergency was underway, our Vicar realised he still had an Airfix model of the Boulton Paul Defiant that he could do on a wet day when there was no work. Then it also dawned on him, that lots of other people were looking for something to do – and lots of them were rather good at online ancestry research – well all sorts of research. So that’s why this challenge to try and solve our puzzle…

Why is the aircraft in our WWII Memorial Stained Glass Window a Boulton Paul Defiant and not a Spitfire, Hurricane or a Lancaster Bomber – they are such icons of the RAF of the era, unlike this one that took us ages to just get identified?

We have a working theory. That one of our WWII Servicemen on our memorial was involved in some way with the Boulton Paul Defiant. The thing is we have no handed down records of why these men are listed. We have had volunteers working to try and find them and for many we’ve managed. But, we can’t find anyone with an obvious link to this aircraft. Most are Navy, some Army and some RAF but we haven’t identified them all.

The Boulton Paul Defiant had an unusual service history, from a Fighter Bomber for the Dunkirk evacuations, defending itself admirably with its rear facing guns – until the Luftwaffe recognised it and knew it had no forward facing cannon. It then served for things like Air Sea Rescue spotting and target towing. It flew within several Squadrons and there is still a single aircraft in existence at the RAF Museum.

And so, if you are looking for something to do while isolated in our viral emergency, would you like to help us out?

We have placed here everything we know and a higher quality image of our WWII War Memorial so you can see the names if you zoom in.

Can you find a link we’ve not managed to yet?

Can you share this puzzle with like minded friends to help spread the net?

Every Remembrance Sunday at St Jude’s we take great care to try and share something personal of one of our past parishioners. Last year it was our local civilians. In the anniversary year of the Armistice, in 2018, we filled our church with 81 silhouettes of our WWI fallen, distinguishing the Boys Brigade from the others by their caps and helmets. (See below) We can promise, if we can find this link, we shall mark it at our next Remembrance Sunday.

Thank you so much – and we hope you enjoy the hunt to solve our puzzle!