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Object: Commemorative lace panel "Battle of Britain"

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Title Commemorative lace panel "Battle of Britain"
Production Dobsons & M. Browne & Co. Ltd (weaver), 1942-46, England
Cross, Harry (designer), 1942, England
Medium summary Jacquard woven Egyptian cotton lace panel with applied silk backing
Materials cotton, silk
Classification banners
Technique weaving, sewing
Dimensions Overall: x 4500mm (Length) x 1620mm (Width)
Credit line Gift of Mr F. C. Renouf, 1949
Registration number PC000793

This extraordinary lace panel commemorates the Battle of Britain, which saved Britain from invasion during World War II. Woven by an English firm, it was presented to New Zealand to honour our pilots' role in this epic air battle.

The Battle of Britain was fought most firecely in the skies over southern England during the summer and autumn of 1940. France, Belgium and the Netherlands had all fallen to the Nazis over the preceding months: now Germany was poised to invade Britain. But first, it needed to destroy the Royal Air Force (RAF).

From 10 July, the RAF - supported by Commonwealth air forces (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa) and pilots from other natinos - fought a desperate air battle. Day after day, the much larger German air force targeted the squadrons defending London and England's South-East, commanded by New Zealander Air Vice Marshal Sir Keith Park. Then, on 7 September, Germany switched focus and began bombimg London. A week later, the British inflicted heavy losses on two huge formations of fighters and bombers. It was a turning point, and Nazi plans to invade Britain were cancelled.

The outcome of the Battle was a huge morale boost for the British. But it came at a high price - of the 2,950 pilots who fought, nearly 500 were killed, including 18 New Zealanders. Another 500 pilots were wounded.

Between 1942 and 1946, the Nottingham firm of Dobsons M. Browne and Co. created 38 commemorative lace panels, including this one. It shows the badges of the Commonwealth air forces, scenes from the Battle, and London buildings that were bombed - including St Paul's Catherdral, wreathed in flames. It also features Sir Winston Churchill's famous tribute to those who defended Britain: 'Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few'.

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