This commemorative plaque was made for the round, stained glass window titled “Christ showing the helmsman the way” that was originally installed at the St Nicholas Seamen’s Church in Williamstown. The window was donated as a memorial to the members of the Merchant Navy whose lives were lost in the Second World War, 1939-1945. The donor was the Williamstown Lightkeepers Auxiliary, an independent ladies association working with the Williamstown Missions to Seamen (re-named the Mission to Seafarers in the year 2000).
The window was officially dedicated on December 14, 1947 by Geelong's Anglican Bishop, Rt. Rev. J.D. McKie. In the early months of 1948 this bronze plaque was also placed in the chapel above the altar.
The Williamstown St Nicholas Seamen’s Church ceased operation in 1966. In 1979 the Victoria Missions to Seamen donated this round, stained glass window and the memorial plaque to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, along with many other items and furnishings. These items have been used to simulate the Williamstown Mission and Chapel as much as possible.
THE MISSIONS TO SEAMEN
The Missions to Seamen was an Anglican charity that served seafarers of the world since 1856 in Great Britain. It symbol is a Flying Angel, inspired by a Bible verse. Today there are centres in over 200 ports world-wide where seamen of all backgrounds are offered a warm welcome and provided with a wide range of facilities.
In Victoria the orgainsation began in Williamstown in 1857 as a Sailors’ Church, also known as ‘Bethel’ or the ‘Floating Church’ in an old hulk floating in Hobson’s Bay, Port of Melbourne. It soon became part of the Missions to Seamen, Victoria. In the year 2000 the organisation, now named Mission to Seafarers, still operated locally in Melbourne, Portland, Geelong and Hastings.
The Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild was formed in 1906 to support the Missions to Seamen in Melbourne and other centres such as Williamstown. Two of the most significant ladies of the Guild were founder Ethel Augusta Godfrey and foundation member Alice Sibthorpe Tracy (who established a branch of the Guild in Warrnambool in 1920). The Guild continued its work until the 1960s.
In 1943 a former Williamstown bank was purchased for the Missions to Seaman Club. The chapel was named St Nicholas’ Seamen’s Church and was supported by the Ladies’ Harbour Lights Guild, the Williamstown Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary and the League of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Friends. It ceased operation in 1966.
A Missions to Seamen Chapel and Recreation Room was a significant feature of ports during the late 1800s and into the 1900s. It seemed appropriate for Flagstaff Hill to include such a representation within the new Maritime Village, so the Melbourne Board of Management of Missions to Seamen Victoria gave its permission on 21st May 1979 for the entire furnishings of the Williamstown chapel to be transferred to Flagstaff Hill. The St Nicholas Seamen’s Church was officially opened on October 11, 1981 and closely resembles the Williamstown chapel.
This plaque is significant for its connection with the round Sanctuary window above the altar in the chapel at Flagstaff Hill. The window was originally installed at the chapel of the St Nicholas Seamen’s Church in Williamstown in 1947, and is listed on the Victorian War Heritage Inventory No. 196973 as an object of significance.
The plaque is also significant for its recognition of the members of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives in service to our country during World War II.
The plaque is important for its connection with the Williamstown Lightkeepers’ Auxiliary and Missions to Seamen, which were dedicated to supporting seafarers from all over the world. The funds the group raised helped to furnish the St Nicholas Seamen’s Church in Williamstown, including the Sanctuary window, pews, carpets and hangings. These items are now part of the St Nicholas Seamen's Church Williamstown Collection at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, Warrnambool.
Plaque: rectangular brass commemorative plaque. Each corner has a round hole. Inscription impressed into the metal and filled in with black paint. It is now part of the Williamstown Missions to Seamen Collection.
Inscriptions & markings
“IN MEMORY OF THE MEMBERS / OF THE MERCHANT NAVY WHO WERE LOST / IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939-1945 / FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH / THE WINDOW ABOVE THE ALTAR / WAS ERECTED BY THE WILLIAMSTOWN / LIGHTKEEPERS AUXILIARY / 1947.”
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