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Oxford Open Doors 2020 – The Regimental Chapel

Oxford Open Doors – The Regimental Chapel at Christ Church Cathedral

Unfortunately the ongoing Covid-19 situation meant that this year, the usual tours of the Regimental Chapel at Christ Church Cathedral didn’t go ahead during Oxford Open Doors. As an alternative we’re updating the blog with some background information on the Chapel, along with a few images, from A brief guide to the Regimental Chapel Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The booklet, produced for The Regimental Committee of The Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry (43rd & 52nd), is a great accompanyment to the tour (or alternative in this case) and can be purchased from the museum shop. The following text is just a brief excerpt from the full booklet, but gives a good¬†glimpse¬†what can be seen on the real tour as well as the history of the Chapel itself.

The Tour

As you enter the Cathedral from Tom Quad, you will see memorial tablets commemorating the many men of Christ Church, who served in various Services and Regiments and lost their lives in the two major wars of the 20th Century.

Moving towards the Regimental Chapel takes you through the ante-Chapel and to the right, along the south side of the Nave. On the walls are memorial plaques from the Boer War in South Africa and from the Indian Mutiny, showing more death by febrile diseases than from enemy action. Army medical services were yet to be developed. As you reach the Chapel, pause to view on your right the tomb of the first Bishop of the Diocese and last abbot of St Frideswide’s, Bishop Robert King.

On your left is the Rood Screen, the entrance to the Regimental Chapel. Both counties [Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire] are represented on the Screen by their ciphers, with badges of the Oxford and Bucks and of the Bucks Battalion on the western face.

History of the Chapel

Over the centuries, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Queen’s Own oxfordshire Hussars, the two county regiments, have fought with honour and distinction at home and abroad. Their present day descendants are “A” Company, 7th Battalion, The Rifles and 142 (Queens Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Vehicle Squadron, Royal Logistics Corps, respectively.

After the Armistice, ending the terrible losses of the First World War, Great Britain set herself to recovery and to remembrance of those many countrymen who had given their lives for our freedom.

In 1876 the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry occupied Cowley Barracks in Hollow Way as their Regimental Depot. Without their own Chapel they looked to the Church of Cowley St. James. As the civil population grew, an extension was created which widened the North Aisle; here may be seen many memorial tablets from the Regiment. Depot Commander in 1929, Major Powell began negotiations with the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral for a small space. In 1930, there was a notable coincidence, in that Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Paget, the next Depot commander, was born in this Cathedral, being a son of the former Dean, later Bishop Francis Oxon.

In 1931 the Oxford and Bucks, following the efforts of Colonel Paget, had achieved Civic and Cathedral agreement to find a space within the Cathedral where Books of Rememberance could be kept with dignity; thus was the Chapel conceived. It was dedicated on 11 November 1931 at noon. It was recorded that the service, 1000 attending with bands playing, was at near perfection as anything can be and will never be forgotten. Colonel Paget’s diary includes, ‘The Regimental Chapel represents to me the first ideal I have yet achieved, and I wish I could achieve more of what is beautiful and useful’.

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