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Organ work at Vale Church uncovers wartime mystery

A British two-seat biplane and bomber aircraft of the First World War

A British two-seat biplane and bomber aircraft from World War One

RENOVATORS at a Vale of Glamorgan church found a rare World War One relic when they opened up the organ – and they have no idea how it got there.

They believe timber, complete with the red, white and blue circles of the RAF symbol, was recycled from a biplane when the organ was installed at St Curig’s, Porthkerry,  in 1921 as a memorial to the lost soldiers of Rhoose.

RAF symbol found on an internal wooden panel from an organ.

The RAF symbol found on the wooden panel

The wood appears to be from a section of wing and has been used as an internal slat but it is unclear how it found its way there. The only military airfields in Wales in the 1920s were in Pembrokeshire and Anglesey, and there is no known record of a military plane crash in the Vale.

The Priest in Charge, Melanie Prince said: “We were just delighted because the organ is there to remember the lost of World War One.

“To think the organ is partly made from a World War One plane is just amazing.”

Church sub-warden Graham Loveluck-Edwards said: “How ironic that something built to do battle in the skies should now be part of something as benign as a church organ, something associated with harmony and joy.

“If you look up the definition of ‘wing’ in the dictionary, you will find that it is described as ‘an organ for flight’.”

Porthkerry’s community banded together to raise £15,000 to restore the organ. St Curig’s held a Christmas concert, sold hand-painted Christmas cards by one of the congregation, and held a silent auction and race night. Mr Loveluck-Edwards ran the Dublin marathon and raised about £600 for the fund.

There were also individual donations from the weekly congregation of between 15 and 20 people.

The Rev Prince said: “It felt like a mountain to climb to get the money.”

The organ at the church of St Curig's, Porthkerry

The organ at the church of St Curig’s, Porthkerry

St Curig’s also received a grant from the Welsh Government Cadw scheme designed to help repair and conserve war memorials in Wales. To qualify the church had to show original 1921 planning documents to prove that the organ was installed as a war memorial.

It also received from the Pilgrim Trust, the Allchurches Trust and the On Organ Fund. St Curig’s reached its total of £15,000 in July 2015 and Clevedon Organs began the restoration work in September.

There are three stages to organ restoration: dismantling the structure, repairing the wood and the rebuild. It was during the rebuild that workers discovered the RAF symbol.

The church of St Curig's, Porthkerry

St Curig’s, Porthkerry

Work on the organ was completed on November 5. There will be a special service of prayer and thanksgiving to celebrate the monumental restoration of the organ on November 22.

The Parish of Porthkerry and Rhoose is appealing to anyone to come forward with information that might unravel the mystery.

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