Turning The Page
The Warrior’s (Buffs) Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral
Building was started on the Chapel, that we know as The Warriors Chapel or Buffs Chapel, between 1428 and 1437, although no exact date is available, and was dedicated to St. Michael on the 18th December 1439. The chapel was designed by Richard Beke, who was the Priory’s architect between 1432 and 1458. It is often referred to as as the “Holland Chapel” on account of the tomb it was built to house for Margaret Holland’s two soldier husbands. At the centre is the effigy of the builder, Lady Margaret Holland herself who died in 1439. These figures rank amongst the most accomplished English alabaster effigies of the fifteenth century.
The association of The Buffs with this particular chapel, subsequently known as Warrior’s or Buffs’ Chapel, seems to have begun around the middle of the nineteenth century with the erection of stained glass in the east window of St. Michael’s Chapel in 1862. This memorial, subsequently destroyed in 1942, was to the men from the East Kent Regiment who died in the Crimea War and led to the Chapel becoming known as “The Buffs Chapel”.
The official adoption of the Chapel by the regiment was marked by the establishment of an endowment fund in the twentieth century that was eventually entrusted to the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral in 1948. The Buffs Memorial 1914-1919 was a reredos designed in the offices of W. D. Caroe and includes figures of St. Michael, St. George and St. Paul. This was altered in 1952 and a new altar was added.
The Turning Of The Page Ceremony
Since 1926, at 11am each day a page in the Book of Life is turned on which is inscribed the names of Buffs who have given their lives for their country, 6,500 from the First War alone. Initially the privilege of carrying out this task fell upon a recruit selected daily for good conduct and special attention to duty. The first of these “Stick Orderlies” as they became known, was Private J. H. Stone who on 14th June 1926, in the presence of the Dean, the Very Reverend G. K. A. Bell, and the Depot Commander, Major J. V. R. Jackson imitated a ritual which is still carried on to this day but now the honour falls on a member of our Regimental Association.
In November 1940, a 16 year old boy soldier, Sidney Pulman of The Buffs, earned the praise of the Regiment for his courage and bearing during an air attack on Canterbury Cathedral. On that wartime morning, young Sidney was stick orderly of the day and it was his duty to Turn the Page. Having marched through the streets of Canterbury, as was the tradition, Sidney stood in front of the Book of Life ready to Turn the Page at 11am. As Sidney was about to Turn the Page, a German aircraft attacked Canterbury and a bomb shattered The Buffs memorial window, covering Sidney with glass splinters.
He was unmoved and continued to carry out his duty calmly and quietly with great reverence demonstrating courage and resolve way beyond his tender years. When the late King George V1 visited Canterbury in 1946, Sidney Pulman was chosen to “Turn the Page” in front of his King in recognition of his heroism six years previously.
Each weekday at 11am, the bell of HMS Canterbury is rung and a page in one of the Books of Life is turned. The ceremony started in 1926 when the smartest soldier on The Buffs Depot Quarter Guard marched from the barracks to the Cathedral.
Today the tradition is normally carried on by members of the Queen’s Own Buffs Regimental Association.