Most Sundays the lectern is used and we look at the image at the front of the lectern—but what does it mean?
IHS is a monogram or abbreviation of the Holy name of Jesus. It refers to the first three letters in Greek of the spelling of the name Jesus (I—iota, H—eta, S—sigma). It can also represent the Latin IEUSUS HOMINUM SALVATOR—Jesus Saviour of Man. The three nails represent those used at the crucifixion of Jesus.
There is also an inscription at the back of the lectern
“In Memoriam John Philip Blake MC [BA Cantab] Acting Captain Royal Marines Killed in Action while serving with the 43rd Commandos 2nd June 1944”
So reads the inscription on the fine oak lectern in St Faith’s Church, Havant. As a fellow Royal Marine I undertook some research into John Blake about his life locally, how he won his Military Cross and he met his untimely death. And very rewarding research it was too.
John Blake was born in Portsmouth on 17 November 1917 above the surgery in High St, Portsmouth where his father was a dentist. The family later moved to what was then Wade Cottage in Wade Court Road, Havant where he, his two sisters and brother had an idyllic childhood. He went first to Emsworth House School and then, to Aldenham as a Scholar and finally Head Boy. From there he read Maths at St John’s College, Cambridge and became a double Blue in Cricket and Hockey. In 1939 he played 14 games for Hampshire County Cricket team, scoring over 1,000 runs, and also became a Maths master at Sherborne School.
John Blake joined the Royal Marines in 1940 and took part in the abortive Dakar expedition. On return his battalion went through the arduous commando course at Achnacarry, in Scotland and converted into 43 Royal Marine Commando (450 men at full strength) arriving in NorthAfrica later in 1943. In January 1944 the commando landed against light opposition at Anzio in Italy, gained its objectives and was withdrawn to Naples. The US General in command then lost the initiative and, in Churchill’s words “instead of flinging a wild cat ashore we were left with a stranded whale” when the Germans reacted with their usual efficiency. 43 Commando was recalled and with 9 Army Commando given the task of capturing three peaks with bare, rocky, precipitous slopes to extend the bridgehead over the River Garigliano. After a long and exhausting night climb under mortar and machine gun fire Captain John Blake’s D Troop seized Monte Ornito (2,400ft). For this fine achievement he was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery, leadership and navigational skills.
After withstanding a German counterattack which came within grenade throwing range, 43 Commando was withdrawn and ordered to the island of Vis in the Adriatic. The Germans had mounted a big offensive against Tito’s partisans in Western Bosnia and Tito asked for a large scale operation on the Dalmation coast to distract them. It was decided to attack the island of Brac where the enemy was 1,200 strong with mutually supporting strong points each sited on top of a hill South of the village of Nerezisca. A joint British/Partisan force was divided into four to tackle each of the objectives. The main force included 43 Commando. D Day was 2 June. Unfortunately with radio problems causing confusion and half hearted moves by the partisans, 43 Commando attacked unsupported. Hard fighting ensued in which five officers including two Troop Commanders, one of whom was John Blake, were killed. Thus ended the life of a courageous leader and outstanding young Englishman who died in the service of his country. May we be reminded of his example when lessons are read from the Lectern which salutes his life and commemorates his name.
Researched by Lt Col Peter Thomas RM
On many Sundays the pulpit is used for the sermon and we see the image at the front.
It is the Papal Arms of St. Peter. The symbolic keys, gold and silver, in the papal coat of arms are a reference to the phrase “the keys to the kingdom of heaven”. The sword represesents a sign of martyrdom.
To the left of the pulpit is the coat of arms for the Diocese of Portsmouth with the sailing ship icon for sailors and the Papal Arms of St. Peter.
Out of sight and at the rear of the pulpit is the coat of arms for the Archbishop of Canterbury.