WWII Chapel Altar Found And Returned After 56-Year Absence

The artefact had been absent from Talbot House in Belgium, where British soldiers took breaks from the trenches in WWI.

A chapel altar missing for more than half a century from Talbot House, the hotel at Poperinge in Belgium where First World War British soldiers took breaks from the trenches, has been found and returned. 

Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers originally salvaged the artefact from a ruined Normandy church and donated it to Talbot House in 1945. 

However, Talbot House manager Simon Louagie said after "getting ready for a Royal visit", the altar was "temporarily put in storage".

The altar never returned to the chapel and disappeared without trace, but Mr Louagie spotted it in a photo taken at the site of an old brewery.

The altar has been loaned back to Talbot House by the brewery which now owns it (Picture: Talbot House Association).

It is now known that after 1965, the altar went to scout groups, cultural centres and finally to the owner of an old brewery, who's offered Talbot House the altar on loan. 

Speaking at a blessing on Sunday, Padre Nia Williams, Royal Army Chaplains Department, said: "Today we give thanks for this altar that it is safely returned here to Talbot House and that it has been loaned to be in this wonderful place.

"And, with its presence, we give thanks for all who gave their lives in the service of their countries and for humankind."

There are plans for the altar to be renovated and consecrated again in the autumn.

"We're going to start renovation on it and it will get a proper place, I can assure you, back in the attic of Talbot House in the chapel, the shrine of the Ypres Salient as they used to say, where we are definitely not going to move it any time shortly," Mr Louagie said.  

"It will stay there, and it has deserved its place in the chapel and in the history of Talbot House."