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yperman

Front line priests

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yperman

In 'Good bye to all that' Robert Graves claims that Catholic priests in Irish regiments would invariably expose themselves to danger to offer the Last Rites - while stating Protestant chaplains did not. Are there any grounds for his assertion?

 

Many thanks,

 

Yperman

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corisande

It would help if you could quote the exact passage from Graves that you are referring to.

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michaeldr
1 hour ago, yperman said:

expose themselves to danger to offer the Last Rites - while stating Protestant chaplains did not.

 

That just about sums up the situation. The Catholic Priest saw his place as being with the dying men so that he could offer them the Last Rites

The Protestant church (in my experience at least) does not place so much importance on this aspect of the faith

Thus, the Catholic Priest would inevitably be closer to the action by doing his job as he saw it

 

This difference in approach was not always appreciated by the men and some would judge the non-catholic chaplain harshly on account of it.

'The Cross on the Sword - Catholic Chaplains in the Forces' by Johnstone & Hagerty cites The Tablet of 1918 which claimed that in France alone there were 40,000 conversions to the Catholic faith

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keithfazzani

Certainly the diaries of Fr WIllie Doyle SJ. MC on whom several books have been written, would bear out that he saw being in the front line and giving the Last Rites as an important part of his ministry.  There were however many Priests/Ministers of other denominations to be found in the front line although their theology/ecclesiology may or not have seen the Last Rites as being a significant part of their ministry. To mention one Rev Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, DSO, MC was certainly in the front line and was eventually mortally wounded there. I could mention many more, one only has to look at the gallantry awards that many recieved. I feel that Graves, Sassoon and others in their derogatory comments on the clergy were actually expressing a wider dissatisfaction with organised religion. Of course Padres were a mixed bunch like anyone else and were in theory and according to their orders not meant to be in the front line at all, but many ignored that feeling that they needed to be there. Actually I can see it from both sides. No doubt OC's at the front may have welcomed the presence of the Padre but many would have found him a darned nusiance, being responsible for a non-combatant at times of particular stress may not always have been helpful. So the picture is a wider one.

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Guest

Graves' comments have been analysed here (see below). 

 

Robert Graves, in his well-known and sceptical account of the early years of the war,

was also anxious to stress the positive aspect of the role of Catholic chaplains at the

front in contrast with Protestant chaplains. Graves records how in one battalion a

colonel managed to get rid of four Anglican chaplains in as many months because he

considered them useless. He finally applied for a Catholic chaplain ‘alleging a change of

faith in the men under his command’. Not only did men of Graves’ acquaintance show

no respect for Protestant chaplains, they praised Catholic padres as men who were

‘willing to do what was expected of [them] and more’ (Trout, 2007, p. 144).

 

[An end note expands on this:]

 

"Wilkinson (1978, p. 110) warns of the danger of taking Graves at face value. All Graves’

references to Anglican chaplains are derisive although he always praises Catholics.

Wilkinson believes that this is in virtue of the fact that Graves’ grandfather was the

Anglican bishop of Limerick and that in later life he was reacting against his background.

Equally Brian Bond (2002, p. 31) points out that in 1930 Graves admitted that he spiced up

his book to produce a bestseller in order to make money."

 

Catholic Chaplains to the British Forces in te First World War

Pdf:

Article - Catholic Chaplains to the British Forces in the First World War.pdf

Edited by Guest

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pagius

My great-uncle Dom Ambrose Agius,  Catholic priest and monk of Downside Abbey , was a chaplain on the front line  April 1917 to April 1918.  In that time he was wounded near Polygon Wood in September 1917 but well enough to return the front late Oct 1917. (Letter to his brother 21/9/17 ...

http://agiusww1.com/2017/09/20/tancred-ambrose-to-arthur/   .   

He wrote an account of 'Christmas in Picardy'  (1917)  and was then caught up in the German Operation Michael spring offensive 1918.

http://agiusww1.com/tancred/

 

James Hagerty  (mentioned above)  has written an account of Benedictine Chaplains (in which he mentions Dom Ambrose)....

http://www.monlib.org.uk/papers/ebch/1998hagerty.pdf

 

But  there were some notable Anglican clerics who joined up rather than be chaplains and served with great distinction.  One ,who was part of our family story, was Lt Col Percy Beresford  (Rector in Westerham, Kent)  - CO of the 2/3rd Londons up to the day he was mortally wounded at Poelcapelle and died on the same day as Dom Ambrose's younger brother Richard , a Captain under Beresford - 26th October 1917.

 

http://www.kingscollections.org/warmemorials/kings-college/memorials/beresford-percy-william

 

 

 

 

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Guest

The literature argues that the religious practices of Catholics demanded that Catholic priests put themselves in greater danger to administer the last rites. If this was true we might expect to see  higher proportions of fatal casualties from those who were 'at risk'. 

 

At Armistice Catholic Chaplains accounted for 18.9% of all Army Chaplains (including all fatalities). They represented 19.1% of Chaplain fatalities (34* of 177). meaning they were very slightly over-represented in the data. The 'excess' over-representation equates to a single fatality. Not exactly compelling evidence.  

 

If one cares to isolate the Church of England Chaplains (1985 + 122 fatalities = 2,107) their fatality ratio is 6.1% (Calc 122/2,107) compared to Catholic Chaplains (651+34 fatalities = 685) fatality ratio of 5.0% (calc 34/685). This might suggest the complete opposite of the perceptions of being 'at risk'. [Source: CWGC data and SMEBE page 190]. It is noteworthy that their fatality ratio was about a quarter of that of combatant Officers for the whole war, suggesting perhaps that they were (proportionally) not in the front line as often as one might be led to believe. Certainly at Gallipoli the number and ratio of Chaplains to troops was severely reduced, most of them working in the Hospitals and CCS. 

 

MG

 

*34 Catholic Chaplian fatalities according to Snape "God and the British Soldier: Religion and the British Army in the First and Second World Wars"

 

 

Edited by Guest

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michaeldr

The following are the statistics as given in the Johnstone & Hagerty book mentioned earlier

 

5a2bd8e045ea5_StatsforRCChaplainsWWI.jpg.7abb34518d5400cf1afb44bb83589b61.jpg

 

It is also worth pointing out that while these two authors quote (pages 112/3) from Graves, they immediately follow his passage with

"To their everlasting glory, many Anglican chaplains chose to disobey orders and accompany their battalions into the line as the award of thee Victoria Crosses testifies."

 

Edited by michaeldr

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healdav

I don't know about the British army, but in the French army there were a number of priests and monks who served as officers, not chaplains, and they took services in their 'spare' time.

One man, whose memoirs I read recounted that it became a fixed part of his duties to take mass, as a Jesuit Priest, whenever it was asked for, and every Sunday, anyway. One day, Joffre came to inspect the area, and spoke to him at length. He was rather surprised to find that this man was a Platoon Commander/Priest and asked him how he got on with all the calls on his time. The Jesuit replied that he didn't find that difficult, but he was unable to draw a Field Communion Set as he was not a designated Priest, and it was becoming rather embarrassing using a tin plate and mug for communion. Joffre tut tutted, and left.

A few days later, a large parcel arrived addressed to him, and inside was a Communion Set with a letter from Joffre hoping that it would be satisfactory!

It may be that some of the priests or chaplains who died or were in the front line were not there as priest at all.

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michaeldr

Serving in other capacities was also known in the British army

eg: Lieut-Colonel the Rev W E Wingfield DSO who was c/o of the 223rd Brigade RFA (see The Royal Naval Division by Douglas Jerrold)

 

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michaeldr

Church of England Army Chaplains in the First World War: Goodbye to 'Goodbye to All That' by Michael Snape

Available for download here http://pure-oai.bham.ac.uk/ws/files/17366439/SnapeS0022046909991394a.pdf

includes the following

 

“On active service, and in accordance with the terms of the Geneva Convention of 1864, chaplains were classed as hospital and ambulance personnel. In the context of the static warfare that set in on the Western Front from the autumn of 1914, their status naturally precluded a free-ranging ministry to front-line trenches; indeed, a War Office ban was even imposed on this kind of approach. While Ben Tillett, the dockers’ leader, used this ban to lambast the clergy at a TUC meeting in 1916, too much should not be made of its application. Strongly protested against by senior Catholic and Anglican churchmen, the ban was widely flouted by chaplains themselves, most notably (but not exclusively) by Catholic chaplains attached to Irish infantry battalions.”

Edited by michaeldr

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michaeldr

Further on in his paper Snape has the following which is also of interest

quote

“Only very recently, in fact, have church historians begun to subject the evidential basis of these and similar claims to proper scrutiny in the light of contemporary evidence.

The papers of Padre E.V. Tanner, now in the Imperial War Museum, include a copy of a key memorandum that first appeared in the summer of 1916. Issued by the adjutant-general of the BEF, it reads

THE POSITION OF CHAPLAINS WHEN THE BATTALION IS IN ACTION.

Some doubt appears to exist as to the positions which Chaplains should occupy during active operations. It is considered that, provided their presence in no way hampers the operation in progress or in contemplation, no restriction should be placed on their movements and that Chaplains should be encouraged to go where the Senior Chaplains (C. of E. and Non-C. of E.) of Divisions decide that their services can be most advantageously employed and where they can be of most use to the troops.

 

Underneath, Tanner (who had won the Military Cross twice over on the Western Front) penned a poignant note: ‘Compare Robert Graves ‘‘Goodbye to all That’’’

 

end of quote

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helpjpl
2 hours ago, michaeldr said:

See also The Royal Army Chaplains' Department 1796-1953: Clergy under Fire by M Snape, page 217 here 

https://books.google.co.il/books?id=oEWYDTHXSbYC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217#v=onepage&q&f=false

where a few more details are given re the War Office policy towards Chaplains and where they might go

 

Note:  Re page 218

Gilbert Walter Lyttelton Talbot, brother of army chaplain Neville Stuart Talbot MC, was KIA on 30 July 1915

http://www.winchestercollegeatwar.com/archive/gilbert-walter-lyttelton-talbot/

 

https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/478040/talbot,-gilbert-walter-lyttelton/

 

JP

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nigelcave
4 hours ago, healdav said:

I don't know about the British army, but in the French army there were a number of priests and monks who served as officers, not chaplains, and they took services in their 'spare' time.

One man, whose memoirs I read recounted that it became a fixed part of his duties to take mass, as a Jesuit Priest, whenever it was asked for, and every Sunday, anyway. One day, Joffre came to inspect the area, and spoke to him at length. He was rather surprised to find that this man was a Platoon Commander/Priest and asked him how he got on with all the calls on his time. The Jesuit replied that he didn't find that difficult, but he was unable to draw a Field Communion Set as he was not a designated Priest, and it was becoming rather embarrassing using a tin plate and mug for communion. Joffre tut tutted, and left.

A few days later, a large parcel arrived addressed to him, and inside was a Communion Set with a letter from Joffre hoping that it would be satisfactory!

It may be that some of the priests or chaplains who died or were in the front line were not there as priest at all.

So far as I am aware, priests were liable to be conscripted in continental armies. They were certainly not all officers - John XXIII was a sergeant, for example, in WWI; Teilard de Chardin SJ was a stretcher bearer; whilst I think it might have been Hinsley who said that practically all the bench of bishops in England and Wales had served in the forces (many of those would have been conscripted seminarians). 

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Kath

Basil Kendall Bond suggested holding a service over the spot where the Royal Edward went down.

I found this on the forum:

 

 

Kath.

 

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4thGordons

This marvelous character guided members if AFS Section 31 (later SSU 643 AAAS) in their first visit to the front lines north of Verdun in August 1917 - the picture is annotated "The Ace" on the back by the photographer. Certainly French priests seem to figure regularly in accounts of AFS men serving with French units.

GuidePriest.jpg.6b1f3a9f746b0c4f44ec3fdbcd3efa1f.jpg

Chris

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robertb

There is an interesting book about my old seminary and the travails it had during the war. It examines the effects the war had on the lives of Oscott men, particularly the role of the chaplain -  "A Seminary Goes To War.  St. Mary's College, Oscott and The First World War" by Judith Champ (ISBN 978-0-9933991-0-7).

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Magnumbellum

Two Anglicans who notably served at the Front in France. were Hugh Richard Lawrie Sheppard and Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy.

 

"Dick" Sheppard had attempted tp volunteer for the Army in the Boer War, but a crash by his horse-drawn cab on his way to the recruiting office left him with a slight limp for life, frustrating his military career before it had even started, and he followed his father into the priesthood. Soon after his induction as Vicar of St. Martin-in the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, in 1914, he took leave of absence to serve as a chaplain in France for several months. Tending as much as he could to dying young men crying out for their mother (the Anglican equivalent of the Last Rites) was the beginning of his conversion to pacifism and founding the Peace Pledge Union in 1934.

 

!Woodbine Willie" (named after handing out Wills' "Woodbine" cigarettes as comforts to distraught soldiers), served muxh longer as chaplain and also realised that war was not the amswer to human conflist, and became a pacifst.

 

 

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nigelcave

I noticed at a visit to La Cote 80 French cemetery (rather off the beaten track: near Bray - magnificent views along the Somme Valley in that part of the world, plus CWGC burials) that a French chaplain has a very unusual personalised grave. Abbe Thibaut dow in September 1916 has a monument (plus portrait plaque) erected by the offices and men of the Regiment du Cambrai and the grave is positioned at the 'head' of the cemetery, as it were.

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Lawryleslie

The Vicar of my village church, The Reverend Frederick Whitmore Hewitt, was killed whilst administering to wounded soldiers of the 9th Battalion Devonshire Regiment at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

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CROONAERT
4 hours ago, nigelcave said:

I noticed at a visit to La Cote 80 French cemetery (rather off the beaten track: near Bray - magnificent views along the Somme Valley in that part of the world, plus CWGC burials) that a French chaplain has a very unusual personalised grave. Abbe Thibaut dow in September 1916 has a monument (plus portrait plaque) erected by the offices and men of the Regiment du Cambrai and the grave is positioned at the 'head' of the cemetery, as it were.

 

This might be of interest, Nigel...

 

His entry from  'La Preuve du Sang - Livre d'Or du Clergé et des Congrégations 1914-22' ...

 

Dave

Thibaut.jpg

1.jpg

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CROONAERT
On ‎09‎/‎12‎/‎2017 at 17:22, nigelcave said:

...So far as I am aware, priests were liable to be conscripted in continental armies. They were certainly not all officers...

 

Very true on both counts with many serving on attachment to the Service de santé (officers only) or the Sections d'Infirmiers Militaires (other ranks). Interestingly, due to their 'everyday roles' within the French army, most French priests during the war were armed!

 

Below is an image of a French priest/chaplain named Renaud (on the left, rolling a fag!) serving as a sergent (or Infirmier-chef) in a Section d'Infirmiers Militaire at the Ouvrage de Froideterre near Verdun in 1916...

 

Dave. (PS The attached chart illustrates the numbers of French clergy involved in the war... the first column indicates the numbers mobilised into the military, the second illustrates the deaths)

 

Image5.jpg

Image6.jpg

Edited by CROONAERT

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yperman

Thank you all very much not least for the links.

 

Yperman

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