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Did Chaplains have to do training ?


liverpool annie
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Hi !

I wonder if anybody can tell me - if Chaplains had to do any kind of Army training before they went to the front ?

And also what happened when they came home .... did they have to be "debriefed " in any way ?

Thanking you in advance !

Annie :)

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I can't say specifically whether they put the Padre through basic weapons training, but as a commissioned officer, they would have had to be trained as such.

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Hi !

I wonder if anybody can tell me - if Chaplains had to do any kind of Army training before they went to the front ?

Annie :)

Hi Annie,

In a thread of mine (Warrior Priests) it was shown that there were, in fact, two types of padre at the Front: those who were members of the RAChD who were there only to cater for the spiritual and other personal needs of the men and were not allowed to take up arms against the enemy, and clergymen who joined regiments and fought, shoulder to shoulder, with their men .

Training was compulsory for all but depending on which pattern of service a padre chose, and this was purely a matter of conscience, the nature of that training would be very different.

I hope this makes sense.

Harry

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Hi Harry,

Was it not so that the Chaplains were mostly to find in and around the field hospitals?

Ceasefire

Hello Ceasefire,

A lot would have been and for obvious reasons. However, others saw their role differently. The Rev TB Hardy VC, a personal hero of mine, was a member of the RAChD and he preferred to be in the trenches and in No Man's Land "with his boys," administering to the dead and wounded of the 7th Lincolns. Others, clergymen like Lt The Rev Stanley Frederick Sullivan MC of the 1/6th Gloucesters and Lt Col The Rev Bernard Vann VC MC and Bar of the 1/8th Bn The Sherwood Foresters chose to fight alongside their men and by all accounts did so with great skill and courage.

Harry

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I would assume all were given a minimum of training, no matter where they expected to end up. A base chaplain would still need to know how to act and dress according to military standards and I would assume there would some rudimentary Gas drill. Learning how to put a gas hood on while the shells are landing would not be a good idea :)

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I believe that some chaplains appointed for new battalions voluntarily went through all the training alongside their new 'flock' as a matter of solidarity.

There is an interesting account written mid war by an American soldier who had served in the British army of a chaplain on the Somme who went over the top with the first wave (and survived).

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I believe that some chaplains appointed for new battalions voluntarily went through all the training alongside their new 'flock' as a matter of solidarity.

There is an interesting account written mid war by an American soldier who had served in the British army of a chaplain on the Somme who went over the top with the first wave (and survived).

Those chaplains had a lot of guts. Many braved the horrors of No-Man's-Land to give comfort to the wounded and the dying.

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I would assume all were given a minimum of training,

I would assume that those who joined the RAChD, in other words those who would not and did not take up arms would require less training than those who chose "to take up the sword" (see my earlier posting on this thread).

In David Raw's book "It's Only Me" a sensitively written biography of TB Hardy's life, he describes a meeting between The Rev Geoffrey Studdart Kennedy ("Woodbine Willy") and Hardy when Hardy arrived for the first time in France. Hardy felt the need to speak to someone more experienced than himself because he still wasn't sure how he should fulfil his pastoral role (he was a non combatant padre, a member of the RAChD). Studdart Kennedy gave him what advice he could so this seems to suggest that the RAChD padres received somewhat basic and perhaps insufficient training of the sort you suggest. It's interesting that after this brief meeting Studdart Kennedy felt that in that brief meeting, "he'd been in the presence of a saint" a view that was to be proved correct time and time again in the years that followed.

On the other hand, padres like Sullivan of The Gloucesters and Vann of the Sherwood Foresters were warriors (however you want to define that term). For the period they served they obviously felt comfortable with the role they had chosen. This role, that of an officer leading a platoon or a battalion in war, would demand a much higher level of military training than was usual for a padre in the RAChD.

Harry

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I believe that some chaplains appointed for new battalions voluntarily went through all the training alongside their new 'flock' as a matter of solidarity.

There is an interesting account written mid war by an American soldier who had served in the British army of a chaplain on the Somme who went over the top with the first wave (and survived).

I'm sure you're right. It sounds like a sensible thing to do..

Can you remember where you read this ?

Harry

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I once read a book entitled 'March, Kind Comrade' written by an army chaplain named R.H.J. Stewart. (Sheet & Ward, London 1931) It's a good account of a padre's life at the front. I don't have a copy in my library but the IWM has one if anyone's interested.

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I'm sure you're right. It sounds like a sensible thing to do..

Can you remember where you read this ?

Harry

I'll try and find it again - it was an accidental find when I was searching about some of the tank engagements of the time.

From memory the chaplain who went over the top was of the non fighting variety ie he didn't carry arms or command any one but thought it his duty to accompany the soldiers under his care.

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I once read a book entitled 'March, Kind Comrade' written by an army chaplain named R.H.J. Stewart. (Sheet & Ward, London 1931) It's a good account of a padre's life at the front. I don't have a copy in my library but the IWM has one if anyone's interested.

I'll see if the library service can dig it up.

Thank you.

Harry

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From memory the chaplain who went over the top was of the non fighting variety ie he didn't carry arms or command any one but thought it his duty to accompany the soldiers under his care.

It could have been Hardy. He did it time after time. On a recent visit to Rosignol Wood we found the remains of the German pillbox in front of which (10 or so yards) the great man performed one of his party tricks. Why is it, every time I talk or write abut TB Hardy, I have a lump in my throat ?

Harry

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I found one of the references

http://www.fullbooks.com/A-Yankee-in-the-Trenches2.html

It refers to the attack on High Wood as follows

Around nine o'clock Captain

Green gave us a little talk that confirmed our suspicions that the

day was to be a hard one.

He said, as nearly as I can remember:

"Lads, I want to tell you that there is to be a most important

battle--one of the most important in the whole war. High Wood out

there commands a view of the whole of this part of the Somme and is

most valuable. There are estimated to be about ten thousand Germans

in that wood and in the surrounding supports. The positions are

mostly of concrete with hundreds of machine guns and field

artillery. Our heavies have for some reason made no impression on

them, and regiment after regiment has attempted to take the woods

and failed with heavy losses. Now it is up to the 47th Division to

do the seemingly impossible. Zero is at eleven. We go over then.

The best of luck and God bless you."

We were all feeling pretty sour on the world when the sky pilot

came along and cheered us up.

He was a good little man, that chaplain, brave as they make 'em.

He always went over the top with us and was in the thick of the

fighting, and he had the military cross for bravery. He passed down

the line, giving us a slap on the back or a hand grip and started

us singing. No gospel hymns either, but any old rollicking,

good-natured song that he happened to think of that would loosen

things up and relieve the tension.

Somehow he made you feel that you wouldn't mind going to hell if he

was along, and you knew that he'd be willing to come if he could do

any good. A good little man! Peace to his ashes.

BTW his account of the tanks performance at High Wood suggests that they may have been more helpful than has sometimes been suggested.

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During the war, H A R May set up a series of courses at Tidworth, which he described in several chapters in Memoires of the Artists Rifles (Howlett & Son, London 1929). In recognition of the lack of military awareness of some chaplains, one course introduced them to anti-gas precautions, working in the field, riding and (if required) cycling.

Moonraker

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As I understand it Chaplains were always non coms. Some clergy chose independently as it were to join the fighting army as soldiers - as they were ordained priests they remained priests (you are a priest for life). These latter "warrior" clergy may no doubt have exercised a priestly role in certain circumstances but they were not chaplains per se.

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as they were ordained priests they remained priests (you are a priest for life).

Some might say and after. However there is such a thing as defrocking.

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To answer the question whether chaplains were in the Front Line I would ask you to go to Classic Thread "Last Absolution Of The Munsters" and specifically to Page 22 (Post 538 from JPC) and follow that link to a letter from soldiers in the trenches praising the Munsters chaplain Fr. Francis GLEESON. Incidentally, it looks as though Fr GLEESON was never awarded a bravery award during WW1 or after. Is there anything we can do about that or is it too late ?

Bob DENNIS

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We were all feeling pretty sour on the world when the sky pilot

came along and cheered us up.

He was a good little man, that chaplain, brave as they make 'em.

He always went over the top with us and was in the thick of the

fighting, and he had the military cross for bravery. He passed down

the line, giving us a slap on the back or a hand grip and started

us singing. No gospel hymns either, but any old rollicking,

good-natured song that he happened to think of that would loosen

things up and relieve the tension.

Somehow he made you feel that you wouldn't mind going to hell if he

was along, and you knew that he'd be willing to come if he could do

any good. A good little man! Peace to his ashes.

BTW his account of the tanks performance at High Wood suggests that they may have been more helpful than has sometimes been suggested.

Excellent. I sometimes feel that there was a reluctance to award non combatant padres a VC. I think I'm right in saying that TB Hardy got the MC and Bar before they awarded him his Victoria Cross.

Harry

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As I understand it Chaplains were always non coms. Some clergy chose independently as it were to join the fighting army as soldiers - as they were ordained priests they remained priests (you are a priest for life). These latter "warrior" clergy may no doubt have exercised a priestly role in certain circumstances but they were not chaplains per se.

That's right Keith.

Harry

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Based upon my peacetime military experience, in order to be effective a chaplain needs to have an understanding of how military organizations function, in particular how chains of command are supposed to work. Soldiers often go to chaplains to discuss their concerns and problems, which not infrequently involve disciplinary actions or differences with their NCOs and officers. Chaplains need to have a basic understanding of the military if they are to be good listeners and advisors.

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I'm very sorry Gentlemen .... I 've only just caught up with this thread ..... and I appreciate your replies ....

My Chaplain was in Fort Matilda Greenock for 2 months before he went to France ....

and I wondered if that was where they had a training program for Chaplains ??

Annie

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Wholst not shedding any light on training the following extract does give an idea of the risks run by some.

Father William Doyle SJ MC, of the Royal Dublin Fusliers, 16th Irish Division, describes a lucky escape he had in May 1916. He was later killed at the Battle of Langemarck, during the the Third Battle of Ypres, June 1917 - November 1917.

"I was standing in a trench, quite a long distance from the firing line, a spot almost as safe as Dalkey (his home village) itself, talking to some of my men when we heard in the distance the scream of a shell......none of us had calculated that this gentleman had made up his mind to drop into the trench itself, a couple of paces from where I stood. What really took place in the next ten seconds I cannot say. I was conscious of a terrific explosion and the thud of falling stones and debris. I thought the drums of my ears were split by the crash, and I believe I was knocked down by the concussion, but when I jumped to my feet I found that the two men who had been standing at my left hand, the side the shell fell, were stretched on the ground dead, though I think I had time to give them absolution and anoint them. The poor fellow on my right was lying badly wounded in the head; but I myself , though a bit stunned and dazed by the suddenness of the whole thing, was absolutely untouched, though covered with dirt and blood."

A photo of Fr Doyle in uniform shows him wearing a Sam Browne but it is not clear in the photo what, if anything is attached to it.

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