Army Chaplains in the First World War
In August 1914 there were full time a total of 117 chaplains , 89 of them Church of England, 11 Presbyterian and 17 Roman Catholic. In addition to these numbers there were chaplains attached to the Territorial Force (T.F.). By November on the Western Front alone there were 878 C of E, 389 Roman Catholic, 161 Presbyterian, 127 Wesleyan, 126 United Board, 5 Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, 8 Jewish and 4 Salvation Army. All chaplains were volunteers, and many were indeed curates. C of E Chaplains were initially posted to Brigades.
The names of clergy who were commissioned as Temporary Chaplains to the Forces (T.C.F.) are recorded in the ‘Army List’ Their names were also published in ‘The London Gazette’ the date of their appointment is given. Entries in ‘Crockfords’ Clerical Directory’ normally indicate service as an army chaplain with ‘T.C.F. 1915-16’ etc.
For many years the only book available about the History of Chaplaincy in the British Army was ‘In this Sign Conquer (1968) by Sir John Smyth VC.
Over the last few years, there has been a flurry of activity in the academic world which has resulted in a number of high quality studies which examine the History of Chaplaincy in some detail.
Professor Michael Snape of the University of Durham has been a prolific researcher in this field. Firstly, in his book ‘God and the British Soldier’ (2005) he included a chapter on ‘The Command and the Clergy’ in which he examines the transformation of the Army Chaplain’s Department during the two World Wars. This was followed in 2008 by his seminal work on the History of the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department 1796 – 1953 ‘Clergy under Fire’ (2008) which will certainly be accepted as the standard work on this subject for many years to come.
Dr Snape’s work is complemented by research into chaplains from the Baptist Union carried out by a serving Army Chaplain; the Reverend Neil E Allison CF. His book ‘The Official History of the United Board The Clash of Empires 1914 – 39 Volume One’ was published in 2008.
The work of Anglican Chaplains in the Great War has been for many years a subject of controversy which is ably tackled by Linda Parker in her book ‘The Whole Armour of God : Anglican Army Chaplains in the Great War’ (2009)
A further study ‘Faith Under Fire: Anglican Army Chaplains and the Great War’ by Dr Edward Madigan of Royal Holloway, University of London, was published in January 2011. Based on his PhD Thesis this book examines in detail the role of army chaplains on active service, their impact on troop morale, views on the faith of the soldiers, personal relations with these men, and the social and political projects they pioneered in post-war Britain.
Often quoted are the numbers of Army Chaplains who died during the First World War. This is a subject recorded in detail in ‘Greater Love Greater Love: A Directory of Chaplains of the British Army, Australian, Canadian, East African, New Zealand and South African Forces Who Gave Their Lives in the Period 1914-1922’ (2008) by the Reverend David Youngson.
The role of Army Chaplains in the Second World War has also come under academic scrutiny. ’ Chaplains at War: The Role of Clergymen During World War II’ by Dr Alan Robinson, uses interviews with former chaplains, officers and soldiers and extensive archive research in military, government and church archives
The Army Chaplain’s Department 1914-1918
Books and Monographs
Allison Neil E. The Official History of the United Board ‘The Clash of Empires 1914 – 19. United Navy, Army and Air Force Board, Revised Edition. 2014. 180 p.
Bickersteth, John. The Bickersteth Diaries 1914 – 18. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 1995, 331 p.
Fiennes, Peter. To War with God: The Army Chaplain Who Lost His Faith. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2011, 256 p.
Hagerty, James. Priests in Uniform : Catholic Chaplains to the British Forces in the First World War. Leominster, Gracewing, 2018, 470p.
Holman, Bob. Woodbine Willie: An Unsung Hero of World War One. Oxford: Lion, 2013, 222 p.
Hope, Carole. Worshipper and Worshipped: Across the Divide – An Irish Padre of the Great War, Father Willie Doyle Chaplain to the Forces 1915 – 19. Brighton: Reveille, 2013, 741 p.
Howson, Peter. Muddling Through: The Organisation of British Army Chaplaincy in World War 1. Solihull: Helion, 2013, 237 p.
Howson, Peter. Padre, Prisoner and Pen-Pusher: The World War One Experiences of the Reverend Benjamin O'Rorke. Helion, 2015, 176 p.
Howson, Peter (ed.) The First World War Diaries of the Rt. Rev. Llewellyn Gwynne, July 1915-July 1916 Church of England Records Society, 2019, 203 p.
Johnstone, Tom, & Hagerty, James. The Cross on the Sword : Catholic Chaplains in the Forces. London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1996, 337 p.
Kendall, George. Daring All Things : The Autobiography of George Kendall (1881 – 1961) Solihull, Helion, 2016, 208 p.
Leonard, John, & Leonard-Johnson, Philip (eds.). The Fighting Padre: Letters from the Trenches 1915-18 of Pat Leonard DSO. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2010, 246 p.
McLaren, Stuart J. (ed.). Somewhere in Flanders: A Norfolk Padre in the Great War: The War Letters of the Revd Samuel Frederick Green MC Army Chaplain 1916 – 19. Dereham: Larks Press: 2005, 110 p.
Madigan, Edward. Faith Under Fire: Anglican Army Chaplains and the Great War. Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, 2011, 295 p.
Marrin, Albert. The Last Crusade: The Church of England in the First World War. Durham, NC: Duke University, 1974, 258 p.
Moynihan, Michael. God On Our Side: The British Padre in World War 1. London: Leo Cooper, 1983, 231 p.
Parker, Linda. The Whole Armour of God: Anglican Army Chaplains in the Great War. Solihull: Helion, 2009, 93 p.
Parker, Linda. Shell-Shocked Prophets: Former Anglican Army Chaplains in Inter-war Britain. Solihull: Helion, 2015, 272 p.
Parker, Linda. A Fool for Thy Feast. The Life and Times of Tubby Clayton, 1885-1972. Solihull: Helion, 2015, 282p.
Reay, Sarah. The Half-Shilling Curate : A Personal Account of War & Faith 1914 – 18. Solihull, Helion, 2016, 194 p.
Richards, Andrew. The Flag : The Story of the Revd David Railton MC and the Unknown Warrior. Casement, Oxford, 2017, p 288.
Roynon, Gavin. War Diaries: A Chaplain at Gallipoli: The Great War Diaries of Kenneth Best. London: Simon & Schuster, 2011. 293 p.
Snape, Michael. God and the British Soldier: Religion and the British Army in the First and Second World Wars. Abingdon: Routledge, 2005, 315 p.
Snape, Michael. The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department: Clergy Under Fire. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008, 444 p.
Snape, Michael. Archbishop Davidson’s Visit to the Western Front, May 1916. In Barber, Melanie, et al (eds.). From the Reformation to the Permissive Society. London: Boydell & Brewer, 2010, pp. 455-520.
Snape, Michael, & Madigan, Edward (eds.). The Clergy in Khaki: New Perspectives on British Army Chaplaincy in the First World War. Farnham: Ashgate, 2013, 222 p.
Scheitzer, Richard. Religious Faith and Doubt among British and American Great War Soldiers. Westport: Praeger, 2003, 311 p.
Wilkinson, Alan. The Church of England and the First World War. London: SCM, 1996, 370 p.
Youngson, David T. Greater Love: A Directory of Chaplains of the British Army, Australian, Canadian, East African, New Zealand and South African Forces and Ministers of Religion, who gave their lives in the period 1914 – 18. Hartlepool: Printablity, 2008, 82 p.
Allison, Neil E. 'Baptist Chaplains Ministry during the First World War (1914-1918)', Step into your place : The First World War and Baptist Life and Thought. Regent's Park College, Oxford University, Oxford, 2014, pp. 124-157.
Howson, Peter. Deaths among Army Chaplains, 1914 – 20. The Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Vol. 83, 2005, pp. 63-77.
Jary, Christopher. Woodbine Willie: Prototype Padre; The Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC CF (1883 – 1929). Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 44, 2005, pp. 24-29.
Madigan, Edward. ‘The Live Lived’ versus ‘Baalam’s Ass’s Ears – Neville Stuart Talbot’s Chaplaincy on the Western Front. Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 47, 2008, pp. 14-19.
Porter, Patrick. ‘Beyond Comfort’: German and English Military Chaplains and the Memory of the Great War, 1919 – 1929. The Journal of Religious History, Vol. 29, No. 3, October 2005, pp. 258-289.
Rafferty, Oliver. Catholic Chaplains to the British Forces in the First World War. Religion, State and Society, Vol. 39, No. 1, March 2011, pp. 33-62.
Snape, Michael. Proclamation and the Great War: Reconsidering British military chaplaincy in the two world wars. Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 43, 2004,
Snape, Michael. British Military Chaplains and Capital Courts-Martial in the First World War. Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 44, 2005, pp. 6-11.
Snape, Michael. Holy Grocery’ reconsidering a forgotten ministry to the Army. Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 44, 2005, pp. 53-55.
Snape, Michael. The Army Chaplains’ Department on the Western Front, 1914 – 18. Royal Army Chaplains’ Department Journal, Vol. 48, 2009, pp. 10-17.
Snape, Michael. Church of England Army Chaplains in the First World War: Goodbye to Goodbye to All That. Journal of Ecclesiastical History. Vol. 62, No. 2, April 2011,