Army chaplains in the First World War
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In 1914, Church leaders assumed that fighting men would require the ministrations of ordained clergymen close to the front line. The War Office Chaplains' Department had few plans for the deployment of chaplains beyond a general expectation that the Churches would be willing to release men for service as required. Army Officers seemed to have little warning about the arrival of chaplains to accompany their units and very few ideas about the role chaplains could be expected to fulfil once they had arrived. The chaplains themselves embarked on overseas service with no special training and very little guidance about the nature of the task ahead of them. They received very little support from the Chaplains' Department or their home church in the first months of the war. Left to carve out a role for themselves, they were exposed to an environment churchmen at home could not begin to comprehend. Many chaplains left diaries and letters, the majority of which have never been published. They provide a unique insight into life with the troops, seen through the eyes of men who owed their first allegiance to their Church rather than to the Army whose uniform they wore. Post-war criticism of chaplains has obscured the valuable contribution many clergymen made to the well-being of the troops and to the reform movement within the Church of England after the war. The files of the Archbishop of Canterbury also provide important information about the troubled relationships between chaplains and their Department and with Church leaders at home. In seeking to determine the nature of the chaplains' duties and responsibilities, this study attempts to discover why clergymen faced so much criticism and why even their own churches were sometimes alarmed by the views aired by serving chaplains.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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