Jesuit chaplains of 1914
Fr Henry Day SJ (1865-1951) had offered his service as a chaplain days before the outbreak of war and given his experience of riding on the Zambezi Mission and more recently with the North Devonshire Stag Hunt, he was appointed to the cavalry division. As chaplain he witnessed the advance from Suvla Bay (Gallipoli), the fighting on the Salonika front (Macedonia) and the last six months of the fighting in France. He was awarded the Military Cross and the Order of the White Eagle of Serbia.
Despite having been in danger often during the years of the Great War, it was not until the week before Armistice that he was wounded. He was with a unit which was advancing too fast in pursuit of the retreating Germans; it came under fire from British guns and it was by a shell from ‘friendly fire’ that the chaplain was wounded. He was in hospital in London and then served for some time in the army of occupation in Germany. Later he wrote two volumes of memoirs, A Cavalry Chaplain and Macedonia Memories, about his experience as a chaplain. Lieutenant-General Peyton paid him this tribute:
“Most gallant amongst that gallant body of men ‘the padres’ of all denominations, who in all theatre of war shared the dangers, and hardships of the trenches, and the open field; and ministered with such sympathy to both the spiritual and bodily wants of all ranks: Father Day stood out for his simplicity, bravery, and breadth of vision…”
Fr Francis Devas SJ (1877-1951) served as Military Chaplain in Gallipoli, Suez and France. He began his Chaplaincy in November 1914 with a training division at Shorncliffe then Felixstowe and Rugby before embarking for Gallipoli in March
1915, where he was attached to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, with whom he remained until February 1918. In his own words he recounts:
“I believe my being there was a real comfort to ever so many of these wounded [during the attack on Scimitar Hill at Gallipoli], whatever their religion. They held my hand while their wounds were being dressed and clung to me like children.”
Fr Devas was awarded the D.S.O in 1917 and the O.B.E. Military Division in 1919 as well as being mentioned in despatches. He was demobilised in March 1919 but kept in touch with the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
Fr Theodore Evans SJ (1868-1937) was made a Military Chaplain in 1914 and was sent first to Seaford then Hastings. In May 1915, he went to France where he served with the 151st Infantry Brigade and the 1st Northumbrian Field Ambulance. He was mentioned in Despatches twice and was awarded the D.S.O. in 1918, which he received from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 10 December 1919. Fr Evans was demobilised in April 1919 with the rank of Honorary Chaplain 3rd Class.
Fr William Fitzmaurice SJ (1877-1945) went to France in November 1915 with the Royal Irish Regiment having been made a Military Chaplain in 1914. In July 1916, he was awarded the Military Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”. Under heavy fire he had assisted the medical officers in tending the wounded, and for twenty-four hours after the battalion had been withdrawn, he continued to rescue the wounded who were lying out. In June 1917, he was himself wounded by shell, but he was able to return to France after a few weeks’ convalescence in England. In the same year he received a Mention in Despatches. From March to November 1918, he was a prisoner of war first at Karlsruhe then Beeskow. In a letter home during his captivity he wrote:
“Still I cannot complain. I have lots to occupy me here: one is able to do a great deal to help in the social life of the camp, and make one’s comrades’ captivity less irksome, and there is also a fair amount of spiritual work to do.”
On being repatriated he spent the remainder of his time as chaplain on home service until his demobilisation in September 1919. In 1920 he was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec palme.
Fr William Heathcote SJ (1853-1924) went to Cromarty Firth to serve as Chaplain to the Navy in 1914 but found no lodging prepared as nobody was expecting him. There were also some difficulties with the Bishop, who did not know that Cardinal Bourne had been appointed the Government representative in the matter of RC chaplains, and with the Benedictines, who had been accustomed to serving the fleet when it was there. In March 1916, he was moved to the Royal Navy Barracks at Portsmouth to assist one of the permanent chaplains there. Fr Heathcote became acquainted with the families of many Naval Officers living in the area and had ghost stories for their children. His powers of conversation made him popular with the watch keepers who had to endure dull hours in Barracks. Fr Heathcote would not go on board the ships as he felt he would be in the way, but at mess the senior men thronged to him and called him ‘Sir William’ and he had ‘Reverend Sir William Heathcote, SJ, Bart.’ put on his visiting card. He was demobilised in September 1919.
Fr Michael King SJ (1853-1931), had been rejected as too old to be a Chaplain in the Boer War. But in September 1914, he was appointed as Chaplain to the 11th (Northern) Division of the New Army. He arrived in France on 13 November 1914 and Fr Bernard Rawlinson, Senior Catholic Chaplain in France 1916-1919, wrote the following about him:
“Practically the whole of that time he was at G.H.Q., where he did wonderful work and was highly esteemed and beloved by the ranks…He certainly contributed in no small degree in forming the high esteem in which Catholic chaplains were held in the army”
On 6 February 1918, he went to Buckingham Palace to receive his Military Cross, which he had been awarded in June 1917. Fr King returned from France in November 1918, and was 65 years old when he was demobilised in April 1919.
Fr Martin Molloy SJ (1860-1926) was among the first to be named Military Chaplain in 1914, initially serving at camps of training at Codford and Boscombe before going to France in December 1914. Having been with the No 1 Casualty Clearing Station in France, he then found himself in February 1916, on a troop-ship en route for Egypt. Once in the Mediterranean he was attached to the Red Cross Ship Valdivia and later to the Llandovery Castle. This vessel was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in June 1917 on her homeward voyage and sank in twelve minutes. Fr Molloy had however been transferred to the sister liner, Dunluce Castle, and so escaped disaster. This hospital ship was his last appointment before he was demobilised in July 1919.
Fr Charles Raymond-Barker SJ (1859-1955) was among the first three Chaplains to go to France when he embarked on 12 November 1914 with Fr King and Fr Strickland. He was not long in France when he was wounded and invalided back to England. On returning to duty he was first posted to Bedford, then Tidworth Camp. At the end of 1915 he was sent to Gibraltar where he remained until his demobilisation in October 1919.
Fr Joseph Strickland SJ (1864-1917) belonged to the Roman Province but was in England giving retreats when war broke out and was included in the first list of Chaplains. He went to France on 12 November 1914 and served with the 12th Infantry Brigade. He also served with the 10th Field Ambulance and the 1st South Midland Field Ambulance. Whilst in France he witnessed the heavy fighting of the Somme offensive in July 1916 as a non-Catholic Chaplain remarked:
“For several days and nights the wounded poured through in a continual stream and farmyard [being used as a dressing station] and orchard were full of the prostrate forms of maimed men. But ever amongst them moved the manly figure of Father Strickland, kneeling by the stretchers, speaking words of cheer and administering the comforts of religion with wonderful tenderness and sympathy.”
Fr Strickland fell ill and died of pleurisy in Malta in July 1917 and was buried with full military honours.
[Photograph gratefully received from Archivum Provinciae Romanae Societatis Iesu]
Fr Francis Woodlock SJ (1871-1940), Irish but of the English Province, served as Military Chaplain at various camps in England before going to France in April 1915, where he served first with the West Riding Field Ambulance at the front before moving to the No 1 General Hospital. Towards the end he was stationed at the base camp at Boulogne in the Assistant Principal Chaplain’s office and here he was busy with lecture engagements, talks, sermons and social engagements. He received a Mention in Despatches in June 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross in 1918. He also gazetted Officer of the Order of Christ, a Portuguese decoration, in 1919. He demobilised in April 1919.