Leslie Walker SJ a WW1 chaplain and artist
Leslie Walker SJ 1877-1958

Leslie Walker SJ

Leslie Walker was born in 1877 to a non-conformist family in Birmingham.  He was received into the Church and became a Jesuit in 1899.  He worked as a teacher in Jesuit schools, finding time to develop his many and varied skills which included woodworking, painting and drawing cartoons, bee-keeping, gardening  and playing the mandolin.  At this time he began to make a name as a writer and academic.  He served as a military chaplain 1915-19 with the 19th Division in northern France, spending much of his tmie ministering behind the front lines of the Somme.  Because of his artistic skill he was asked to sketch the battlefront which he did "undeterred by shot or shell".   His sketchbooks are an evocative reminder of the conflict.  After the War he was appointed to Campion Hall in Oxford, where he managed the removal of Campion Hall to its current site in Brewer St, overseeing the building by Lutyens.  In Oxford he remained, publishing and teaching until his death in September 1958. In a tribute in The Times he was remembered as one with “the authority of a genial volcano... and an anarchic wit”.

Basilica of Notre Dame de Brebieres

Ruined Basilica of Notre Dame de Brebieres at Albert, Somme by Leslie Walker SJ July 1916

This sketch by Fr Walker shows one of the First World War’s most symbolic icons – “the Golden Virgin of Albert”, at the Basilica of Notre Dame de Brebieres.  Albert was the first town offering respite to those coming off the front lines during the battles for the Somme in 1916The unusual golden statue shows Our Lady holding the child Jesus aloft.  It was visible for many miles across the flat landscape and made an excellent artillery target.  The statue was knocked over in January 1915 and secured in place horizontally.  A superstition grew that the war would only end once the statue had fallen.  It was the British who finally destroyed the tower on which it stood once the German offensive of spring 1918 had overrun the town.  The Basilica was restored after the war.  

Browse through this Flickr gallery of some of his art or click and go to our Flickr account where you can see more detailed information on each image.