“I explained the need of Chaplains with the troops, and invited the priests to volunteer to minister to the spiritual wants of the soldiers at the front”
(Memorandum on Irish Army Chaplains, 1917)
Both the Catholic and Anglican institutions encouraged their clergy to become army chaplains. These men were thought essential to maintaining the morale of the troops in the front line. Many chaplains worked close to or at the front lines and some were even killed. In 1920, 109 Church of Ireland clergymen were listed as wartime chaplains. These were mainly curates from the sees of Dublin, Down and Cork
They included a number of well-known figures: Rev J. Crozier, son of the Archbishop of Armagh; Rev J. 0. Hannay, better known as the writer George Birmingham; and Rev R. Watson, an Irish rugby international. Eight of these chaplains were killed or died of wounds during the War. Three received the Military Cross. A further thirteen were listed as combatants.
These figures do not include Irish clergymen working in Britain or the Colonies at the outbreak of war. One of these, Rev Everard Diggs La Touche, was the Donnellan Lecturer in Trinity College, Dublin, before he emigrated to Australia in 1912. He was commissioned in the Australian Imperial Forces and killed at Gallipoli in September 1915. La Touche is remembered with a small plaque in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The most famous padre of the War, Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy (‘Woodbine Willie’), had strong family connections with Ireland. His parents were Irish and he spent three years in TCD as a theology student.
From Jane Leonard’s chapter “The Catholic Chaplaincy” in David Fitzpatrick’s “Ireland and The First World War”.
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