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History of Army Chaplains

From before 1066 armies have taken clergy with them to war. The roles of chaplains within the military have changed significantly but their presence has remained as important as ever.

Altar cross1796: The Army Chaplains' Department formed under the first Chaplain General, the Reverend John Gamble though with very few applicants.

1854: The Crimean War. 26000 troops, one deployable Chaplain, the Reverend Henry Press Wright. However the reports of William Russell to the Times caused the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to finance more Chaplains. Eventually sixty deploy and twelve die.

1879: The Reverend James William Adams was the first clergyman to be awarded the Victoria Cross as he served with the 9th Lancers at Killa Kazi.

1836: Roman Catholic clergy joined the Department, followed by the Presbyterians in 1858, Wesleyans in 1881 and Jews in 1892.

1914-18: The Great War. Names such as Woodbine Willy and Tubby Clayton became synomynous with the bringing of comfort, care and compassion to those caught up in the bloodiness of war. The Reverends Theodore Bayley Hardy V DSO, MC, Noel Mellish VC, MC and William R F Addison VC stood as marks of the commitment of the Chaplains to serve wherever the British soldier was to be found, and at whatever the personal cost. 179 Chaplains died during the war. In recognition of their devoted work since 1914 King George V conferred the prefix 'Royal' on the Army Chaplains' Department.

Bible1939-45: The Second World War. New formations such as Airborne Forces had Chaplains learning new skills such as parachuting. The fortitude of devoted Chaplains such as The Reverends Happy Harry Thorpe and HLO Davies in the prison camps of the far East sustain the captives during the horrors of life and death on the Burma-Siam Railway and of the notorious Shamshuipo Camp. 96 British and 38 Commonwealth Army Chaplains died during the war.

1945-present: Chaplains have continued to serve wherever British soldiers have been sent. Korea, Suez, Aden, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Iraq, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The conflicts may change but the call, care, compassion and prayer remains constant.

Amport House in Hampshire (pictured) has been home to the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre (AFCC) since 1996.

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