British Journal of Canadian Studies

Chaplains of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-18: modern revisions on one hundred years of historiographical development

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2021), 33, (1), 1–29.

Abstract

This article surveys nearly 100 years of how British and Canadian Great War army chaplains were historicised through three distinct stages: the interwar decades, the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and a revisionist phase that began in the 1990s and continues. Postwar memoirs of numerous literary-minded British and Canadian veterans almost invariably characterised chaplains as hypocritical and irrelevant to the average soldier, doing more harm than good to the cause of organised religion. This and other war disillusionment motifs were taken up by the 1960s anti-war movement and sealed into public consciousness. The 1990s, however, witnessed the beginning of scholarly, revisionist efforts to disentangle history from literature and myth. The effort has produced a more balanced, complex, and interesting assessment of chaplain front-line performance, as revealed through the diverse testimony of soldiers from all socio-economic backgrounds, not just the educated literary class.

Cet article examine comment les aumôniers britanniques et canadiens de la Première Guerre mondiale ont été historicisés depuis près de cent ans, en distinguant trois étapes : les décennies de l’entre-deux-guerres, les mouvements de contre-culture des années 1960 et 1970 et une phase révisionniste des années 1990 à nos jours. Dans l’aprèsguerre, les mémoires de nombreux anciens combattants britanniques et canadiens lettrés dépeignaient presque toujours les aumôniers comme des personnes hypocrites et sans rapport avec le soldat ordinaire, qui ont fait plus de tort que de bien à la cause de la religion organisée. Le mouvement anti-guerre des années 1960 a repris ce motif et d’autres motifs de désillusion envers la guerre et les a ancrés dans la conscience publique. Les années 1990, cependant, ont été témoins des premiers efforts révisionnistes de chercheurs pour démêler l’histoire de la littérature et du mythe. Ces efforts ont produit une évaluation plus équilibrée, plus complexe et plus intéressante de l’action des aumôniers sur la première ligne, telle que révélée par les témoignages variés de soldats de tous horizons socio-économiques, et non seulement ceux de soldats instruits et amateurs de littérature.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

References

Acland, Peregrine, 1929, All Else Is Folly (New York: Coward-McCann). Google Scholar

Anger, Bob, 2002, ‘Presbyterian Chaplaincy during the First World War’, in David R. Elliott (ed.), The Canadian Society of Presbyterian History Papers (Parkhill, ON), pp. 15-31. Google Scholar

Baird, Ian, 2018, ‘For God and Empire: War Sermons and Voluntary Enlistment among New Brunswick’s Anglicans in the Great War, 1914 through 1917’, MA thesis, University of New Brunswick. Google Scholar

Bennett, S.G., 1926, The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, 1914-1919 (Toronto: Murray Printing Company Limited). Google Scholar

Bickersteth, John (ed.), 1996, The Bickersteth Diaries, 1914-1918 (London: Leo Cooper). Google Scholar

Bird, Will R., 2014, And We Go On: A Memoir of the Great War (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press). Google Scholar

Blunden, Edmund, 1928, Undertones of War (London: Richard Cobden-Sanderson). Google Scholar

Brittain, Vera, 1933, Testament of Youth (London: Victor Gollancz Ltd). Google Scholar

Carrington, Phillip, 1963, The Anglican Church in Canada: A History (Toronto: Collins). Google Scholar

Chapman, Guy, 1966, A Passionate Prodigy (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston). Google Scholar

Christie, Nancy, and Michael Gauvreau, 2010, Christian Churches and Their Peoples, 1840-1965: A Social History of Religion in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). Google Scholar

Clark, Alan, 1961, The Donkeys: A History of the British Expeditionary Force in 1915 (London: Hutchinson). Google Scholar

Cook, Tim, 2006, Clio’s Warriors: Canadian Historians and the Writing of the World Wars (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press). Google Scholar

Crerar, Duff, 2014, Padres in No Man’s Land: Canadian Chaplains and the Great War (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press). Google Scholar

Curry, F.C., 1930, ‘The Trend of the War Novel’, Canadian Defence Quarterly, 7:4 (July), 519-20. Google Scholar

Davidson, Melissa, 2014, ‘The Anglican Church and the Great War’, in Gordon Heath (ed.), Canadian Churches and the First World War (Hamilton: McMaster Divinity College Press), 152-69. Google Scholar

Dunn, James C. 1987[1938], The War the Infantry Knew, 1914-1919 (London: Jane’s Publishing Company Limited). Google Scholar

Gould, L.M., 1919, B.C. to Basieux: Being the Narrative History of the 102nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (Victoria: privately printed). Google Scholar

Graves, Robert, 1981, Goodbye to All That (London: The Folio Society). Google Scholar

Harrison, Charles Yale, 1975, Generals Die in Bed (Hamilton, ON: Potlatch). Google Scholar

Heath, Gordon L., 2012, ‘The Protestant Denominational Press and the Conscription Crisis in Canada, 1917-1918’, Historical Studies (Canadian Catholic Historical Association), 78, 27-46. Google Scholar

Heath, Gordon L. (ed.), 2014, Canadian Churches and the First World War (Hamilton: McMaster Divinity College Press). Google Scholar

Horne, Jonathan, 1995, The Best of Good Fellows: The Diaries and Memoirs of the Rev. Charles Edmund Doudney, M.A., C.F. (1871-1915) (London: Jonathan Horne Publications). Google Scholar

Jerrold, Douglas, 1930, The Lie about the War (London: Faber & Faber Limited). Google Scholar

Johnstone, Tom, and James Hagerty, 1996, The Cross on the Sword: Catholic Chaplains in the Forces (London: Geoffrey Chapman). Google Scholar

Kerr, W.B., 1929, Shrieks and Crashes: Being Memories of Canada’s Corps, 1917 (Toronto: Hunter-Rose). Google Scholar

Louden, Stephen H., 1996, Chaplains in Conflict: The Role of the Army Chaplains since 1914 (London: Avon Books). Google Scholar

Macdonald, Stuart, 2012, ‘Myth Meets Reality: Canadian Presbyterians and the Great War’, Historical Papers: Canadian Society of Church History. Google Scholar

Macdonald, Stuart, 2014, ‘For Empire and God: Canadian Presbyterians and the Great War’, in Gordon L. Heath (ed.), Canadian Churches and the First World War (Hamilton: McMaster Divinity College Press), pp. 133-51. Google Scholar

MacPhail, Andrew, 1925, The Medical Services (Ottawa: King’s Printer). Google Scholar

Madigan, Edward, 2008, ‘Hidden Courage: Post-war Literature and Anglican Army Chaplains on the Western Front, 1914-1918’, in Heather Jones, Jennifer O’Brien, and Christoph Schmidt-Supprian (eds), Untold War: New Perspectives in First World War Studies (Leiden: Brill), pp. 63-94. Google Scholar

Madigan, Edward, 2011, Faith under Fire: Anglican Army Chaplains and the Great War (London: Palgrave Macmillan). Google Scholar

Marrin, Albert, 1974, The Last Crusade: The Church of England in the First World War (Durham, NC: Duke University Press). Google Scholar

Marshall, David B., 1992, Secularizing the Faith: Canadian Protestant Clergy and the Crisis of Belief, 1850-1940 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press). Google Scholar

Marshall, David B., 2014a, ‘“Khaki Has Become a Scared Colour”: The Methodist Church and the Sanctification of World War One’, in Gordon L. Heath (ed.), Canadian Churches and the First World War (Hamilton: McMaster Divinity College Press, 2014), pp. 102-32. Google Scholar

Marshall, David B., 2014b, ‘What Happened to the Methodism in Canada during the First World War’, Historical Papers, Canadian Society of Church History. Google Scholar

Montague, C.E., 1922, Disenchantment (London: Chatto & Windus). Google Scholar

Murdoch, B.J., 1946, Part Way Through (Toronto: The Mission Press). Google Scholar

Murdoch, B.J., 1959, The Red Vineyard, 10th ed. (Glasgow: The University Press). Google Scholar

Nicholson, G.W.L., 1962, Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer). Google Scholar

Owen, Wilfred, 1977, The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen (ed. C. Day Lewis) (London: Chatto & Windus). Google Scholar

Parker, Linda, 2009, The Whole Armour of God: Anglican Army Chaplains in the Great War (Solihull: Helion & Company Limited). Google Scholar

Parker, Linda, 2015, Shellshocked Prophets: Former Anglican Army Chaplains in Inter-war Britain (Solihull: Helion & Company Limited and Wolverhampton Military Studies). Google Scholar

Peck, Cy, 1930, ‘Modern War Books’, The Brazier, 18 (December), 7. Google Scholar

Pedley, James H., 1927, Only This: A War Retrospect, 1917-1918 (Ottawa: The Graphic Publishing Co.). Google Scholar

Porter, McKenzie, 1960, To All Men: The Story of the Canadian Red Cross (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart). Google Scholar

Quinn, Shawna, 2010, Agnes Warner and the Nursing Sisters of the Great War (Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions and the New Brunswick Military Heritage Project). Google Scholar

Remarque, Erich Maria, 1929, All Quiet on the Western Front (London: Putnam). Google Scholar

Sassoon, Siegfried, 1928, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (London: Faber & Gwyer). Google Scholar

Sassoon, Siegfried, 1930, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (London: Faber and Faber). Google Scholar

Sassoon, Siegfried, 1936, Sherston’s Progress (London: Faber and Faber). Google Scholar

Schweitzer, Richard, 2003, The Cross and the Trenches: Religious Faith and Doubt among British and American Great War Soldiers (Westport, CT: Praeger). Google Scholar

Scott, Frederick G., 2014, The Great War as I Saw It (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press). Google Scholar

Smyth, John, 1968, In This Sign Conquer: The Story of the Army Chaplains (London: A.R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd). Google Scholar

Snape, Michael, 2005, God and the British Soldier: Religion and the British Soldier in the First and Second World Wars (New York: Routledge). Google Scholar

Snape, Michael, 2008, The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department: Clergy under Fire (Woodbridge: Boydell). Google Scholar

Snape, Michael (ed.), 2009, The Back Parts of War: The YMCA Memoirs and Letters of Barclay Baron, 1915 to 1919 (Woodbridge: Boydell). Google Scholar

Snell, A.E., 1924, The C.A.M.C with the Canadian Corps during the last Hundred Days of the Great War (Ottawa: King’s Printer). Google Scholar

Tennyson, Brian Douglas, 2013, The Canadian Experience of the Great War: A Guide to Memoirs (Toronto: Scarecrow Press). Google Scholar

Toman, Cynthia, 2016, Sister Soldiers of the Great War: Nursing Sisters of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press). Google Scholar

Vance, Jonathan, 1997, Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press). Google Scholar

Vance, Jonathan, 2003, ‘The Soldier as Novelist: Literature, History and the Great War’, Canadian Literature, 179 (Winter), 22-37. Google Scholar

Wilkinson, Alan, 1978, The Church of England and the First World War (London: SPCK). Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Baird, Ian