For the last 70 years, Army chaplains have continued to serve alongside British soldiers around the world in conflicts in Korea, Suez, Aden, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Iraq, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. The modern army chaplain often expertly balance their religious and morale building responsibilities as they attempt to support serving men and women in an increasingly complicated world.
However, religion and war are so much more complicated than the accompaniment of an Army Chaplain with a battalion. Religion has both been part of and often the cause of war for thousands of years. Soldiers often found solace in religion whilst in battle, be it praying for victory or safety, to crying for the end of suffering or help from deities who seemingly failed to hear them.
Prayers over the living and dead were commonplace, with thanks often being given to the Gods at the conclusion of victory. In the seminal Blackadder series, Napoleon pronounces: ‘Do not despair. It is my firm belief that God hates the British. He will intervene miraculously and send us a glorious victory on this field of Waterloo.’ Whilst is this is obviously satirical it demonstrates a common view shared by many combatants during battles through history; namely that God is on their side.
Part of the encouragement for this view in conflicts over the last four centuries belongs to the involvement of the Chaplain within the Battalions. These were the men who held services, gave blessings, assured men they were on the right side and gave nourishment for both the soul and often the body.
I have been fascinated by the role of Chaplains for a long time. They were one of my first academic obsessions and as a result, I have published a paper on them and included them both in my book and my thesis.
To find out more about these fascinating, yet often overlooked, elements of war you can either:
Read my article:
or view more information at: