On 22 February 1919, His Majesty King George V bestowed the Prefix ‘Royal’ on the then Army Chaplains’ Department in recognition of its outstanding service and sacrifice during the First World War. His Granddaughter, Her Majesty The Queen, attended a special service of commemoration with the entire Army chaplaincy community, to mark this auspicious anniversary on 22 February 2019 in the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks.
The service reflected upon the sacrifice and service of those chaplains who rose to the challenges of the great conflicts that have beset our nation, those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those that continue to support soldiers on operations today but also, those who have simply been there when a soldier has asked ‘Padre have you got a minute…?’ It is customary to call all Military Chaplains “Padre”.
Generals, throughout history, have valued their chaplains and recognise the enduring need for chaplaincy in the future. Soldiering remains an essentially human activity and the Army recognises the need to support the spiritual needs of soldiers. Chaplains have remained steadfast to their calling, providing spiritual support, moral guidance and pastoral care to all soldiers wherever they serve and will be found wherever the fighting is toughest. A faith-based chaplaincy is an integral part of the wellbeing of the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces.
The service culminated in an Act of Dedication: The Chaplain-General asked all serving RAChD Chaplains to reaffirm their commitment before God and to rededicate themselves to the Service of soldiers in the presence of their Royal Patron and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff. Army Chaplains across the World who for operational reasons could not attend the service also paused, at this hour, for a moment’s prayer and reflection in a global act of unity and re-dedication.
During the service a new Book of Remembrance and Roll of Honour detailing the 315 Army chaplains who have died in the service of others was blessed. This Book of Remembrance contains the first complete RAChD Roll of Honour spanning the beginning of the Great War to the present day. The Book will subsequently be laid up in the Royal Memorial Chapel Sandhurst where its pages will be regularly turned.
In this year of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, the processional cross used in the service was that fashioned by Canadian Engineers from German Copper in Normandy in June 1944 so that the then Chaplain to the Forces, Reverend A (Sandy) Reynolds TD could conduct services for soldiers fighting at the front.
Her Majesty also met serving chaplains, including chaplains recently returned from operations in Estonia, Afghanistan and Sudan, the most recently recruited chaplain but also soldiers who have either helped chaplains in their daily duties or who have benefited from the support and care from chaplains in barracks or on operations.
The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department is unique as the only part of the Army solely dedicated to the moral component of fighting power, inculcating and nurturing in soldiers the strength of spirit to win. Chaplains are all ordained clergy originally drawn from across the Judeo-Christian traditions and now reflecting the wider British culture with Chaplains representing the Sikh, Buddhist, Muslim, and Hindu religions. They provide spiritual support to soldiers and their families of all faiths and none, offering moral guidance when required and have the freedom to speak truth to power by providing views from a different standpoint to many soldiers. A Chaplain’s faith means they engage with soldiers solely out of a sense of compassion and concern for their wellbeing, irrespective of their beliefs.