THE CHAPLAINS' DEPARTMENT IN NEW ZEALAND 1939–45
THE CHAPLAINS' DEPARTMENT IN NEW ZEALAND 1939–45
THE opening chapter of this book has dealt with the general background of past wars and the growth of the Chaplains' Department. It has touched briefly upon the experience gained by the chaplains of the 1st NZEF in the 1914–18 War. The success of the chaplains who served with the New Zealand Forces in the Second World War—and it will be conceded by most fair-minded folk that the chaplains were on the whole very successful in what they undertook—can be credited to two important factors complementary one to the other. These were:
The spiritual quality, personal initiative, drive, and ability of the individual chaplains as co-ordinated overseas in a wonderful team spirit under the leadership of the several Senior Chaplains.
The unspectacular but steady labours of the Chaplains' Department in New Zealand in selecting, advising, and posting the most suitable men to their respective tasks.
It has been the province of the foregoing chapters to deal with the qualities mentioned in (1). In this chapter a brief account will be given of the Department within New Zealand.
In September 1939 there was only one full-time chaplain serving in the New Zealand Forces, the Rev. G. T. Robson, MC, of the New Zealand Naval Forces. The expansion of the chaplains' work in the Navy, later known as the Royal New Zealand Navy, has been dealt with in another section. However, it is not inappropriate to state here that the splendid standard achieved by the New Zealand naval chaplains is due in no small measure to Padre Robson.
All other chaplains serving in the New Zealand Forces were on a Territorial basis, i.e., civilian clergy giving part of their time in chaplaincy duties in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve or the Army.
At that time the Army Chaplains' Department in New Zealand existed in (i) the Army List containing a large number of names of clergy and ministers of the Churches of New Zealand commissioned as chaplains, and in (ii) the Chaplains' District Advisory Boards in each of the three Military Districts and having their page 178 headquarters in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. The latter had a sub-committee in Dunedin to deal with matters peculiar to the southern end of the District. The Army List, which apparently had not been revised for some time, contained the names of men who were unfit for service either by reason of age or on medical grounds. However, it was a ‘Territorial’ list and therefore not necessarily one from which men could be selected for service overseas. In the main it was made up of men who had served as chaplains in the First World War and who wished to retain their interest in things military, and of men who had been called upon from time to time to serve as chaplains to one or more of the Territorial or cadet camps. It was this experience that was to count for so much in the first months of the recent war.
A young clergyman or minister called upon to act as chaplain in pre-war years would count himself fortunate if some experienced chaplain or sympathetic Army officer was able to coach him in his duties and in the manner in which he would be expected to conduct himself. No chaplains' schools or courses were held. Usually the young chaplain had to learn by trial and error the ways of the Army, as when the new padre, while standing outside the officers' mess after his first evening meal in camp, was approached by a lad he knew well. The soldier greeted him with a perfect salute. The padre, standing bare-headed, returned the salute, and did the same again at the close of their conversation. Turning around he saw that a party of officers had been standing behind him, and their expressions caused misgivings in his breast. Somewhat apologetically he remarked, ‘Well, I hope I did that all right.’ For which he gained the Adjutant's advice, ‘Padre, you never, NEVER, NEVER salute without a hat on.’
The incident, however trifling, is indicative of the problem that faces a chaplain, who, taken out of his civilian position, equipped with an officer's uniform and wearing the badges of rank equivalent to that of a captain, so often knows far less than the NCO of what is expected of him in matters of procedure and terminology. It is to the credit of the many young chaplains called into the Army during the war years that they so quickly adapted themselves to their new conditions and that their own personal qualities overcame any disadvantages that may have been felt in their not having page 179 attended an OCTU (Officer Cadet Training Unit). Close on two years of war passed before a chaplains' course was held in New Zealand. Much earlier in the war these courses had been held in Britain and in the Middle East and had proved to be of great assistance. The two courses held at the Army School of Instruction, Trentham, in September 1941 and August 1942, were much appreciated by the men who attended them. In each case some of the members were already serving chaplains without overseas experience, and others were clergy and ministers who were likely to be called upon to serve as chaplains at some future date. Army instructors lectured on Army technique and procedure, formations, terminology, and so on. Chaplains who had returned from service overseas were called upon to lecture on the duties of the chaplain and how best he could fulfil them under the varying conditions of warfare. It was found that these courses, which were in both instances really two courses of one week each held in successive weeks, provided for most of the men who were called into the Army during the remaining years of the war. Their value was such that it was thought advisable at a later stage to provide similar instruction to the chaplains called on for service with J Force.
Upon the outbreak of war, the Chaplains' District Advisory Board (sometimes referred to as Committee) in each of the three Military Districts found that much was required. These Boards were comprised of the Senior Chaplains of the Churches in each District, men occupying civilian positions but at the same time acting in an advisory capacity to the District Commandant. It was, and is, a wholly voluntary position. These Boards were faced with the task of selecting, nominating, and arranging for chaplains to serve, not only in the mobilisation camps with the prospect of going overseas, but also in the Home Defence camps that grew up within a short space of time in many places throughout the length and breadth of the country. The task was colossal. We must not overlook the fact that before the war the New Zealand Regular Force was very small in numbers. It expanded rapidly, and in doing so, many civilians became soldiers, a number of them commissioned officers. They faced their tasks in grand spirit but, be it admitted, with little knowledge of just where and when the chaplain came into the picture. The British Army has a tradition, and in that page 180 tradition the chaplain has a respected place. Consequently, the Regular soldier is quicker than the civilian soldier in co-operating with the chaplain and meeting his needs. In the main the District Commandants saw to it that the considered opinions of the Advisory Boards were given effect to; but it often happened that an officer commanding a unit was not so ready in his appraisal of the chaplain's work. There were, therefore, some misunderstandings, some errors that required rectification, some points of doubt. Some chaplains found themselves handicapped in the performance of their duties by lack of transport, or by the unsuitability of the place set aside for Divine Service. All these matters, and others, required the calm yet firm counsel of the Advisory Board. Quite a few of these difficulties continued to recur during the years of war, usually through the misinterpretation of a former instruction or through sheer forgetfulness that it ever existed. For instance, with Army units scattered over a very wide area, the question of transport was a burning one. Many a chaplain was frustrated in his work because his commanding officer could not see fit to make transport available.
From the beginning of the war, the number of chaplains required was agreed upon by District Headquarters and the Chaplains' Board. The Board nominated the men to District, together with a recommendation as to which camp the chaplain was to be posted. This enabled the Board to make appointments according to the denominational representation, the proportion at first being based on the figures of denominations of the men in the First Echelon. The Board's recommendation was implemented by A Branch at District Headquarters, which issued the necessary warrants and instructions, both to the chaplain concerned and to the Commandant of the camp to which he was to report. Where the Board considered that a chaplain was required in a certain area or camp not yet provided for, and where District was unable to accede to the request, authority for the appointment would be sought from Army Headquarters at Wellington.
In making the recommendation the Board was largely guided by the Senior Chaplain for New Zealand of each denomination. These Senior Chaplains ultimately selected which of the chaplains in camp should serve overseas, and also the order in which they should go.page 181
In most of the denominations the Senior Chaplain of the Church at the beginning of the war made a survey of all the clergy or ministers of his Church who were of military age and who might be required to serve as chaplains. Many of them were medically examined and, where classed as fit, commissioned as chaplains. Later, when need arose for their services, they were available with the minimum of delay. This procedure had also the advantage later when conscription was introduced of freeing the Churches of the need to make appeals for exemption. The clergy were already available on call by the Army, and during the course of the war they gave the service asked of them.
For the first two years of the war every chaplain mobilised, whether he was posted direct to a mobilisation camp or whether he spent some time first at one of the smaller local camps for fortress troops, was regarded as a potential reinforcement chaplain to the 2nd New Zealand Division in the Middle East. With Japan's entry into the war, however, the ‘tempo’ of military life in New Zealand was increased. Still greater demands were made for chaplains. Not only were replacements required for the 2nd NZEF in the Middle East, but also for the 3rd Division and other smaller forces to serve in the Pacific, and for the three Territorial divisions within New Zealand itself. As from May 1942, no chaplain in a mobilisation camp could regard himself as necessarily earmarked for the Middle East. By that time the number of chaplains in the Middle East was up to its full complement, but the expansion in New Zealand and in the Pacific was still going on.
In September 1942 a great step forward was taken in the administration of the Chaplains' Department. Although the Department had functioned fairly satisfactorily hitherto and had managed to fill the needs of the Army, there was a good deal of overlapping and lack of co-ordination between the three District Boards at Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. Under such a system these weaknesses could be expected. The Senior Chaplains for New Zealand of the several denominations, men upon whom devolved a growing responsibility in the increasing number of chaplains engaged, suggested the formation of a Chaplains' Dominion Advisory Council. For the purpose of efficiency, and because Army Headquarters was in Wellington, it was found that page 182 the SCFs were men who either were stationed at Wellington, or who, like the Ven. Archdeacon H. A. Hawkins (Church of England), had gravitated to Wellington. He, with the Rev. J. Thomson Macky (Presbyterian), the Rt. Rev. Monsignor T. F. Connolly (Roman Catholic), the Rev. F. J. Parker (Methodist) and the Rev. J. Sands (Congregationalist) who represented all other Protestant denominations, sent a recommendation to the Adjutant- General that such a Council should be formed. When this was agreed to, the Council came into being at its first meeting on 11 September 1942. It was intended that it should remain as an executive, small in numbers but comprehensive in its representation and balance of denominations. However, with the Adjutant- General later endorsing the request of the Salvation Army for separate representation, there followed a further enlargement by the applications of the Baptist Church and the Church of Christ for seats on the Council. These three were represented respectively by Brigadier S. Hayes (Salvation Army), the Rev. L. A. North, and the Rev. R. W. Simpson.
The Rev. J. Thomson Macky was elected chairman, which office he held up to the time of his death in February 1946. He did not spare himself in the amount of work he did in the interests of the Department. His calm and impartial judgment and his fearless tenacity were great assets. Both the Church and the Services benefited by his devotion and ability.
Archdeacon Hawkins was elected secretary. He had carried out much of the initial work of organising the chaplains' services to the Home Defence units, and had most ably carried out a large task in his capacity as Senior Chaplain to the Forces (Church of England) in New Zealand. It was with deep regret that the Council learned of his breakdown in health in September 1943, and his consequent retirement from all active service. His seat on the Council was taken by the Ven. Archdeacon W. Bullock, later succeeded by the Bishop of Wellington, the Rt. Rev. H. St.B. Holland, who in June 1944 had to relinquish the position through ill-health. The Archbishop of New Zealand, the Most Rev. Campbell West- Watson, himself assumed the duties of Senior Chaplain and appointed the Rev. N. E. Winhall as his Assistant-SCF with a seat on the Council.page 183
The Rev. F. J. Parker took over the secretaryship of the Council from September 1943 till his transfer to Wanganui in April 1945, when the position was handed over to the Church of England member. From the time of its formation until the end of the war with Japan the Council met on twenty-seven occasions.
While no formal resolution was ever passed or an order given to disband the three District Advisory Boards, it was found in practice that they gradually ceased to function and all administration of chaplains was carried out on the recommendation of the Chaplains' Dominion Advisory Council direct with A Branch at Army Headquarters. This new arrangement provided a unity that had been greatly desired, and it afforded the Senior Chaplains more direct control in the placing of the many chaplains engaged in the Services.
As the central and direct representative of the Churches, the Council was able to make more effective representation on behalf of chaplains on such matters as the provision of transport for them, the construction of chapel huts in the larger camps, the right of clergy or ministers to enter camps in their parishes where no chaplain of their own denomination was stationed, and also the overlapping of chaplains up to three days in cases of transfers so that the incoming chaplain could learn from the outgoing one how the unit had been worked. These and other matters, which may appear in print to the ordinary layman to be of little moment, were at the time the source of unnecessary irritation to the chaplains concerned. The chaplain was pleased to have behind him an authority such as the Council which could put his claims for ‘tools of trade’ to the proper quarter. One of the main aims of the Council was to have the Chaplains' Department recognised as an integral part of the Service, and its officers given as of right the equipment, the time, and the means necessary to the efficient performance of their duties.
With its inception the Council was called upon to fill the establishment of chaplains for the 3rd Division. Immediately the question arose as to the appointment of a Senior Chaplain to this division. The Council considered it to be the right and the privilege of the General Officer Commanding the Division (Major-General H. E. Barrowclough) to make the appointment from the number page 184 of chaplains already posted to the division, on the ground that he would know best the man with whom he would have to work in such close relation. For a time there was a difference of opinion between the Council and the GOC as to who should make the appointment, with a consequent delay in the ultimate appointment by General Barrowclough of the Rev. K. Liggett.
With a commendable measure of consistency the Council adopted the same attitude on the appointment of a Senior Chaplain to each of the three Territorial divisions in New Zealand. When Major- General N. W. McD. Weir appointed the Rev. N. E. Winhall as Senior Chaplain to the 4th Division, the Council gave its endorsement. No appointments were made in the other two divisions, although the Adjutant-General had agreed that such could be made if desired.
The use of New Zealand by the United States as one of its bases in the Pacific war meant that some thousands of United States troops were stationed for a period in New Zealand camps. They had their own chaplains, but there was always a close liaison between the chaplains of the two countries, and a very amicable relation prevailed. With the success of the Allied forces in the Pacific, there came in 1943 a lessening of the tension within New Zealand and a correspondingly gradual reduction of the number of men in the Territorial divisions. This meant the reversal of the policy that had been operating for four years: instead of calling up more men, the Council was concerned with releasing a number of them from the Army and restoring them to the civilian Churches. This process went on throughout 1943 and the earlier part of 1944, only sufficient chaplains being retained to staff the mobilisation camps and to provide replacements for the divisions overseas.
About this time a new situation arose. More and more men were returning from overseas service. The Chaplains' Department felt that it should be concerned with the rehabilitation of these men. Every effort was made to ascertain the address and the Church membership of the returning soldier, either from ship's nominal rolls or from lists compiled by the chaplains attached to the ships. Where this information was obtained it was forwarded to the Church concerned with the hope that an early contact could be made and assistance given the man to settle again into civilian life. page 185 This endeavour on the part of the Council was not always as successful as it desired. At times it found great difficulty in obtaining the information, but where it did succeed it was found to be most valuable assistance.
One other effort made by the Council that did not bear fruit was the proposal to appoint women assistant chaplains to work with the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. As a large number of young women were serving in the Army in many capacities, wearing uniform and living in camps, it was thought that their spiritual needs could best be met by the appointment of trained Deaconesses. Such appointments had been made in England with much success. The Rev. Thomson Macky was most anxious that a similar venture be made in New Zealand. Having obtained the approval of the Adjutant-General and of the Commandant of the WAAC, a deputation led by Mr. Macky was not successful in its approach to the Government.
Chaplains in the Royal New Zealand Air Force
What has been written so far in this chapter has applied to the work of the Department within the Army. Side by side with the Army there was the Royal New Zealand Air Force, an ever-expanding Service undertaking more and more commitments in the war in the Pacific. Another chapter has dealt with the RNZAF chaplains who served overseas.
Early in the war a call was made for a few chaplains to serve with the RNZAF. Unlike the Army, the Air Force had no chaplains on commission prior to the war, although certain clergy were regarded affectionately by the men of the few air stations as their ‘Padre’. There was therefore no Chaplains' Department functioning as such within the RNZAF. In the early years of the war, chaplains were supplied by the Churches at the request of the Air Secretary. Possibly it was a sense of ‘not belonging’ that caused these chaplains to gather together from time to time in ‘schools’ to talk over the problems peculiar to their task.
In October 1942 the Air Secretary accepted the offer of service made to the Air Board by the Chaplains' Dominion Advisory Council. From then on the Council functioned as the liaison between the Churches and the two Services, Army and Air. Soon it page 186 was concerned with the question of obtaining for the Air Force chaplains pay according to the rank they held and with increasing their number to twelve. (Ultimately the figure rose to twenty-nine.) This increase took place at the time of the reduction in the number of Army chaplains, so that a few of the latter transferred from one Service to the other.
One matter in which the Council took some pride and gained a deal of satisfaction was the provision of small but suitable chapels in most of the larger air stations. These chapels gave the chaplains a definite centre for their work. Likewise, a very successful conference of Air Force chaplains held at Wallis House, Lower Hutt, from 1–3 August 1944, did much to cement the bonds of comradeship among the chaplains and provide them with a sense of unity in a Service that was building up a worthy tradition. At this conference the Air Secretary and the chairman of the Council were included in the panel of speakers.
Another matter which the Council felt it should press was the promotion of RNZAF chaplains. Because of the peculiar conditions of the Service, by which a man did a tour of duty of about nine months in the Pacific and then returned to New Zealand for a period, it was impossible for him to qualify on the Army chaplain's basis of two and a half years' overseas service for promotion to the next higher rank. In view of this the Council requested that a total period of four years' service within New Zealand and beyond should be counted as sufficient for an Air Force chaplain to qualify for promotion. Although the Air Board eventually agreed to this proposal, the Government refused its approval. Finally it was agreed that tours of duty outside New Zealand aggregating two years and six months be accepted as qualifying for promotion, but no RNZAF chaplain had so qualified by the end of the war.
As in the case of clergy having the right of entry to military camps, so likewise the same held good in the air stations, but with a difference. Officiating chaplains, nominated by the Council from among the civilian clergy or ministers of neighbouring Churches not represented by a full-time chaplain within the station, were appointed. They were paid a small remuneration according to the number of their members on the station.
Much that has been written already regarding the difficulties that page 187 had to be overcome in the Army, and about some of the necessary facilities made available to the chaplains, could well be written of the chaplains of the RNZAF and of the endeavours on their behalf by the Council. Suffice it to say that there gradually grew an efficient working arrangement that enabled the chaplains to operate with a minimum of let or hindrance. Certain measures were not clarified, but the experience of the war years was such that a measure of tradition was built up by the chaplains in the RNZAF that will stand the Department and the Service in good stead in years to come.
No such account as this could well be concluded without an expression of appreciation of the part played by the welfare services and by the Churches themselves. Only chaplains who have had experience within the Service camps and stations can fully appreciate what the various welfare huts meant both to the men and to the chaplain himself. In Services where garrison churches are not yet the established order of things, and where no large building is set aside for specifically spiritual work, the chaplains were more than ready to work in and through the welfare huts. It is true that these huts were provided primarily by religious organisations and usually had a small chapel attached to them, but it will be acknowledged that they were regarded by both the men and the Army authorities as places set aside for the social life of the men—reading, writing, billiards and other games, as well as concerts and pictures, and the not-to-be-forgotten canteen. It was in this setting that the chaplain made his centre of operation, a room usually being set apart for his use for a quiet chat with a man or for conducting a study group. Chaplains of all denominations would wish this tribute to be paid to the authorities responsible for the provision and the staffing of the huts—the Young Men's Christian Association, the Church Army (Church of England), the Catholic huts, the Salvation Army, and the all-embracing National Patriotic Fund Board.
Finally, recognition must be given to the fact that the Churches of New Zealand, never at any time to be thought of as in any way over-staffed, by dint of sacrifice and re-arrangement of internal affairs were able to provide somewhere between 120 and 140 chaplains in the field at one time, receive back those who had to return page 188 through sickness or other cause and make still others available for service, and at the same time maintain their regular civilian ministrations. Many of these ministrations were affected by the loss of personnel to the Home Guard as well as to the Armed Services. The whole tenor of life in some Churches was disrupted by such losses at a time when more and more demands were being made for the Churches' services. It is well to be reminded that a great deal of what was done by the chaplains was made possible by the continuance in service to the Church at home of many clergy and ministers who were due for retirement, or who had retired and who came back to carry on when their young colleagues were required in foreign parts. But perhaps it is not thanks or any like thing that should be expressed towards the Church here, or anywhere, for the part she played in ministering to the men of the Armed Services during a time of national trial. Her service, however difficult it may have been for the chaplains or for her ministers who served at home, would be regarded as the privilege of her calling, and all her servants would join in uttering the words of the hymn:
Praise in the common things of life,
Its goings out and in;
Praise in each duty and each deed,
However small and mean.