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The Chaplains

The Chaplains

Because the Division had to be split into many parts fifteen chaplains above the normal Divisional establishment were appointed. There was a permanent chaplain with each of the two Field Ambulances which, owing to their isolation, had frequently to act as small General Hospitals.

The biggest problem the chaplains had to face was the question of morale. Many soldiers had enlisted with the hope of serving in the Middle East and were disappointed when they were posted to the Pacific. Many had already spent dreary months on garrison duty in out-of-the-way places and were pessimistic about the chance of the 3rd Division seeing action. Indeed their fears were largely realised for it was not till August 1943 that the Division moved into the battle area in Guadalcanal.

While the Division was training in New Zealand, and for the first five months in New Caledonia, the Chaplains' Department suffered much from having no Senior Chaplain. In other units many men had been specially transferred to the 3rd Division from the Middle East so that use could be made of their experience in the formation and administration of this new force. The GOC (Major-General H. E. Barrowclough) suggested that this course should be followed in the appointment of a Senior Chaplain, but the Chaplains' Advisory Council in New Zealand replied that this position must be given to a man with experience of work in the Pacific. An excellent man was found in Padre K. Liggett1 who had been transferred to Norfolk Island after service in Fiji. He was a man of strong character with a friendly disposition and marked administrative talents. In the huge area covered by the Division he placed page 117 his chaplains well, and then did his best to keep in close touch with them by constant travelling which often involved sea and air trips.

In December 1943, Bishop Gerard, repatriated from Italy a few months earlier, paid an official visit to the Division at the invitation of the GOC. He conducted a number of confirmations and gave many interesting talks on the early years of the 2nd Division in the Middle East and his experiences as a prisoner of war. In the following year, when Padre Liggett relinquished the position of Senior Chaplain, Bishop Gerard was asked to succeed him. At that time it was still thought possible that the 3rd Division might continue its active rôle and existence, but the pressing demand for men in other services and in industry, following the need for increased production in New Zealand to supply United States forces in the Pacific and the heavy drain on manpower, made it impossible for the Dominion to maintain two divisions and the 3rd Division was disbanded. The New Zealand troops were then concentrated in New Caledonia before their return to New Zealand, and in the difficult days of reorganisation and disbandment the Bishop once again showed his great qualities as a leader.