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Royal Army Chaplains' Department

Royal Army Chaplains' Department

The Royal Army Chaplains' Department (usually referred to as the RAChD) dates its official origin from the year 1796 when a system of brigade chaplains was introduced under the first Chaplain- General. At first the Church of England held a complete monopoly, but provision was made for Presbyterians in 1827, Roman Catholics in 1836, and ‘Other Protestants’ in 1862. In 1859 the rank of chaplain was made official and has since remained the same. Uniform was prescribed in 1860 and became compulsory.

In New Zealand the first chaplain was probably Bishop Selwyn who during the Maori Wars went into camp and travelled with the troops. His habit of ministering to his Church members in both the warring forces may have been logical on Christian grounds but it led to frequent misunderstandings. Eventually the War Office authorised him to appoint three additional chaplains.

At an early date chaplains were appointed to Territorial regiments. Seven New Zealand chaplains served in the Boer War, and many played an honourable part in the First World War. Unfortunately few records were kept of their organisation as a department and their work received little mention in the official histories.

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In the thirties came the Disarmament Treaties and a very strong wave of Pacifism. Pacifist books and societies appeared all over the Empire; huge public meetings were held in Britain and popular pacifist manifestos were widely signed. Well-known politicians and clergymen were frequent speakers on pacifist platforms. Widely read pacifist books were published. These facts should be remembered when considering the Church in New Zealand before the Second World War. The clergy were influenced by this pacifist teaching, and many felt uncertain of their own positions. The result was that the Territorial Army was looked upon with suspicion by a large section of the community, and many denominations took little trouble in the appointment of Territorial chaplains.