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New Zealand Army Chaplains' Department

New Zealand Army Chaplains' Department

Officially there was in the New Zealand Army a Chaplains' Department on a Territorial basis, but there were no full-time chaplains. The Army Chaplaincy was administered by the Adjutant- General's office, assisted by three District Chaplains' Advisory Committees corresponding to the three Army districts. These District Committees consisted of civilian clergy, representing the different denominations, who did the work in their own time and at their own expense.

Their duty had been to nominate Territorial chaplains, but the system was not designed for war conditions and so it is not surprising that in 1939 most of the Territorial chaplains were either over age or else physically unfit for active service. These three District Committees continued to function for the first three years of the war, with the addition of one full-time administrative chaplain who was mobilised as a member of the New Zealand Forces. This was Archdeacon Hawkins,1 who had been the Senior Chaplain to the 1st New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

Although the District Committees were superseded in 1942 by the Chaplains' Dominion Advisory Council, it should be remembered that they faced great difficulties, and that the members acted only in a spare-time capacity. Indeed, they achieved much under difficult conditions, and official files and minute-books bear testimony to the page 4 many problems they had to face, some trivial, but many of primary importance. They had to work out denominational ratios; they were responsible for the selection and recruiting of chaplains; and they had to understand the chaplains' needs and supply necessary equipment. As there was little tradition and few printed regulations, they had to fight administrative battles in regard to proper recognition of chaplains, and define their privileges and the scope of their work. The Army authorities did their best, but they were busy with other matters and had little precedent to guide them.

There were numerous misunderstandings and mistakes. For example, there was a popular legend in the Department that at the beginning of the war two civilian clergymen approached the Army direct and were commissioned and on an embarkation roll before any Chaplains' Committee had heard of them. In all, there were many difficulties and problems, and the aim of this book is to record how they were met and nearly always solved.