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Church Services in Greece

Church Services in Greece

The chaplain usually arranged his Church services by telephone from unit headquarters, or else on the spot as he travelled around. The officer in charge of the group would pick a suitable spot and the chaplain then handed round the twenty or thirty hymn books that he carried. The service usually lasted about twenty minutes, followed perhaps by Holy Communion. The setting of these services was often impressive—an olive grove, a green valley, or some spur on Mount Olympus with a glorious expanse of country spread out below.

After the service the chaplain would wander around and talk, and he had many opportunities to make himself useful. Perhaps there was a shortage of writing paper: he would dive into his pack and produce envelopes and paper, promising to get some more sent up with the rations. In addition he often carried tobacco, chocolate, and soap for free distribution, or took orders for boot-laces, razor blades, and a host of other articles not obtainable at the outpost.

But, quite apart from this, a visit from the chaplain was generally welcome as it made a popular break in the uneasy period of waiting for the enemy. The wise chaplain usually carried one or two paper-backed books and magazines, knowing that every man would read them in turn, and often he was asked for New Testaments. The chaplain also brought the latest wireless news, supplemented by his own special supply of rumours and unit gossip. Experience showed that the story of some undignified mishap page 24 suffered by a well-known unit officer would do more for morale than news of ten military victories in other parts of the world.

In some ways this casual visiting was as important as the Church service. The two experiences common to every soldier on active service were fear and boredom, and it was the chaplain's duty to combat and alleviate both of them. The service and the prayers gave inward strength and purpose to a man, whether it was the lonely sentry peering nervously into the dark, the homesick soldier reading his mail, or the young officer acutely aware of his responsibilities; while on the other hand the whole group benefited by this friendly touch with the outside world, and especially by the little scraps of information and the personal messages which helped to bind a unit together. Many a veteran of Greece, recalling that unsatisfactory and uncomfortable campaign, must remember one or two of these services; perhaps it might be one held on Easter Day of that year, a few hours before the battle began, exemplifying a quality of life and a comradeship not often found in the days of peace.