In Crete the chaplains encountered two new problems. The first was the question whether they should bear arms. With parachutists landing on all sides and attacking by day and night, the chaplain, although legally protected by the Geneva Convention, was in considerable danger; on other occasions, too, when officers and men were few in number and a vital position had to be held, one or two chaplains seized rifles and took their place alongside the fighting soldier. When this subject was discussed in a chaplains' conference later it was agreed that there was no excuse for a chaplain to break an international agreement. Some said they were prepared to fight on occasions and that if they were captured they were quite prepared to forego any privileges reserved for protected persons in captivity, but it was pointed out that one infringement of this convention might unfavourably affect the treatment of all other chaplains taken prisoner. If the chaplain was prepared to go into action as such it was considered wrong for him to seek any other protection than a Red Cross arm-band and a Geneva certificate in his paybook. For the rest he should either be a permanent combatant or a permanent chaplain.
The other problem was that of going voluntarily into captivity. It is easy to picture conditions where a large number of wounded have to be left to the mercies of an advancing enemy. Perhaps a medical orderly or doctor would stay with these men, or perhaps they would be ordered to withdraw. In Crete, early in the war, it was not known how the Germans would treat prisoners and wounded, and some chaplains felt their duty demanded that they stay with the wounded until German medical authorities arrived.page 27
The wounded in Crete had already had a hard and exhausting campaign in Greece. They had experienced the first large-scale parachute attack in history and many begged the chaplains to stay with them. Four stayed and were captured. They were Padres J. Hiddlestone,2 H. I. Hopkins,3 W. E. W. Hurst4 and R. J. Griffiths.5