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Senior Chaplains in the 2nd NZEF

Senior Chaplains in the 2nd NZEF

Bishop Gerard: Bishop Gerard was the first Senior Chaplain in the 2nd NZEF. He had served as a combatant officer in the First World War, winning the Military Cross. Formerly a prominent footballer, he was a man of great strength and physical stamina, a forthright speaker, and a tireless worker. He travelled constantly amongst scattered New Zealand troops and, in addition to giving them services, often used his own mobile cinema to entertain them. He had all the difficulties of transforming a crowd of strangers of different denominations into one loyal, friendly, and efficient Chaplains' Department. His transparent sincerity and unselfishness did much to break down suspicion in those early days, while the austerity of his life and his self-discipline commanded respect and made him a worthy leader. His talents found fullest scope in time of danger and in action.

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Padre McKenzie: After the capture of Bishop Gerard, Padre J. W. McKenzie was appointed Senior Chaplain. Padre McKenzie was a Presbyterian who had won the Military Medal in the First World War, and in the Second World War had served as a padre with the Artillery in the Greek campaign. When he was appointed Senior Chaplain it was laid down by Headquarters 2nd NZEF that his place should be at Base with this headquarters, though every liberty would be given him for regular visits to his chaplains with the Division. This was a wise instruction and worked excellently. Padre McKenzie was an outstanding success as Senior Chaplain. He did not find preaching easy, but he had statesmanlike qualities and a natural gift for friendship that were of inestimable value in the Department. He was most zealous in visiting his chaplains in the field, haunting the forward areas like an old war-horse, while at Base he was always accessible to his chaplains and always made plenty of time to listen to them. He played a big part in introducing courses for chaplains, showed great wisdom in postings and replacements, and in all his work was delightfully unmilitary. He encouraged all his chaplains to call him ‘Jim’, and he always seemed to give each one the job he wanted, except that there were never quite enough jobs with the Division. He was overseas for four years and did not return to New Zealand till 1944, when, still at the height of his considerable talents and still in splendid physical condition, he admitted to the amazing age, for active service conditions, of 56 years.

Padre Spence: Padre G. A. D. Spence14 followed Padre McKenzie as Senior Chaplain in Italy. He had served with the 20th Battalion in Greece, Crete, Libya, and Egypt, had proved himself one of the most successful and respected unit chaplains, and had won the Military Cross for bravery and devotion to duty in these campaigns. In his new position he found the Chaplains' Department well established and enjoying the very best co-operation from the Army authorities. He was not called upon to pioneer in Departmental organisation but to keep a well-designed machine functioning smoothly, and this he did very well. He visited the Division regularly and also found time to see something of the many scattered page 43 outposts in Italy, besides making a short trip to Base Camp at Maadi. His humility and mild appearance belied his conscientious pursuit of duty and his high administrative talents.