This further blog post commemorating the centenary of the First World War refers to some of the sources in the Library relating to army chaplains. In 1917 the War Office authorised a central school of instruction for chaplains at St Omer (later at Blendecques), and Library holdings include a diary of its Principal, Bertram Keir Cunningham (1871-1944), covering 1917-19 (MS 2077). The volume includes images of those attending the school. Among those pictured is C M Chavasse, formerly an Olympic athlete and later Bishop of Rochester. He was the son of the Bishop of Liverpool and twin brother of Noel Chavasse, who was twice awarded the Victoria Cross and died of wounds received at the battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The picture also includes O C Quick, one of the Archbishop’s chaplains 1915-17, and later a Professor of Divinity at Oxford.


Group photograph of Chaplains attending the School, 1917 (MS 2077 p. 115)


The Library also holds the first issue of the Chaplains’ Bulletin produced by the St Omer school of instruction (H5133.L26).

The Library holds an additional, earlier, item on Cunningham’s views on the war, a document entitled ‘Memorandum on the attitude of the Christian Church towards War’ apparently dating from 1915 (MS 3355 ff. 55-96), which is annotated: ‘To be discussed at the Church House, on Thursday, April 29, at 9.30 a.m. Dr. Cunningham has been unable to compress his account of the attitude of the Church towards war as much as he desired’.

Cunningham’s wartime diary was given by John Moorman, Bishop of Ripon, and the Library also holds Bishop Moorman’s memoir of Cunningham published in 1947 (H5199.C8M6), and papers relating to it (MS 4676 ff. 162-206). After the war Cunningham became Principal of Westcott House in Cambridge, and he appears again in the papers of Gerald Ellison, Bishop of London, who trained there (Ellison P/11). Cunningham’s earlier career is also covered by sources in the Library. Before the war he oversaw the Bishop’s Hostel at Farnham, Surrey, a training college for clergy, and the papers of Archbishop Davidson include correspondence on his appointment there in 1899 (Davidson 52 ff.263-4, 267-8, 287-341 passim).

The wartime diary has been used by historians of the First World War: Michael Snape, The Royal Army Chaplains’ Department 1796-1953: clergy under fire (2008) and Edward Madigan, Faith under Fire: Anglican Army Chaplains and the Great War (2011).

Other records on army chaplains include material on members of the Society of St John the Evangelist, which formed the subject of an article by Basil Blackwell on ‘The Cowley Fathers and the First World War’ (published in Studies in Church History volume 20, 1983).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s