Clergymen among the dead in World War One

In June 1918 31 soldiers sailors and airmen died in the final year of the war. One which died on the western front was Joseph Dobson Burns. He was attached to the Royal Garrison Artillary but in a non combative role. he was better known as Reverand Burns a chaplain 4th class who lived in Park Crescent North Shields with his wife Mary. he was one of 200 chaplains known to have dies in the war. More than 5000 served and in as much danger of dying as the ordinary soldier.
They received little or no training and very ill prepared for what was to come. They came straight to war from their parishes.
Accusations were made that they had a great life and a cushy number but nothing could be further from the truth. Their bravery and support and comfort to those who needed it who looked evil in the eye every hour of every day.
Some became legendary like the Reverend ‘Tubby’ Clayton who set up in Flanders a community step in for soldiers to break away from the war where they could get a drink and something to eat read a newspapers and get spiritual help.
An Anglican priest called Geofffrey Kennedy nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie’ by soldiers because of his habit of handing out cigarettes to men who were awarded the military cross for running into no mans land to help the wounded at Messines Ridge.
Three padres from the army Chaplaind dept were awarded the Victoria Cross during the war.
Revereand Burns was shot and died instantly on 7th June on the French/Belgium border. Among his effects were a religeous book, a fountain pen,cigarette case, a french conversation book, pipe lighter, £3 5 shillings and 11 pennies in cash. He is buried at Ebblinghem Military cemetry near Hazebrouck and his gravestone has the inscription UNTIL THE DAY BREAKS AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY. He has a plaque dedicated to him at St Augustins church North Shields.

  1. Hi Vicki, There is no underestimating the contribution to the armies welfare during these turbulent times of war. I am sure they would have been approached with so much trauma from soldiers with many stories of sacrifice and loss, as well as those who were no doubt in fear of the ongoing hostilities.

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