Chaplains and the Victoria Cross

Chaplain Victoria Cross. Dieppe. John Weir Foote

Dieppe, France, where Canadian Chaplain John Weir Foote’s 19 August 1942 actions led to the award of the Victoria Cross. Foote was captured in the assault.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2009)

Spiritual and Immediate Care of Their Soldier Flock

There is with each step wandering fields of conflict encounters with a difficult past.

Every visit has its encounters, perhaps a landmark rebuilt, a crater filled with water, a reused bit of rail, a bench, memorial, cemetery, statue, a fragment, a trace, an energy. Each place offers itself to us – each place provides encounters with history that can immediately stop us in our path.

It is the energy to which I turn…a spirit of seeking…and finding. Stand at these places and look around you…from earth to sky…to your feet – to the horizon…a landscape of colour. What do you see? Is there motion? Is there sound? Is there black in that blue? Compiled together – energy and spirit…it is this metamorphosis to which I turn. We are witnesses to all that we see…the loss, the regeneration, the peace now from the chaos then.

Reverend Edgar Noel Moore M.C

The headstone of Reverend Edgar Noel Moore M.C.
He Being Dead, Yet Speaketh. Blessed Are The Pure In Heart For They Shall See God.
Railway Dugouts Cemetery, Belgium.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

On occasion when I wander these places I find myself before a fallen man of god…an army chaplain who shouldered the spiritual care of his soldier flock, while at all times encountering sinister motion to counter his leader’s good words. As I stand before a Chaplain’s grave…I look around…at all the lives…the good earth and the good sky…it is energy…it is spirit. And yes I see the black in the blue, all colour is beautiful, but mostly I try to find the light in the darkness…I find more energy there.

Among the many British Army Chaplains who served in conflict five men of the cloth (including a Canadian) were awarded the Victoria Cross providing spirit and energy to those of their flock…saving lives…when sinister motion was all around.

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James Williams Adams VC. Afghanistan

James Williams Adams VC. Later became Honorary Chaplain to King Edward VII.
(Wiki Commons Image).

James Williams Adams VC
Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment (Indian Army)
Chaplain to the Kabul Field Force
Battle of Killa Kazi, Afghanistan
Victoria Cross in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum

During the action at Killa Kazi, on the 11th December, 1879, some men of the 9th Lancers having fallen, with their horses, into a wide and deep ” nullah” or ditch, and the enemy being close upon them, the Reverend J. W. Adams rushed into the water (which filled the ditch), dragged the horses from off the men upon whom they were lying, and extricated them, he being at the time under a heavy fire, and up to his waist in water.

At this time the Afghans were pressing on very rapidly, the leading men getting within a few yards of Mr. Adams, who having let go his horse in order to render more effectual assistance, had eventually to escape on foot.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 26 August 1881, p. 4393)

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Edward Noel Mellish VC, MC. After the Great War he continued with the church as a Vicar in Essex and at the Church of St. Dunstan in Somerset. (Wiki Commons Image)

Edward Noel Mellish VC, MC.
After the Great War he continued with the church as a Vicar in Essex and at the Church of St. Dunstan in Somerset.
(Wiki Commons Image)

Edward Noel Mellish VC MC
Army Chaplain’s Department attached to 1st Middlesex Regiment
Battle of Loos, France 25 September 1915
Victoria Cross held by the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London, England

For most conspicuous bravery. During heavy fighting on three consecutive days he repeatedly went backwards and forwards, under continuous and heavy shell and machine-gun fire, between our original trenches and those captured from the enemy, in order to tend and rescue wounded men. He brought in ten badly wounded men on the first day from ground swept by machine-gun fire, and three were actually killed while he was dressing their wounds.

The battalion to which he was attached was relieved on the second day, but he went back and brought in twelve more wounded men.

On the night of the third day he took charge of a party of volunteers and once more returned to the trenches to rescue the remaining wounded.

This splendid work was quite voluntary on his part and outside the scope of his ordinary duties.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 20 April 1916, p. 4119)
(Military Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 12 December 1919, p. 15438)

A film featuring Edward Noel Mellish at Deptford England is available from British Pathé.

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William Robert Fountaine Addison VC continued to serve as a Chaplaincy following the Great War and served as Malta, Khartoum, Shanghaai and elsewhere. (Wiki Commons Image)

William Robert Fountaine Addison VC continued to serve as a Chaplaincy following the Great War and served as Malta, Khartoum, Shanghaai and elsewhere.
(Wiki Commons Image)

William Robert Fountaine Addison VC (Russian Order of St. George, 4th Class)
Army Chaplain’s Department
13th (Western Division), 38th (Lancashire Infantry Brigade),
Likely with the 6th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Battle of Samna-I-Yat, Mesopotamia 9 April 1916

For most conspicuous bravery. He carried a wounded man to the cover of a trench, and assisted several others to the same cover, after binding up their wounds under heavy rifle and machine gun fire.

In addition to these unaided efforts, by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 26 September 1916, p. 9417)

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Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, DSO, MC Died of wounds 18 October 1918.  Buried Rouen, France. (Wiki Commons Image)

Theodore Bayley Hardy VC, DSO, MC
Died of wounds 18 October 1918.
Buried Rouen, France.
(Wiki Commons Image)

Theodore Bayley Hardy VC DSO MC
Chaplain to the Forces attached 9th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment
Victoria Cross held by the Museum of Army Chaplaincy

Victoria Cross

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on many occasions. Although over fifty years of age, he has, by his fearlessness, devotion to men of his battalion, and quiet, unobtrusive manner, won the respect and admiration of the whole division.

His marvelous energy and endurance would be remarkable even in a very much younger man, and his valour and devotion are exemplified in the following incidents: —

An infantry patrol had gone put to attack a previously located enemy post in the ruins of a village, the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy (C.F.) being then at company headquarters. Hearing firing, he followed the patrol, and about four hundred yards beyond our front line of poets found an officer of the patrol dangerously wounded. He remained with the officer until he was able to get assistance to bring him in. During this time there was a great deal of firing, and an enemy patrol-actually penetrated- between the spot at which the officer was lying and our front line and captured three of our men.

On a second occasion, when an enemy shell exploded in the middle of one of our posts, the Reverend T. B. Hardy at once made his way to the spot, despite the shell and trench mortar fire which was going on at the time, and set to work to extricate the buried men. He succeeded in getting out one man who had been completely buried. He then set to work to extricate a second man, who was found to be dead.

During the whole of the time that he was digging out the men this chaplain was in great danger, not only from shell fire, but also because of the dangerous condition of the wall of the building which had been hit by the shell which buried the men.

On a third occasion he displayed the greatest devotion to duty when our infantry, after a successful attack, were gradually forced back to their starting trench.

After it was believed that all our men had withdrawn from the wood, Chaplain Hardy came out of it, and on reaching an advanced post asked the men to help him to get in a wounded man. Accompanied by a serjeant, he made his way to the spot where the man lay, within ten yards of a pill-box which had been captured in the morning, but was subsequently recaptured and occupied by the enemy. The wounded man was too weak to stand, but between them the chaplain and the serjeant eventually succeeded in getting him to our lines.

Throughout the day the enemy’s artillery, machine-gun, and trench mortar fire was continuous, and caused many casualties. Notwithstanding, this very gallant chaplain was seen moving quietly amongst the men and tending the wounded, absolutely regardless of his personal safety.

(London Gazette: Third Supplement 11 July 1918, pp. 8155-8156)

Distinguished Service Order

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in volunteering to go with a rescue party for some men who had been left stuck in the mud the previous night between the enemy’s outpost line and our own. All the men except one were brought in. He then organised a party for the rescue of this man, and remained with it all night, though under rifle-fire at close range, which killed one of the party. With his left arm in splints, owing to a broken wrist, and under the worst weather conditions, he crawled out with patrols to within seventy yards of the enemy and remained with wounded men under heavy fire.

(Distinguished Service Order: Fourth Supplement 18 October 1917, p. 10705.
Full citation published 7 March, 1918)

Military Cross

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in tending the wounded. The ground on which he worked was constantly shelled and the casualties were heavy. He continually assisted in finding and carrying wounded and in guiding stretcher bearers to the aid post.

(Military Cross. London Gazette: Third Supplement 17 December 1917, p. 13182. Citation published 23 April 1918)

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John Weir Foote VC Taken Prisoner of War at Dieppe. After his release the award of the Victoria Cross was announced. Foote was the Honorary-Colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1964-1973. (Wiki Commons Image)

John Weir Foote VC
Taken Prisoner of War at Dieppe. After his release the award of the Victoria Cross was announced. Foote was the Honorary-Colonel of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry 1964-1973.
(Wiki Commons Image)

John Weir Foote VC
Canadian Chaplain Service attached Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
Battle of Dieppe, France, 19 August 1942

At Dieppe, on 19th August, 1942, Honorary Captain Foote, Canadian Chaplain Services, was Regimental Chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire he attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post -which had been set up -in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to men lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while the action continued, this officer not only assisted the Regimental Medical Officer in ministering to the wounded in .the Regimental Aid Post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first-aid and carry wounded personnel from the open beach to the Regimental Aid Post. On these occasions, with utter disregard for his personal safety, Honorary Captain Foote exposed himself to an inferno of fire and saved many lives by his gallant efforts. During the action, as the tide 1 went out, the Regimental Aid Post was moved to the shelter of a. stranded landing craft. Honorary Captain Foote continued tirelessly and courageously to carry wounded men from the exposed beach to the cover of the landing craft. He also removed  wounded ‘from inside the landing craft when ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells.

When landing craft appeared he carried wounded from the Regimental Aid Post to the landing craft through very heavy fire. On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years. Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic officer, as he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire-swept beach will never be forgotten.

(Victoria Cross. London Gazette: 14 February 1946, p. 941)


About The Author

pferguson
Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.

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