Chaplains and D-Day

Chaplains are professionally qualified officers who have been ordained and have been selected to hold a commission in the Army. They wear the uniforms of the British Army and accompany their soldiers wherever they go. They are non-combatants and do not bear arms and while they show leadership they do not command. Chaplains have ministered to soldiers and their families for centuries, during times of both war and peace. They provide spiritual support, pastoral care and moral guidance to all.

Throughout the Second World War, Army Chaplains carried out field burials, provided medical and moral support as well as helping the soldiers they were with to solve practical personal issues. There have been many accounts told by chaplains of varying denominations who were on the beaches during D-Day and the Museum of Army Chaplaincy and the D-Day Story have teamed up to compare collections in order to explore this story further.

Reverend Woodford’s leave request form

Everybody serving in the Forces had to apply for a leave pass, even chaplains. This pass, belonging to Reverend Woodford, is dated 17th March 1946, to 19 March 1946. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Character reference letter for Reverend Woodford

This character reference letter, dated 28 July 1948 and written by Lieutenant- Colonel. J. K. L. Mardon shows how much of an impact padres had on morale during the Second World War. Mardon speaks highly of Reverend Woodford, saying he ‘did all in his power to be of assistance during a period of particularly unpleasant living conditions and of continuous action against the enemy. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Award from the church in Stretton district to Reverend Woodford

Reverend Woodford received an award from the committee at the Church Stretton District. At the top are the dates of the war, and in the middle is a large golden V for Victory. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Personal record keeping book

Many clergy kept records of parishioners in their civilian parish roles, and they continued to do this during the war. The men confided a great deal in Reverend Woodford, and he provided all sorts of advice and guidance to them. He kept records about problems the men in his unit came to him with, alongside the guidance he provided. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Reverend Woodford’s Identity certificate

This certificate was issued to Reverend Woodford by the British Red Cross Society on 16 December 1942, confirming his appointment as an army chaplain. Chaplains had to carry this card to confirm their status as protected personnel under the Geneva Convention. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Shaving mirror that belonged to Reverend Woodford

Personal items were important to those serving in the field and this shaving mirror belonging to Reverend Woodford was no exception. There are many stories about the importance of being able to shave in such atrocious conditions boosted morale. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Reverend Steele’s collar

Army Chaplains were required to wear a full clerical collar with their Army service dress uniform. This belonged to J.W.J Steele Assistant Chaplain General, 2nd Army. Chaplains often wore a clerical and bib stock with their khaki Battledress blouse. The wearing of the ‘dog’ collar helped to identify them as chaplains. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Chaplains shirt front?

Reverend Steele’s rank badges

This pair of badges of rank of a Chaplain to the Forces 1st Class. Reverend Steele also held the appointment of Assistant Chaplain General, one of the most senior chaplains in the Army. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Reverend Steele’s identity certificate

This identity certificate belonging to Reverend Steele is dated 14th April 1944. It details his unit, ‘Royal Army Chaplains Dept.’ and includes his service number and full name. It was important for chaplains to carry their identity cards with them, as it confirmed their status as protected personnel under the Geneva Convention. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Royal Army Chaplain’s Department collar badge

A Royal Army Chaplains’ Department collar badge with a King’s Crown. It was worn 1930 to 1952 and it sometimes called a collar dog. It would have been worn on the lapels of a service dress uniform jacket. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Chaplain’s rank stars, crowns and collar badges

These badges of rank indicate the rank of captain and being a chaplain. They would have been worn on a service dress jacket epaulettes. Most regimental chaplains were ranked as captains. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Honorary Chaplain to the King

This Royal Cypher badge was worn by Reverend Steele as Honorary Chaplain to the King. This gilt and enamel badge was worn on his preaching scarf. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

War Department Railway Warrant used by Reverend Steele

This is a railway warrant which is a voucher issued for travel on railways for certain groups such as government employees, company employees, military personal and retirees at subsidised rates or free of charge, exchangeable for a ticket to travel. This document details Reverend Steele’s journey as departing from Sidmouth bound for London. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Reverend Steele’s map case

Map cases, like this one owned by Reverend Steele, were very useful because they provided a safe and waterproof place for maps to be stored when troops were in the field. The map sits within a plastic case allowing the owner to add notes in pen on top. It even has a separate compartment for pens and pencils. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Prayer booklet

This little booklet contains a prayer inside and may have been kept as a trinket by a chaplain during their service. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Tin of cigarettes

Tins of cigarettes such as this were issued to everyone. This tin however, is still completely full. The chaplain who owned them probably didn’t smoke. Most people smoked during World War Two, so he might have given them to other men to boost morale during hard times, which was another form of support that chaplains could offer. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Chaplain’s Field Service Cap

This cap indicates that the wearer is an Army Chaplain and would have been worn as an alternative to the khaki peaked cap with service dress or battledress. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

D-Day Remembrance Service, Christ Church Portsdown

A commemoration booklet from a service that was held at Christ Church, Portsdown. Inside it lists the order of service and includes the speech made by the vicar, he talks about the church’s connection with D-Day, ‘On the Sunday before the 6th June 1944, the General commanding the British Second Army… came to this church to dedicate themselves to the tremendous task which our country required of them.’ (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

21st Army Group Royal Army Chaplain’s Department Report

This 21st Army Group booklet is a casualty and honours awards list of those who served as Military Chaplains during the Second World War. At the front there is a letter from Geoffrey Druitt, thanking the ‘brotherhood of chaplains’ for everything they did during the war. ‘…we still belong to the great Brotherhood of Chaplains, drawn from many churches, who have done their best to serve their people through a time of great emergency.’ (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Chaplains prayer book?

Order for the burial of those killed in action or died of wounds during war

Documents such as these give us a better idea about the role that military chaplains had. This booklet, entitled ‘The Order for the Burial’, includes information about how to correctly administer a Christian field burial for those who were killed in action. The booklet includes a full service, as well as guidelines about the length of the service and several prayers including the Lord’s Prayer. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Memories of Church Stowe

A booklet entitled ‘Memories of Church Stowe by Chaplains of the Second Army’. Church Stowe was the Battle School for the chaplains in 2nd Army. The aim was to prepare Army Chaplains for the forthcoming invasion of Europe. The book includes many cartoons illustrating aspects of the chaplains’ training. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

Reverend James Douglas’s Field Message Book

Chaplains were trained to keep records of the men they served with. Some kept very detailed notes, and others kept a few brief lines. In this Field Message Book Reverend James Douglas kept a record of the locations of each of the men he buried. He not only recorded information that was important to the families of the dead, but it also charts the movements of Reverend Douglas’ regiment. (Museum of Army Chaplaincy)

US Chaplain’s Stole found on Omaha Beach

This US Padre’s stole was found by James Cook on Omaha Beach, Normandy in 1944. Cook was a Royal Navy stoker who was taking ammunition transports to Omaha Beach on the 7th of June to replace lost supplies when he came across this stole. There is nothing on this object to suggest the identity of its owner, and it is not standard US Army issue. However it was not uncommon for chaplains to purchase their own equipment privately. Additionally, the chaplain’s denomination cannot be identified and a chaplain landing on the beaches on D-Day would not generally have worn such an item. The owner could have been giving last rites to the wounded when he lost it. (D-Day Story Collection)

Chalice from a British Army Field Communion set

Communion chalice dated 1944 and which was part of a Second World War Padre’s communion set. There is a cross on the foot of the base, along with a hallmark which reads, ‘H.F.’ and ‘Co LD’ as well as the government broad arrow.  (D-Day Story Collection)

Paten from a British Army Field Communion set

This communion paten is made from silver and is dated 1944. It was part of a Second World War Padre’s field communion set. A cross appears on the underside of the paten and there is a hallmark which reads ‘H.F.’ and ‘Co LD’. (D-Day Story Collection)

Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis

Captain The Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis is wearing his British Army Chaplain uniform in this studio portrait photograph that was probably taken in Holland in December 1944. Lewis served as a British Army chaplain from 1943 until after the war, and signed this photograph in the bottom left hand corner. Early in the war Lewis served as an ARP Shelter Marshal in Bristol, but at the time of D-Day he was attached to the 86th General Field Hospital, as a chaplain, and he left for Normandy from this area. He landed with his unit near Arromanches and was subsequently based at Bayeux. He worked on burying and reburying the dead, as well as ministering to the sick and wounded. He served with the hospital in west Europe until 1945. He spent a period of time at Celle where he helped prisoners from the newly liberated Belsen concentration camp and at Rotenburg where he helped bury hundreds of prisoners from the Sandbostel of war camp who died of Typhus after liberation. He stayed on in Germany until 1946. (D-Day Story Collection)

Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis, who served as the Chaplain of the British 86th General Field Hospital.

Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis, who served as the Chaplain of the British 86th General Field Hospital.

Captain The Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis is pictured here along with three others seated in a captured Kubelwagen, the German equivalent of the Allied Jeep, at Bayeux in August 1944. There are several repaired bullet holes in the side of the car. On the far left is Captain Richardson who was with the Royal Engineers and was serving with the Imperial War Graves Commission. Lewis can be seen next to him, followed by Reverend John Malone and Reverend Stewart. (D-Day Story Collection)

Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis and colleagues

Four British soldiers pose for a photograph in Rotenburg, Germany in June 1945. On the left is a Roman Catholic chaplain wearing a chaplain’s vestments and carrying a stole. Next to him is a Doctor and Captain The Reverend Thomas Clifford Lewis with Reverend D. stood next to him on the far right. The last three are all wearing battledress. (D-Day Story Collection)

Protection under the Geneva Convention

A circular drawing Chaplains’ attention to protection under the Geneva Convention. This document orders chaplains to consult with the captains of their ship as oppose to the junior officers. It also explains the circumstances in which bodies were to be buried either at sea, or returned to shore for burial. This belonged to Canon F.W. Mike Crooks who was a Royal Navy chaplain during the Battle of Normandy. (D-Day Story Collection)

Metal stopper for communion wine

This bronze painted metal stopper was used for a bottle of communion wine. The stopper’s handle is in the shape of a cross and it formed part of a Second World War Padre’s field communion set. (D-Day Story Collection)

Letter written by Bishop Maurice Wood, 1973

A single page letter written by Bishop Maurice Wood in 1973. Bishop Wood was one of three Royal Naval chaplains attached to Force S and he landed at Sword Beach on D-Day. In his letter he lays claim to holding the first main Sunday service on D +4. He also recalls the BBC announcer saying ‘The invasion of France has begun.’ He remembers the sailors chorusing back, ‘Not arft it asn’t!’ (D-Day Story Collection)

The motorbike riding Padre

This letter, written by A.T. Davies who served in the Royal Navy as a motor mechanic on LCT 2296 which landed at Juno Beach at 6:45am on the morning of D-Day. They unloaded tanks and collected ammunition from HMS Hilary for delivery to the beach. Mr Davies recalls that a Padre, aged less than twenty, asked him how to ride a motorcycle, and after five minutes of instructions he rode off on it. (D-Day Story Collection)

Find out more

To find out more about objects in the D-Day Story’s collections related to chaplains, visit our Collections Online.

To find out more about Army Chaplains and their role throughout history visit the Museum of Army Chaplaincy’s website and twitter page.

The Museum of Army Chaplaincy is at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House in Hampshire. Due to the nature of the Museum’s location visits are by appointment only. You can make an appointment to visit the museum by contacting the Curator.

Booking and general enquiries: Telephone: 01264 773144 x 4248


Museum of Army Chaplaincy, Amport House, Amport, Hampshire SP11 8BG