The Fighting Padre: Pat Leonard's Letters From the Trenches 1915-1918

Pat Leonard served through the nice conflict as a Chaplain to the Forces in France, Belgium and, after the Armistice, in Germany. in addition to the various hundreds of thousands of letters he wrote to the kin of these ‘parishioners’ who died or have been wounded, he stumbled on time to explain for his mom and dad again at domestic the grim truth of existence within the Trenches, and at the makeshift aerodromes from which the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps operated from the Observer’s seat which liberated his spirit from the dust of Flanders.

Very a lot a ‘front-line’ priest, his descriptions offer an surprisingly aim view of military existence, and of the activity of the multitasked chaplain who used to be anticipated to adopt the jobs of counselor, comforter, caterer, censor, leisure officer and activities best to call yet a number of. The extracts chosen from his letters are jam-packed with element, humor, self deprecation and simply occasionally while judged by way of today’s criteria, light ‘political incorrectness’! often called ‘a veritable scuffling with parson’ (because of his prowess within the boxing ring) he additionally performed rugby for the RAF, was once pointed out in dispatches, and was once embellished for bravery.

90 years have handed sooner than this chance arises to proportion his account of a lifestyles which the realm recalls as ‘dreadful past belief’. studying it demonstrates that regardless of the ghastliness, human features emerged with which we should always all be proud. Pat Leonard was once born in 1889 right into a clergy relations in Cumbria, MPG (Pat) Leonard went from being Head of faculty at Rossall to Oriel collage, Oxford on a arithmetic scholarship. After graduating and acquiring a TA fee within the King’s personal Royal Lancaster Regiment, Leonard served as a curate in a Manchester parish sooner than being authorised as Chaplain to the eighth Battalion, the King’s personal, from September 1915 within the battlefields of the Somme presented the DSO for bravery and pointed out in dispatches, he transferred to the RFC in early 1918.

After the conflict he used to be a lot enthusiastic about the advance and progress of TocH during the international. hence after a interval as Rector of Hatfield and ten years in Glasgow as Provost of St. Mary’s Cathedral he used to be consecrated Bishop of Thetford in 1953.

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Because the hour of the assault drew close to the thrill used to be severe, particularly in our Brigade, for we have been in reserve and as we idea have been easily anticipating the road to be damaged earlier than we poured via in the direction of Berlin. throughout the complete of our bombardment the Hun despatched up indications of misery to his artillery, who notwithstanding paid scant realization to their appeals for retaliation. in the intervening time prepared the Infantry surged ahead, and the weapons lifted a hundred yards at the back of the German trenches and shaped a barrage or curtain of fireside to avoid reinforcements bobbing up.

The military Commander, basic Plumer, inspected the remnant of the Battalion this day; and whereas congratulating us on our fulfillment, reminded us that our engagement used to be yet a small unimportant neighborhood motion. It got here as a surprise for, in our small global, it did and does loom very huge. even though, i need to let you know approximately it from the start. Ever due to the fact we have been recalled from relaxation we knew that we were selected for the inevitable attack, and our time has been spent in rehearsing the half that we have been to play.

Spot dethroned took an instinctive dislike to him, and within the few passages of palms within which we allowed them to indulge, appeared to have the degree of him with anything to spare. besides the fact that within the final stumble upon sq. puppy absolutely received and notice consequently is crying very small beer. I didn’t see the struggle, yet Spot has worn all his fangs away over his eternal stone-carrying fatigue, and believe couldn’t get an honest carry of sq. Dog’s disguise. in the meanwhile he’s mendacity in entrance of my range having a look very disreputable, for someone has spilt a liqueur over his head and punctiliously gummed up his hair with a no longer inconsiderable element of the dust of Flanders.

Quite a legitimate proposal, don’t you think that? On Wednesday I went as much as the trenches back, this time to stick with the Suffolks and had rather an fun time. The Suffolks are terribly great to me. whereas we have been having dinner within the dugout, which incidentally is kind of palatial and possesses a settee and a hearth, to assert not anything of a window and door, that they had a mattress knocked up for me and that i spent a so much cozy if a bit cold evening. not anything very interesting occurred, other than I received approximately strafed as soon as by means of a shell which came around my head and burst 15 yards at the back of me.

On my long ago the next day I broke my trip at my Air Park and stayed to dinner. The meal was once interrupted via the scoop Bosch used to be bringing down one in every of our balloons in flames. Out all of us dashed into the line and there convinced sufficient was once the balloon coming down, yet now not in flames, and never in the course of the motion of any Hun. The rope conserving it to earth had damaged and it was once drifting slowly with the wind towards Bosch-land so one in every of our machines went up and positioned a number of bullets into it to enable the fuel break out and so hasten its descent on our part of the road.

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