The Free Church army chaplain 1830-1930
The study traces the efforts of English Nonconformists to provide chaplains for their adherents in the British Army. Unrecognised by the War Office, and opposed by the Church of England, the Wesleyan Methodists persisted in providing an unpaid civilian ministry until, by stages, they secured partial recognition in 1862 and 1881. The respect earned by volunteer Wesleyan civilian chaplains, who accompanied the troops on most colonial and imperial expeditions in the last quarter of the century, culminating in the Boer War, prompted the War Office in 1903 to offer them a number of commissioned chaplaincies. The Wesleyans declined the offer. Although they had earlier, and after anguished debate, accepted State payment of chaplains, they were not prepared to accept military control of them. In the Great War, Wesleyan chaplains were nevertheless obliged to accept temporary commissions. Congregationalists, Baptists, Primitive and United Methodists, through a United Board, provided another stream of chaplains. With the political help of Lloyd George, both sets of Nonconformists secured equitable treatment at the hands of the Church of England and, through an Interdenominational Committee, gained positions of considerable influence over chaplaincy policy. In the field, remarkably for the age, they joined with Presbyterians and Roman Catholics in a single chain of command. By 1918, over 500 Wesleyan and United Board commissioned chaplains were engaged. After the war, as the price of retaining their newly won standing and influence, both the Wesleyans and the United Board denominations accepted permanent commissions for their chaplains and their absorption within a unified Chaplains Department. Acceptability was secured through willingness to compromise on voluntaryism and conformity to the State.