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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

Two 1916 Chaplains

Last week marked the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of Verdun, which was fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916. It was one of the largest battles of World War I on the Western Front between the German and French armies, and took place in north-eastern France near Verdun-sur-Meuse.

To mark this anniversary, we thought we should share some more information about the Jesuit chaplains who served in World War I, who have not yet been featured on this website.

The Chaplains’ Weekly for 16 April 1916 informs us that at this point there were a total of 39 Jesuits from the British Province serving as Chaplains, and of these 20 were stationed in France. By October the total number of chaplains increased to 50.

Of those 12 new army chaplains of the Province to be appointed on 12 March 1916, two were among the 20 Jesuit chaplains stationed in France in early 1916. These were Fr John Stratton (1873-1949) and Fr Arthur Graham (1881-1958).

Stratton was badly wounded at Albert in 1916, and honoured with the award of the Military Cross. On his recovery after a long spell in hospital he served as a chaplain at home, acting as the Army-Bishop’s Secretary from 1918-1920 and earning a “mention in despatches”. In his obituary the following summary can be found:

As an Army Chaplain he found himself. He had a brief but gallant record at the front where he was severely wounded. I well remember him dropping in at Farm Street from his Department at the War Office, with his ribbons and limp, and all the debonair ways of the Army Mess and a hint of ‘panache’. He was much attached to the Bishop and always ready to carry out what his Superior required of him, even if it meant an unpleasantness from which many would shrink. [Our Dead, IV, p23]

Fr John Stratton SJ (left)

Graham had only recently been ordained (August 1915) when he was appointed a military chaplain and crossed over to France at the end of March 1916. He served as a military chaplain until June1919 and retired with the rank of Major (L&N,64,75). In the ‘Province Notes’ in Letters & Notices for July 1916 the following can be read:

Fr Graham writes that he was playing a sort of hide and seek while eight coal boxes (huge shells) were exploding in his neighbourhood, and he won, though the shells dropped unpleasantly close and, after exploding, distributed their fragments with perfect impartiality all round.

To learn about some of the other Chaplains of World War I check out our online exhibition on Jesuit Army Chaplains, 1914, and browse our blog posts.

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