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Do RN Chaplains want to be armed? (Daily Mail)

beltfedwombat

Midshipman
scribbler614 said:
For those who haven't had the pleasure, Stu Hallam is a thoroughly top bloke, and a thoughtful man. As he says in the article, he isn't happy or comfortable with this. It's just pragmatic. As the Marines among you will know, the Commando Padres set great store by getting out on the ground and doing what the blokes do. It's a central part of how they approach their work.
This is all a response to a very unusual set of circumstances. The choice is: go armed, or don't go out on the ground with the boys. Not a clear-cut question, but personal discretion seems a pretty good answer to me.

Scribbler,

You write for a newspaper that never fails to get a rise out of me. So much so that my good lady has forbidden her mother from buying it when she comes to visit. After the last time, she made me promise never to read it again. 'Just let it go!' she told me and I've tried really hard, honest I have. The trouble is, I just can't get my head around this, so you're going to have to help me out.

Your story states that this 'initiative' by Stu Hallam is in response to 'a very unusual set of circumstances,' but that isn't true is it? The Taliban may not be hugely respectful of the Christian religion and its representatives, but they're hardly unique in that respect. The Clergy have always appeared centre stage in any conflict, whether it be administering to the spiritual needs of the combatants or as the victims of deliberate acts of religious violence. What about the Mau-Mau, PDLA, or the Japanese in WWII to name but a few? In fact, wasn't it was the US Army Chaplain William Thomas Cummings, delivering a battlefield sermon at Bataan who was credited with the famous quote, 'There are no atheists in foxholes?' Try researching the activities of Stu Hallam's many predecessors, many of whom killed in action or honoured for bravery, who like the present day Chaplains of 3 Commando Brigade today, didn't mind getting down in the shit with their flock! Admittedly, there are one or two stories of allied chaplains reportedly arming themselves in WWII, but for the most part and despite the personal dangers they faced, they are remembered for conducting themselves in a more traditional manner as detailed in the book 'Battlefield Chaplains' by Donald Crosby:

"Under hostile fire, the chaplains risked their lives. They sought the wounded, the dying, and the dead who lay exposed and helpless. They succored them, rescued them, brought them back to medical aid stations, and prayed over them. They buried bodies and wrote to the families of the deceased...."

In my view this issue begs a question, not of the Military Chaplains (they weren't forced to join after all), but of the men and women with whom they serve. What do they want of a Battlefield Chaplain? Do they want the character described by Donald Crosby, would they rather the Padre stayed in the Rear with the Gear, or do they want someone capable of laying down SF when the occasion calls for it?

Like the vast majority of servicemen and women I've met, I would never describe myself as religious, but then I wouldn't call myself an atheist either. (Proof perhaps that there really are no atheist in foxholes!) What I do know, is this: I would vigorously defend the pastoral role of Chaplains in the Armed Forces and I have enormous respect for the personal faith and selfless humanity of those men described by Donald Crosby. Deep down I know they're flesh and blood blokes like me, but I cannot conceive of a situation in which I would want to witness one of them taking a life. They have, after all, supposedly devoted their lives to a higher cause and to see the Unit Padre going over the top screaming, 'come and get some, you religiously confused motherf**kers' would be a bit like catching Santa with his hand in the kid's piggy bank! Besides, it's completely unnecessary. We train the best hairy arsed gravs in the world to do that sort of thing!
 

stumpy

War Hero
Beltfedwombat,

How do you think Santa pays for all those presents!!

But seriously, the difference between the past and Afghanistan is that now for the first time Padres are actually being activily targetted.
 

beltfedwombat

Midshipman
stumpy said:
Beltfedwombat,

But seriously, the difference between the past and Afghanistan is that now for the first time Padres are actually being activily targetted.

Hmmm, I'm willing to bet that the Battlefield Chaplains of yore, while crawling around in the blood and snot of Flanders, Normandy, Midway, et al, lead flying around their ears, might take issue with your targeting distinction Stumpy. If, on the other hand, you're concerned about what might happen to a man of the cloth after capture, that's another matter altogether. Once again though, it's hardly an issue without precedent. The history of modern warfare is littered with men of the cloth catching it up; quite often up against a wall on on the end of a rope! I think it's fair to say that any captured western combatant in Afghanistan is unlikely to face a very rosy future, regardless of whether he's a Padre or a PW.

The bottom line is that there's clearly no point in carrying a weapon of any description, even in self defence, unless you're willing to use it. Man of God or Man O' War? Can you be both and still retain Church Cred with the Troops? Me for one, thinks not.

The natural born cynic in me can't help wondering what's at the root of all this. Could it be that the real pressure is on the Corps Chaplains not to deploy on combat ops. Perhaps this debate is in response to activity further up the chain of command? Oh, and I'm not talking about Stu's ultimate boss, the big fella himself. I'm wondering whether the 'What if?' Brigade (no pun intended) have been flexing their worry muscles over the potential for political fallout if a Padre were to be captured and paraded before the world's press. Now that does have a ring of plausibility about it. Could it be a simple case of when in doubt, pull em out? I wonder?????
 

irishbish

Newbie
Hi all, a most enjoyable thread.
Just a couple of thoughts: Firstly; the Geneva Convention does permit the use of weapons by non-combatants (e.g. medics and Chaplains) to preserve life but NOT to prevent capture..... UK Military Law prohibits the carrying of weapons by Chaplains.
Secondly; there is the old pongo joke - most dangerous man in the army? an officer with a map - there's a parallel here.
Thirdly; if it gets that bad then things have really gone to rats, in which case a (mis)quote from the film 'We were soldiers once and we were young' springs to mind (from the gruff WO dismissing the M16) 'I don't need one of those plastic guns, time comes for me to use them and there will be enough lying around by dead marines'
Fourth; what sort of Chaplain would you go to if you had to - or as has already been said:
"The bottom line is that there's clearly no point in carrying a weapon of any description, even in self defence, unless you're willing to use it. Man of God or Man O' War? Can you be both and still retain Church Cred with the Troops? Me for one, thinks not."
 

Chingachgook

Midshipman
'What's all the fuss about?' Enquired Padre Abu Hamsa, as he prepared for his third Afghanistan deployment.

 
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