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A Shout From The Attic: Padres’ Hour

...The Roman Catholics and Anglicans were always catered for, but the rest of the Army’s spiritual welfare was given over to neglect...

Ronnie Bray tells of an occasion when he refused to enter a chapel.

To read earlier episodes of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

One of the lighter moments of camp life was Padres’ Hour. This was when men of different denominations went for religious instruction and spiritual counselling with the padre who had care of their denomination. Most of the time I went along with ‘other denominations’, which included Methodists and other freethinkers and independents.

The Roman Catholics and Anglicans were always catered for, but the rest of the Army’s spiritual welfare was given over to neglect. When I was at Ellesmere a strange little man with the rank of acting, unpaid lance-corporal, insisted that I go to the Anglican Padre’s Hour. I informed him that I was not an Anglican and free to exercise my discretion as a right enshrined in the Army Act and King’s Rules and Regulations – the Army’s Bible.

He had other ideas and, when persuasion failed he formed the squad into line and marched us round the camp and straight through the chapel door. I was last in line and marked time outside the door. I refused point blank to enter. For a northern European he turned a strange colour, midway between mauve and purple, and marched me round to the company office. I had no scruples about going into the company office.

Once there, he complained bitterly to CSM Lewis of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who said to him, “Leave it to me.” The lance corporal marched off, after which the CSM asked me what the problem was, and I then explained to him. Unmoved, he gave me a choice. “You can either go to the Anglican Padre’s Hour or go to the kitchen for two hours fatigues. Which shall it be?” “ I’ll go to the kitchens, sir,” I replied. He was satisfied with my answer, and sent me to the camp tailor to fetch his battledress, with instructions to “take it by the point of balance and bring it to me.” after which he dismissed me in cheery manner to do as I pleased.

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