Dom Stephen Rawlinson, a late monk at Downside served as Assistant Principal Chaplain to the British Expeditionary Force during the Great War. Prior to this he served in South Africa as a military chaplain during the Boer War, and took a travelling field altar with him. In 1940, aged 75 he acted as an unofficial chaplain to trainee sailors in Plymouth and witnessed firsthand the heavy bombing the city suffered.

This field altar, which saw action in all three conflicts, is now carefully preserved in the Abbey’s archives and is regularly exhibited as a representation of the heroic work of many Downside monks who served as military chaplains in three major conflicts – the Boer War, First and Second World Wars.

Tours of the abbey church and monastery library are available throughout the year; click here to book yours now.

Fr Rawlinson’s archive is carefully preserved in the Abbey and is available to consult. If you would like to use the abbey’s archives, please click here

You can also purchase a book detailing the work of Benedictine monks as chaplains, ‘Monks in the Military’ by clicking here.