DOWNSIDE WAR CHAPLAIN’S DIARY

The life of military chaplains during war has received more prominence in the past few years.

Last weekend Downside Abbey’s Director of Heritage, Dr Simon Johnson, was interviewed on Radio 4’s ‘Sunday’ programme about the diary of Dom Gervase Hobson Matthews, a monk of Downside who became an army chaplain during the Second World War and who died at Dunkirk in 1940 at the age of 36. The diary and his stole were returned to the Community about five years ago by the Ministry of Defence and the diary’s importance was realised by Steve Parsons, the Abbey Outreach Officer. The diary has been transcribed by Dr Johnson and it is intended to publish it in due course.  The diary gives a rare insight into the chaplain’s life and his sense that, as a priest, he had to stay with his men to give them all the help and support they needed. This is a far cry from his previous work as a monk, teacher and guestmaster in the community, but the need to provide the sacraments was paramount for him and all those priests who answered the call to join up. You can read more in The Tablet here.

Over the past few years, there has been more research into the work of military chaplains during warfare, and monks of Downside have often been involved in this area of pastoral responsibility. You can find out more about this, including the work of a number of Downside monks, in James Hegarty and Steven Parsons’ book, Monks in the Military, which can be purchased here.

Last Sunday’s interview can be heard here

You can read more about the work of Downside Abbey Library and Archives here.