7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Thoughtful and Balanced, 28 Aug 2011
This book treats a subject I had little to no knowledge of other than the fact that throughout my life, through various mediums including my final year school history book from 1996, I had 'learned' that the Anglican chaplain (or 'Padre') of the great war was generally regarded as a haughty and classist individual who would probably have been better off at home serving his parishioners than cluttering up the trenches and annoying men preparing to fight. Madigan does an excellent job of describing the young chaplain's homelife in Britain as well as describing Edwardian life in general to help the reader understand the forces that would have influenced the men who put themselves forward to serve God as well as the British Expeditionary Forces. Of particular interest is the focus on their education, the class structure of the day and (in my opinion) the most interesting part of the book which deals with the official and unofficial duties of the Chaplain (for example, recording the burials of men killed in action and organising entertainment behind the lines for soldiers during respite). This book is not sentimental in any way. It offers a balanced view of Anglican life on the front line and quotes sources that are both very positive and very negative of individual chaplains. Written in a very academic and matter-of-fact tone, this book (it would seem) is primarily aimed at the research student however the content and the cohesion of the topics discussed means it is very accessible. The subject of the book is in itself a fascinating and overlooked aspect of the first world war and it is certainly worth reading if you are interested in the story behind the men of that war rather than the machinations of the politics that started and prolonged the conflict itself.