The contribution of Army chaplains has been marked with the unveiling of a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire.
The ceremony was attended by more than 200 people, including most of the serving Army chaplains.
The memorial is a tribute to all chaplains who have given their lives in war and conflict whilst serving in the Royal Army Chaplains Department (RAChD), as well as celebrating those who have served in it.
Guest of honour Commander Land Forces, Lieutenant General James Everard CBE, unveiled the memorial, whilst Chaplain General, Reverend Doctor David G Coulter QCH CF performed the dedication and conducted a service. Rev Dr Coulter said:
“I think chaplains spend so much time supporting other people that it is important we spend some time supporting each other. The memorial is not just for those who died but also those who served in the past and present and those who will serve in the future.”
The celebration was preceded by Exercise Ride to Remember, in which 12 members of the department embarked on a cycling pilgrimage across France and Belgium to visit the graves of each of their predecessors killed in the First World War.
The team spent five days this month cycling 500 miles to pay their respects at 116 graves spread across 81 cemeteries.
They rode in two groups and stopped at every cemetery where a First World War padre is buried, placing a small cross on the graves, beginning and ending each day together at a cemetery where they performed acts of worship.
They worshiped near the grave of the most distinguished Army chaplain to be killed in the First World War, Padre Theodore Bailey-Hardy VC (Victoria Cross) at St Sever Cemetery on Sunday. Reverend Duncan Weaver, Chaplain of 11th Infantry Brigade based in Aldershot, said:
“It’s important that we remember those who have gone before us, especially those who gave everything. The event gave us the opportunity to do that, to reflect on their example and to pray, exercise and have some fun together. It was tiring, exhilarating, poignant and made us think very deeply.”
Between 1914 and the end of hostilities in 1918, almost 4,400 Army Chaplains were recruited into uniform. Most of them saw service in the trenches. 179 lost their lives; many were decorated for bravery with three being awarded the Victoria Cross.