Military Chaplains were appointed during the First World War to provide spiritual support to the many troops serving in all aspects of conflict.
The Reverend Philip C T Crick was a military chaplain, and also the son of another Reverend Crick, the vicar in Whorlton from 1912 to at least 1916.
The archives at the Durham County Records Office hold parish magazines for the Whorlton Parish and an entry for March 1915 reported that Reverend Philip Crick had been appointed as Military Chaplain and was to go abroad.
A further magazine describes how Reverend Crick had been attached to the 26th Field Ambulance, with the 8th Division of the British Army.
Extracts from letters to his father were published in the Parish magazine and a letter dated 16th May 1915 described his work.
“I celebrated in the theatre of the Agricultural College at 7.30. There were nine communicants. After breakfast went on a round of services with the Brigade, half of whom are in the trenches, and half in the Brigade Reserve some way behind. At 9.30 I had an outdoor parade service for the 1st Regiment in a field close to their billets. It was a wonderful experience. I had my back to the line of trenches about 100 yards away, and on my left, quite close, a battery was firing occasional shots and over my head was an aeroplane.
“After parade service I celebrated in the attic of a barn, and we had about 12 communicants. I then went on down the road to the next Regiment, where the service was voluntary, but so many came we had to go out into the field again, and we had a service under the trees, with men sitting all around us, most of them on the top of ‘dug-outs’ and shelter trenches. After this, I climbed once more to the top of the shattered barn, climbing through the attic hole in the floor. Here I found a little table with flowers on it, and two common candles stuck in the lids of tins, and an officer asked me if he might light them. This little bit of care for the Altar was very touching. On this occasion we had eleven Officers and forty-eight men. Wherever one looked in the half dark room, one saw clusters of men kneeling on the bare boards, and the attic was practically full”.
How unusual it would have been for Reverend Crick to leave England and adapt to his role as chaplain, holding services in the open air so close to the front line trenches, or huddled together with the soldiers in the dark of an attic barn.
In later life, he would adjust again to holding services in places far flung from the English countryside, following his move to Australia. He was Bishop of Rockhampton in Queensland from 1921 – 1927, and then Bishop of Ballarat in Victoria. On his return to England in 1935 he took the post of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Derby.
Thus, his life in the Church gave him a wide range of places to support those around him, from Australian Cathedrals to an attic in a barn during the First World War.