Padre VC Recipients

The Victoria Cross was created to recognise valour on the battlefield. However, the VC has been awarded to non-combatants such as medical staff and padres. In fact, of the three people to have won the VC twice (VC and Bar) two of these people were doctors.

This article is concerned with the five padres who have been awarded the VC for valour on the battlefield: one in the 2nd Afghan War, three in the First World War and one in the Second World War.

Herbert Cecil Pugh is the only Chaplain to be awarded the George Cross.

James William Adams was born in Cork, Ireland, on 24 November 1839. The Reverend Adams was a Protestant chaplain in the Bengal Ecclesiastical Department, assigned to the Kabul Field Force.

During the 2nd Afghan War, on 11 December 1879, Adams rescued some members of the 9th Lancers who had fallen from their horses into a water-filled ditch, whilst under fire from Afghan tribesman. Adams, together with the Roman Catholic and Presbyterian chaplains, was mentioned-in-desptaches three times for his conduct during the campaign.

The citation for Reverend James William Adams’ Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette 26 August 1881:

During the action at Killa Kazi, on the 11 December, 1879, some men of the 9th Lancers having fallen, with their horses, into a wide and and deep nullah or ditch, and the enemy being close upon them, the Reverend J. W. Adams rushed into the water (which filled the ditch), dragged the horses from off the men upon whom they were lying, and extricated them, he being at the time under a heavy fire, and up to his waist in water. At this time the Afghans were pressing on very rapidly, the leading men getting within a few yards of Mr. Adams, who having let go his horse in order to render more effectual assistance, had eventually to escape on foot.

London Gazette 26 August 1881.

Reverend Adams went on to be appointed Honourary Chaplain to King Edward VII.

James William Adams died on 20 October 1903 and is bured at Ashwell Churchyard, Rutland, England where he had been Rector. He had previously been Rector of Postwick and Vicar of Stow Bardolph, Norfolk.

Reverend Adams was a civilian, and so the award of the Victoria Cross is very rare. Since 1940, this valour would have been recognised by the award of the George Cross.

William Robert Fountains Addison was born on 18 September 1883 at Cranbrook, Kent.

At time of his valour, Reverend Addison was Temporary Chaplain of the Forces 4th Class (later 2nd Class), Army Chaplains Department. The events described took place at Sanna-i-Yat, Mesopotamia on 9 April 1916.

The citation for the award of the Victoria Cross was published in the London Gaztte on 26 September 1916:

For most conspicuous bravery. He carried a wounded man to the cover of a trench, and assisted several others to the same cover, after binding up their wounds under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. In addition to these unaided efforts, by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded.

London Gazette 26 September 1916.

William Robert Fountains Addison died on 7 January 1962 at St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex. His grave is located in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey.

John Weir Foote was born on 5 May 1904 in Madoc, Ontario. After education at the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s University in Kingston and at Presbyterian College and McGill University in Montreal, John Weir Foote entered the Presbyterian ministry in 1934.

At the time of the award of the Victoria Cross, Foote was a Honorary Captain, Canadian Chaplain Services, attached The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.

The citation for the award of the Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette on 12 February 1946:

Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire he attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post, which had been set up in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to men lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while the action continued, this officer not only assisted the Regimental Medical Officer in ministering to the wounded in the Regimental Aid Post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first-aid and carry wounded personnel from the open beach to the Regimental Aid Post. On these occasions, with utter disregard for his personal safety, Honorary Captain Foote exposed himself to an inferno of fire and saved many lives by his gallant efforts.

During the action, as the tide went out, the Regimental Aid Post was moved to the shelter of a stranded landing craft. Honorary Captain Foote continued tirelessly and courageously to carry wounded men from the exposed beach to the cover of the landing craft. He also removed wounded from inside the landing craft when ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells. When landing craft appeared he carried wounded from the Regimental Aid Post to the landing craft through very heavy fire.

On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years.

Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic officer, as he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire-swept beach will never be forgotten.

John Weir Foote died on 2 May 1988 in Cobourg, Ontario, where he is buried in Union Cemetery.

Theodore Bailey Hardy was born on 20 October 1863 in Exeter, Devon. After education at the Royal Commercial Travellers School (Pinner), City of London School and University of London, Hardy was ordained in 1898.

Hardy was initially rejected for service as a Chaplain, as he was 51 years’ old when war started in 1914. However, in August 1916 Hardy was accepted for army service as Temporary Chaplain (4th Class), attached to the 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment.

During the First World War, Hardy was awarded (in chronological order) the Distinguished Service Order, Military Cross and Victoria Cross. This is an extremely rare combination of gallantry medals for someone classed as a non-combatant.

The citation for the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was published in the London Gazette on 5 March 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in volunteering to go with a rescue party for some men who had been left stuck in the mud the previous night between the enemy’s outpost line and our own. All the men except one were brought in. He then organised a party for the rescue of this man, and remained with it all night, though under rifle-fire at close range, which killed one of the party. With his left arm in splints, owing to a broken wrist, and under the worst weather conditions, he crawled out with patrols to within seventy yards of the enemy and remained with wounded men under heavy fire.

London Gazette 5 March 1918.

The citation for the Military Cross (MC) was published in the London Gazette on 19 April 1918:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in tending the wounded. The ground on which he worked was constantly shelled and the casualties were heavy. He continually assisted in finding and carrying wounded and in guiding stretcher bearers to the aid post.

London Gazette 19 April 1918.

The citation for the Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette on 9 July 1918:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on many occasions. Although over fifty years of age, he has, by his fearlessness, devotion to men of his battalion, and quiet, unobtrusive manner, won the respect and admiration of the whole division.

His marvellous energy and endurance would be remarkable even in a very much younger man, and his valour and devotion are exemplified in the following incidents:

An infantry patrol had gone put to attack a previously located enemy post in the ruins of a village, the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy being then at company headquarters. Hearing firing, he followed the patrol, and about four hundred yards beyond our front line of posts found an officer of the patrol dangerously wounded. He remained with the officer until he was able to get assistance to bring him in. During this time there was a great deal of firing, and an enemy patrol actually penetrated between the spot at which the officer was lying and our front line and captured three of our men.

On a second occasion, when an enemy shell exploded in the middle of one of our posts, the Reverend T. B. Hardy at once made his way to the spot, despite the shell and trench mortar fire which was going on at the time, and set to work to extricate the buried men. He succeeded in getting out one man who had been completely buried. He then set to work to extricate a second man, who was found to be dead. During the whole of the time that he was digging out the men this chaplain was in great danger, not only from shell fire, but also because of the dangerous condition of the wall of the building which had been hit by the shell which buried the men.

On a third occasion he displayed the greatest devotion to duty when our infantry, after a successful attack, were gradually forced back to their starting trench. After it was believed that all our men had withdrawn from the wood, Chaplain Hardy came out of it, and on reaching an advanced post asked the men to help him to get in a wounded man. Accompanied by a sergeant, he made his way to the spot where the man lay, within ten yards of a pill-box which had been captured in the morning, but was subsequently recaptured and occupied by the enemy. The wounded man was too weak to stand, but between them the chaplain and the serjeant eventually succeeded in getting him to our lines. Throughout the day the enemy’s artillery, machine-gun, and trench mortar fire was continuous, and caused many casualties. This very gallant chaplain was seen moving quietly amongst the men and tending the wounded, absolutely regardless of his personal safety.

In October 1918, Hardy was wounded when attempting to retrieved another wounded soldier. A week later, on 18 October 1918, Hardy died of his wounds. His remains are located in St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France in Block S, Plot V, Row J, Grave 1.

Edward Noel Mellish was born on 24 December 1880 in Barnet, London. After being educated at Saffron Walden Grammar School, Mellish enlisted in the Artist Rifles and saw action in the 2nd Boer War (1900) with Baden-Powell’s police force.

On the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Mellish offered his services as a Chaplain and became Captain The Reverend Mellish, Army Chaplains Department. In 1915, just after being appointed to the Chaplains Department, Mellish’s Brother 2nd Lieutenant Richard Coppin Mellish was killed on the first day of the Battle of Loos, whilst serving with the 1st Battalion, The Middlesex Regiment; the grave now resting in Cambrin Churchyard Extension.

In 1916, Reverend Mellish was attached to the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, in the Ypres Salient. It was during the first three days of the action at St. Eloi, located approximately three kilometres east of Ypres (Ieper) that he performed the valour that was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross.

The following citation was published in the London Gazette on 18 April 1916:

During heavy fighting on three consecutive days he repeatedly went backwards and forwards, under continuous and heavy shell and machine-gun fire, between our original trenches and those captured from the enemy, in order to tend and rescue wounded men. He brought in ten badly wounded men on the first day from ground swept by machine-gun fire, and three were actually killed while he was dressing their wounds.

The battalion to which he was attached was relieved on the second day, but he went back and brought in twelve more wounded men. On the night of the third day he took charge of a party of volunteers and once more returned to the trenches to rescue the remaining wounded.

During the Second World War, Mellish served as an Air Raid Warden.

On 8 July 1962, Mellish died at South Petherton, Somerset.

Categorised as VC