The New Zealand Defence Force will remember all Defence Force chaplains on Friday – 100 years after the first NZ Defence Force chaplain was killed on active duty.
Chaplain-Major William Grant was killed on 28 August 1915, during a firefight on Hill 60 at Gallipoli, while tending to the wounds of a trench full of Turkish troops.
He is buried at Gallipoli, and left behind a widow and five children.
Chaplain-Major Grant received the 1914-15 Star and the Victory Medal for his service.
He was ordained in New Plymouth in 1889 before working in Leeston (1891-1905), and St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Gisborne (1904-1914), and was appointed senior Presbyterian chaplain when he volunteered to serve in the NZ Defence Force in WWI.
Principal Defence Force Chaplain, Chaplain Class One Lance Lukin, said chaplains have always been an important part of the NZ Defence Force, both on operations and in New Zealand.
“Chaplain-Major Grant was 56 years old when he was killed while tending to wounds and recovering bodies of the fallen. In total, eleven NZ Defence Force chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country, eight in WWI, and three in WWII,” Chaplain Lukin said.
“This week we remember, in particular, the sacrifice of those chaplains who died on active duty, but also the service of all NZ Defence Force chaplains who have served since WWI.
“NZ Defence Force chaplains have always been available to provide spiritual and pastoral care to personnel, both on operations and at home, and 37 NZ Defence Force chaplains continue to fulfil this role today.
“Today’s chaplains have served on a variety of operations and exercises including in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, and continue to offer the care and support that was also provided by those chaplains who served in the First and Second World Wars, and in other conflicts since.”
Chaplain Class Four Ken Diekema joined NZ Defence Force in January 2014 after hearing about the work Defence chaplains do and the care they give to personnel through the ups and downs of their service in the NZ Defence Force.
“NZ Defence Force is made up of a unique group of people I am privileged to be able to give pastoral care to, to assist, mentor and counsel,” Chaplain Diekema said.
“I’m not only serving the people, but also the best interests of our country, and playing my part in helping NZ Defence Force achieve its goals.”
Chaplain Diekema is based at Royal New Zealand Air Force Base Auckland, and recently took part in the annual United States Navy-led humanitarian and disaster response mission, Pacific Partnership.
“Providing humanitarian aid to countries in the Pacific was pretty unique and special, as were the opportunities to be a chaplain to people in the local communities,” he said.
Chaplain Diekema counts the variety of work, the added sense of adventure and the opportunity to undertake some very unique tasks as some of the highlights of being a chaplain in NZ Defence Force.
“As a chaplain I am here for a large variety of people, regardless of their faith and no matter what job they do, and I share and experience both their struggles and joys in life, and that is exciting every day.
“I also get to combine the work I do with other enjoyable things that are part of the Defence Force.”
Eleven NZ Defence Force chaplains who have died while serving their country will be remembered in a commemorative service at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul on Friday 28 August 2015. The service will be attended by the Governor-General, His Excellency, Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant General Tim Keating, past and present NZ Defence Force chaplains, and relatives of two NZ Defence Force chaplains who died on active duty.
Relatives of Chaplain-Major William Grant will attend the service, together with members of his former parish in Gisborne. Chaplain-Major Grant’s great-niece will offer a scripture reading during the service.