The Australian Boer War Memorial
Anzac Parade Canberra

 
 
Chaplain (later Chaplain Colonel CMG, DSO, VD, MID) James Green

Rev (later Chaplain Colonel) James Green, (1864–1948) CMG, DSO, VD, 2xMID

James Green (1864-1948), clergyman, writer, journalist and military chaplain, was born on 14 October 1864 at Newcastle upon Tyne, England, son of William Green, journeyman mason, and his wife Isabella, née Palmer. He was educated at Rutherford College, Newcastle upon Tyne, and was a teacher before migrating to New South Wales in 1889 and entering the ministry of the Primitive Methodist Church. He served in parishes in the Newcastle area, married Caroline Jane Atkinson on 19 April 1893 at Annandale, Sydney, and was appointed to Marrickville in 1894. It is claimed that prior to going into the ministry, Green had extensive involvement in the cadet movement in the UK.

In February 1900 he sailed as Wesleyan chaplain to the New South Wales Citizens' Bushmen, raised for service in the South African War. When the contingent returned home in June 1901 he served with troops in training before re-embarking with the 1st Australian Commonwealth Horse (1ACH).

At Eland's River, Green was captured by the Boers but his imprisonment was short lived. Following the death, illness or evacuation of many newspaper correspondents he became the sole Australian correspondent, sending regular reports to the Sydney Morning Herald. These became the basis of The Story of the Australian Bushmen (1903), his first book, which was a straightforward account of service, somewhat romanticized, but sensitive to the evils of warfare. Of Eland's River he wrote: 'It is easy to … throw a glamour over an engagement, but the truth should be told. One has to be in an engagement to see what "the glorious death of the soldier" really is in these times of modern artillery. One man was lying with an arm blown away, and a great hole in his side such as is made in the earth with a shovel'.

Whilst at Elands River, he also seems to have filled the role of OC Admin company in the conduct of the defence using native drivers as labour to construct the hospital, dig graves and other structures as well as other administration tasks.

An English Methodist Chaplain wrote of him and the Australians at Elands River
"About this same time another equally remarkable body, the Australian Bushmen, who, like the Canadians, had come from worlds unknown, were in the far north making their way through worlds unknown to the relief of Mafeking. Their advance, says Conan Doyle, was one of the finest performances of the war. Assembled at their port of embarkation by long railway journeys, conveyed across thousands of miles of ocean to Cape Town, brought round another two thousand to Beira, transferred by a narrow gauge railway to Bamboo Creek, thence by a broader gauge to Marandellas, sent on in coaches for hundreds of miles to Bulawayo, again transferred by trains for another four or five hundred miles to Ootsi, and then facing a further march of a hundred miles, they reached the hamlet of Masibi Stadt within an hour of the arrival of Plumer's relieving columns; and before that week was over the whole Empire was thrilled, almost to the point of delirium, by learning that at last the long-drawn siege of Mafeking was raised; and a defence of almost unexampled heroism was thus brought to a triumphant end.

From start to finish the Bushmen were accompanied by an earnest Methodist chaplain, whom I met only in Pretoria, the Rev. James Green, who, most fortunately, throughout the whole campaign, was not laid aside for a single day by wounds or sickness; and who, after returning home with this time-expired first contingent of Australian troops, came back in March 1902 with what, we hope, the speedy ending of the war will make their last contingent."

He was awarded the Queens Medal with three clasps and the King's Medal with two clasps for his Boer War Service. As a result of the war he developed a life long friendship with Lord Baden Powell under whose command he had served.

He returned to Sydney in 1903 and after three country postings was appointed to Newtown in 1912. He also acted as a part-time chaplain to the Commonwealth Military Forces. He also attended the Delhi Durbar in 1903 and travelled widely in India at that time including the Khyber Pass area. It is not clear whether this visit was in an official or private capacity.

Green was a logical choice for the senior Methodist chaplaincy on the formation of the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914. As a Primitive Methodist it speaks volumes of his ability to reach out to all people that he should be so selected. He was appointed chaplain colonel with the 1st Battalion. He claimed to have landed at Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. This is unlikely; however, he was one of the first chaplains ashore and probably conducted the first formal burial party. His service at Gallipoli impressed on him the 'bedrock simplicity' of the men. With A. E. Talbot, an Anglican, he conducted a joint communion service, a rare event because communion was reckoned as a sign of membership of a particular church. He left Gallipoli on 29 June, returning to Egypt to take charge of hospital visitations and continued to exercise the practical ecumenism learnt at Gallipoli. He developed great friendships with Chaplains of all denominations. His friendship with Dean Talbot led to him preaching on some official occasions at St Andrews Anglican Cathedral, Sydney.

Green worked with the Red Cross and comforts funds authorities in Egypt to secure supplies for the troops at Gallipoli, such as the first consignment of mosquito netting and crude petroleum. He considered this 'one of the most useful things done during [his] chaplaincy' as the supplies saved many lives by preventing the spread of disease. He returned to Gallipoli on 9 November but was soon evacuated when he injured his knee. He reached the 3rd Australian General Hospital, Lemnos, and, although a patient, resumed duty because there was no other chaplain available. He served with the 55th Battalion from its formation and accompanied his men in the trenches in France in 1916 and through the battle of Fromelles and the first battle of the Somme. He described the 20th July 1916 as follows:
"our bearers at the risk of their lives, were bringing in our men…we had a sad day of helping the wounded and burying the dead".

Then from December 1916 to April 1917 Green was attached to A.I.F. Headquarters in London. Moved by the sight of Australians loitering on the streets, he gained the co-operation of the Australian Young Men's Christian Association and the Wesleyan Army and Navy Board, and opened a recreation centre in Horseferry Road which became a focal point of A.I.F. life in London.

Green returned to the front regularly but became seriously ill in November 1917 and was invalided to Australia. He had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for tending wounded men 'under a barrage … in the front line trenches, Fleurbaix', in September-October 1916 and for similar work previously at Fromelles. He was appointed Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George, (C.M.G.) in 1918 and twice mentioned in dispatches. As one of the longest-serving A.I.F. chaplains he was recognized by the New South Wales Methodist Conference which elected him president for 1918. He also received the Volunteer Decoration for long service as a reservist in this year. He devoted this year to establishing the Church's War Memorial Hospital at Waverley. He published two books arising from his experiences at the front: News from No Man's Land (1917) and The Year of Armageddon (1919). His letters home, in which he strove for realism, were published in the ‘Methodist’.

At a later Methodist Conference that ruled that Methodist Defence Force chaplains should not wear uniform as it condoned war, he spoke vigorously against the motion and ignored the direction in practice.

Green's war experience left a permanent mark on his ministry. He was a very approachable man who hated aloofness or snobbery of any kind. He asserted that institutional Christianity had 'humbugged' men and interfered with the relationship between man and God. His ministry continued in Sydney, first at Paddington, then at Croydon Park. In 1927 he became commissioner for Leigh College, the Methodist theological institution. He retired from active ministry in 1934 as senior pastor of Wesley church in William St, Sydney

In 1935 he wrote From My Hospital Window, a series of essays on 'sane democracy'. This book is regarded as his best: he emerges as a good-natured, tolerant, faithful man, compassionate towards the unemployed and other victims of economic crisis. Whilst conservative in political outlook and ardently anti communist, he had strong views on the need for Australia to encourage Asian immigration to populate the north. He envisaged an Empire scheme where retired veterans of the Indian Army would settle in remote parts of Northern Australia. His other books were novels, The Selector (1907) and The Lost Echo (1910).

He remained a strong and active supporter of the South African Soldiers Association (SASA) and its activities and regularly participated in ex service functions and services. This included officiating at the opening of the State’s Boer War Memorial at Observatory Hill.

He retired as senior Methodist chaplain to the army in 1942 Survived by his wife and two sons, Green died on 6 November 1948 at Waverley and was buried in Rookwood cemetery.

Michael, McKernan, 'Green, James (1864–1948)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983 With editing and additions by David Deasey.


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