An Army Chaplain will mark the culmination of a distinguished and varied career in the military at a Remembrance service in his hometown this Sunday.
Twenty-two years after joining the Army as a systems engineering technician with The Royal Signals, Padre Ken Adolphe, who grew up in Swanage, will lead the town’s main Remembrance service at St Mary’s Church.
He says it will be especially emotional with his family attending. And it was a strong family history of service in the Armed Forces that was behind his decision to follow suit in proudly serving his country.
Ken said: “My dad was in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, my uncle and a grandfather in the RAF and my maternal grandmother was in the Women’s Royal Army Corps, the latter two serving in the Second World War. It was pretty much inevitable I’d join the forces.”
The 44-year-old did so in 2001 but, due to his faith, decided to follow his calling in 2007 and retrained as a Padre, before returning to the military in this field eight years later.
He said: “I trained to be a Baptist Minister at Bristol Baptist College for three years, then spent three years as a Newly Accredited Minister in a church in North Dorset. After a short stint as a hospital chaplain, I joined the Royal Army Chaplains Department in 2015."
“I spent six weeks on the Chaplains Foundation Course and 11 weeks at [Royal Military Academy] Sandhurst on the Professionally Qualified Commissioning Course. My first unit as a padre was with the Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG).”
I felt very empowered..." Padre Ken Adolphe
“I felt very empowered by both Commanding Officers who were very pro-Chaplaincy,” he said. “There I was heavily involved with the Church of England Cathedral and a student house church."
“It was great to be involved at opposite extremes of the church spectrum – one very formal and the other where we’d sit around with a spaghetti Bolognese and get a guitar out.”
Among his fond memories is leading a Remembrance service at Waynes Keep, a military cemetery in the capital, Nicosia, attended by all the US soldiers posted locally.
As often in life, Ken was drawn back to his roots, returning to Blandford Camp in September 2021 as the Garrison Padre, before aligning with 11 (RSS) Signal Regiment, the Royal Signals' training establishment there, 12 months later. It was a poignant homecoming for him, bringing his military journey full circle.
...I could have a real influence,"
He said: “I'd always wanted a Phase 2 training unit as I felt my skills were suited to soldiers, so I could have a real influence, and coming ‘home’ to the Royal Signals was perfect, especially as my mum, brother, and one of my sisters live in Swanage.”
His posting included holding lessons on character guidance in core values, ethical decision making, the ethics of use of force, and leadership for the soldiers.
Ken said: “The role is mainly about pastoral care, being there, experiencing what they experience and showing you genuinely care about them.”
His experiences in the Army have been filled with challenges and meaningful encounters, fulfilling his aspirations when he first entered the chaplaincy.
On his decision to return to civilian ministry, the former pupil of Swanage Middle School and The Purbeck School, Wareham, said: “Over the past few years, I've really wrestled with a strong sense of a call back to civilian church ministry and I signed off earlier this year.”
And Ken believes his time as an Army padre has made him a much better minister in his new role at Longfleet Baptist Church in Poole which begins just before Easter.
My time in the Army has also really improved my leadership,"
He said: “The church in Longfleet said they wanted someone who would do a lot of work out in the community, so an Army Chaplain was particularly attractive as that’s a big part of the job."
“I am comfortable developing relationships at all levels with schools, politicians, charities, local authorities and so on."
“My time in the Army has also really improved my leadership and understanding of how that works in modern society, bringing people along with you.”
As he signs off from that military career, Ken is grateful for his perfect goodbye. He said: “The opportunity to spend my last Remembrance in the Army in my hometown with my original Corps is a very special farewell for me.”