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Who we are

Royal Army Chaplains' Department

For centuries the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department (RAChD) has ministered to soldiers and their families in times of war and peace. Chaplains are honoured to provide spiritual support, pastoral care, and moral guidance to all, irrespective of religion or belief.

Who we are

Chaplains are Professionally Qualified Officers who have been ordained in one of the recognised Sending Churches and have been selected to hold a commission in the Army.

Chaplains wear the uniforms of the British Army and accompany their soldiers wherever they go. They exercise leadership and management but do not command. They are non-combatants and do not bear arms.

Chaplains initially receive a three-year commission. With satisfactory service this can be extended in stages to age 57 (Regular), 60 (Reservist) or 65 (Army Cadet Force).

For Regular chaplains, assignments to units generally last between two and three years. Over time this enables chaplains to experience ministry in a wide variety of settings.

The role of Army chaplains

Chaplains minister to soldiers and their families in three key areas:

  • Spiritual support, both publicly and privately, at every level of the Army.
  • Pastoral care at home and abroad.
  • Moral guidance through formal teaching, counsel, and personal example.

A vocation as an Army Chaplain

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Regular Chaplain

You should be under the age of 49 years and be medically and physically fit. The selection process involves endorsement by your Sending Church and a familiarisation visit to meet serving chaplains at an Army base. There are security, child protection, and medical checks and clearances.

You then attend the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) at Westbury, presided over by the Chaplain-General. The board does not assess your vocation in general, but rather your aptitude for exercising that vocation in a military context.

If you are offered a commission, you will undertake initial training at the Armed Forces’ Chaplaincy Centre. You then spend a few months at your first unit before undergoing military training on the ten-week Professionally Qualified Officers’ course.

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Reservist Chaplain

You should be under the age of 49 years and be medically and physically fit. The selection process involves endorsement by your Sending Church and a familiarisation visit to meet serving chaplains at an Army base. There are security, child protection, and medical checks and clearances.

You then attend the AOSB at Westbury. The board does not assess your vocation in general, but rather your aptitude for exercising that vocation in a military context.

If you are offered a commission, you will be assigned to a Reserve unit as close as possible to your place of civilian ministry. Your ministry will involve visiting your soldiers on their week night training, accompanying them on weekend training and on annual camp. With the consent of your church you may be mobilised on operational duty.

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Army Cadet Force Chaplain

You should be under the age of 55 years (or 60 with previous military service).

You must have at least one year's experience of ordained ministry and be able to offer a three-year commitment. There are security and child protection checks and clearances.

You will be attached to a county or area ACF, where you will undergo your basic familiarisation. You will be required to attend a five-day New Entrant ACF Chaplains’ Course at the Armed Forces’ Chaplaincy Centre.

Your principal commitment is to the annual camp which generally lasts from 10 to 14 days. You would also be expected to visit training evenings and weekends.

Timeline - Past to Present

From before 1066 armies have taken clergy with them to war. The roles of chaplains within the military have changed significantly but their presence has remained as important as ever. 

  1. 1796

    The Army Chaplains' Department formed under the first Chaplain General, the Reverend John Gamble though with very few applicants.

  2. 1854

    The Crimean War. 26000 troops, one deployable Chaplain, the Reverend Henry Press Wright. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel finance more Chaplains. Eventually sixty deploy and twelve die.

  3. 1879

    The Reverend James William Adams was the first clergyman to be awarded the Victoria Cross as he served with the 9th Lancers at Killa Kazi.

  4. 1914-18

    The Great War. Chaplains became synonymous with the bringing of comfort, care and compassion to those caught up in the bloodiness of war. In recognition of their devoted work since 1914 King George V conferred the prefix 'Royal' on the Army Chaplains' Department.

  5. 1939-45

    The Second World War. New formations such as Airborne Forces had Chaplains learning new skills such as parachuting. The fortitude of devoted Chaplains in the prison camps of the far East sustain the captives during the horrors of life and death on the Burma-Siam railway.

  6. 1945-present

    Chaplains have continued to serve wherever British soldiers have been sent. Korea, Suez, Aden, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, Iraq, Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. The conflicts may change but the call, care, compassion and prayer remains constant.