Through the Hitler Line: Memoirs of an Infantry Chaplain (Life Writing)

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This left Sabourin with the harrowing task of providing the last rite en masse for many of the men he had cared for since leaving Canada three years earlier. Far from immune to the traumas of war taking place around him and with hundreds of his soldiers and friends dying on the beaches in gallant but pitifully hopeless attacks, Sabourin — emotionally scarred from this conflict — could no longer cope with ministering to the survivors.

Andy Lewis: Men of God in Hitler's Armies

Returning him home became the most practical solution for both religious and military authorities. For Beaudry, this time proved important, allowing him to comfort his flock and reassure them that God had not abandoned them.

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Never can we have too much love for the Virgin Mary and never can we have too much confidence in her protection. For example, for the first time, chaplains received explicit instructions on conducting mass burials. With such information in hand, the padres acknowledged the upcoming hardships, prepared their men spiritually as best as they could, and offered them the sacraments. The most intense battles against the Nazis took place from June to May in a war of constant movement.

As the intensity of the fighting continued, soldiers and officers lived every hour knowing that their lives were in constant danger, and they turned to their padre in unprecedented numbers for the sacraments of communion and confession. As for those who survived, they turned to the Church in greater number than ever before for comfort: September saw the number of communions quadruple and the number of confessions double compared to April of the same year.

Chaplains continued to visit soldiers wherever they were, often at considerable personal risk. They listened to their fears and encouraged them.


Nazism and the Wehrmacht

They offered them the sacraments, which were rarely refused. In these difficult times, the devotion of many chaplains to their men remained firm. Armed with faculties to minister to their men in wartime, some chaplains accompanied their troops to the most advanced outposts on the battlefields, disobeying chaplaincy guidelines.

In a letter received posthumously, Dalcourt described to a friend his dedication to his soldiers. During battles in France and Belgium, Padre Beaudry followed the regiment onto the battlefields, offering the sacraments of confession and communion, and celebrating mass whenever and wherever possible.

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While the experience and the effectiveness of padres can be analyzed at the divisional level, there is also considerable value in examining the situation from the regimental perspective. Without any serious incident during these initial years, the regiment focused on training. With boredom quickly setting in, and lasting for more than three years, Roy used his time to organize several social events, including movie screenings, dances, and music concerts, thus helping his soldiers forget — albeit for short periods of time — the waiting game.

Roy benefited from these quiet times to help officers and soldiers understand the role of a padre. Although most padres underwent a six-month military and religious training prior to being sent overseas, it did not guarantee an enhanced ability to acclimatize oneself to new working conditions. Due to the lack of Canadian clerics overseas, Nelligan took advantage of the arrival of Desilets in the United Kingdom in April to appoint him immediately to the R22R.

Life for the R22R changed dramatically on 10 July But marching into the town of Messina, the centre of Sicilian control, did not come without sacrifice. On 17 July , the R22R experienced its first battle, with seven of their own losing their lives, and another 24 being injured. Despite being one of the oldest members of the regiment, at the age of 46 in , his physical abilities, especially during long, endurance testing maneuvers, inspired even the youngest members. I will follow them always and I will follow them everywhere, and nothing will separate me from them, especially in the most critical and dangerous times.

While the R22R continued to serve with great distinction, the list of the deceased continued to increase, and so did the activities of Padre Gratton. Following the exhaustive battles in Sicily and Italy, Allied commanders looked to reserve units to strengthen the complement of many regiments and to replace soldiers during a well-deserved rest period. However, without a predetermined public, this journal remains a valuable source for the analysis of the rates of religious participation, a statistic not taken into account in most official military records. Using the entries of his diary for the weeks from 31 October to 16 April — weeks where the men were not involved in fighting and during part of which they were — it becomes possible to analyze variations in rates of participation in religious activities Table 1.

Although life in Algeria was hard — extreme heat, lack of proper supplies and equipment, and shortage of food — the R22R reinforcement units found themselves at a considerable distance from the main theatres of war. The padre organized sporting events and discussion groups to help the men relax and to help him get to know them better on an individual, personal level.

12. Parachute Infantry (David Kenyon Webster)

During the two-day voyage across the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas, the unit was subjected to two German bombing runs, but did not suffer any casualties. With the exception of one bombing raid, which caused no casualties, life remained fairly calm until the end of January. It was, for most of them, their baptism of fire. For the next two months, the R22R— which consisted now mainly of the reinforcement units — defended the Allied positions and succeeded in pushing the Nazis further north.

McDougall, Robert L. Raddall, Thomas. West Novas Liverpool, UK: Thexton, R. Wilmot, Laurence F. Grant, D. Meanwell, R. Antal, Sandy and Kevin R. Hutchison, Paul P. Marchand, Gerard. Le Regiment de Maisonneuves Vers la Victoire. Holm, Frank P. Holm, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, Williams, Jeffrey. ISBN Tyler, G.

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