The Half-Shilling Curate

A Personal Account of War & Faith 1914-1918

Sarah Reay

Publication date:
October 2016
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
approx 40 b&w ills & 2 maps
Format Available     Quantity Price
ISBN : 9781911096467

Dimensions : 234 X 156 mm
This book is available


The Half-Shilling Curate, as he was affectionately known by his family, tells the very personal story of an army chaplain - The Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl - from Christmas Eve 1914 to the end of hostilities in 1919. His descriptive account, from his own personal letters and writings, illustrates the value of faith during the war and the balance between serving God and carrying out his duties as a captain in the British Army. Herbert's engaging story told of the man who matured from humble Christian beginnings to the start of his journey discovering faith, love and a sense of duty and moral responsibility. At the outbreak of war, he volunteered to become a Wesleyan Army Chaplain. With meticulous detail, the reader is taken on Herbert's journey with the Durham Light Infantry from the objective view of life in the Army Home Camp in Aldershot, to the adventure of France and the reality of Flanders on the Western Front near Armentières. Whilst serving at the front, his service was cut short when he was severely wounded during heavy enemy bombardment at the front. On his journey back to England, he was placed in a cot bed aboard the hospital ship Anglia when she hit a German mine in the Channel. As a result of Herbert's actions on that fateful day, he became one of the first Wesleyan Army Chaplains to receive the Military Cross for exemplary gallantry. His second battle was recovery - and although he was never fit enough to return to overseas duties, he returned to work as an Army Chaplain in the army garrisons and home camps in England. The book gives an insight into day-to-day life and the strains of service as an Army Chaplain on the Home Front at Colchester and Portsmouth. Twenty years later, Herbert - a Methodist minister with a family living in Acton - found himself in the centre of another battle: the Second World War. As he stayed in London through the London Blitz, again the reader gains an understanding of one man's faith during war and the comparisons that can be seen for a new generation. Herbert's story concludes with the final chapter of his life and the intimate observations of a spiritual man driven to follow his faith during war.


Sarah Reay's story of her grandfather, the Reverend Herbert Butler Cowl MC, is well researched and includes many excerpts from his letters.
Stand to!

The text is a moving and well-documented story of an admirable family member. 4 stars.
Soldier Magazine

In many ways, The Half Shilling Curate is the story of the 5,000 chaplains who served with the British army in the First World War, 179 of whom died during that service. What makes it particular is the story Sarah Reay tells of the long-distance courtship and eventual marriage of her grandparents, whose ardent love and decency shine from the pages in both words and photographs.
The Times Literary Supplement

It is a very well crafted work, full of interest and worth reading.
Long Long Trail

Sarah Reay has woven together Herbert's compassionate letters to his parents with her own meticulous research. 4 stars
The Sun

Written about a time when the vast majority of men serving in the British Army would have been "believers", this remarkable book chronicles the life and career of someone very deserving of our study and attention.
Books Monthly