4th Class Chaplain Major William Devine, Chaplains
Advocate, 24 July 1915, p.16
Twenty-seven year old Irishman William Devine enlisted as an army chaplain in July 1915. Born in Castlederg, County Tyrone, he gained a BA and BD in Ireland and came to Australia in 1914. He had been assistant parish priest to the elderly Fr Matthew Hayes at St Paul’s, Coburg for twelve months at the time of his enlistment. His older brother George (who signed as de Vine) served with the British forces. He attested in February 1916 with the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery, having previously served with the Royal Army Medical Corps for twelve months.
Usually we see parents or siblings or other family members listed as next of kin, but as he was a Roman Catholic priest Chaplain Devine listed his next of kin as the Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne and Archbishop Carr, Chaplain General, recommended him as a military chaplain.
Fr Devine served with distinction and was awarded the Military Cross and the Croix de Guerre. The Australian Dictionary of Biography records that he spent most of his time with the 48th Battalion and that he wrote about the Battalion’s war experiences just after the war ended.
Image courtesy AWM. Image C04450. Group portrait of the Bishop of Amiens and a party of Australian officers. Back row, left to right: Chaplain Reverend W. Devine MC, 12th Australian Infantry Brigade; Lieutenant Henderson, 48th Battalion, 12th Australian Infantry Brigade; unidentified (hidden); Lieutenant Colonel S. L. Perry DSO MC, 48th Battalion; Brigadier General Sydney C. E. Herring DSO, 13th Australian Infantry Brigade; unidentified (hidden). Front row: Major W. Fowler-Bunnsworth MC, 4th Division; Major General (Maj Gen) John Gellibrand CB DSO, commanding 3rd Australian Division; Bishop of Amiens; Maj Gen E. G. Sinclair-Maclagan, commanding 4th Australian Division; Captain A. Nicholson, 18th Australian Infantry Brigade; Capt C. Bartlett, 4th Division. (Donor Herring)
In February 1919 he became seriously ill with broncho-pneumonia and was hospitalised in London. After his return to Australia in May 1919, he organised for fourteen Victoria Cross winners to act as Archbishop Mannix’s guard of honour in the famous 1920 St Patrick Day’s procession.
St Patrick’s Day Procession, 1920. Australasian, 27 March 1920, p.51
You can read more about the 1920 St Patrick’s Day Procession here.
Here are the 14 VC winners, some Catholic and some Protestant:
Image courtesy AWM. Image P01383.018.
This is a restored version of P01383.017. The original is is a framed composite photograph presented to Lieutenant John Hamilton VC by his Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne and the Irish citizens of Victoria on the occasion of the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations in Melbourne, 17 March 1920. The composite photograph comprises portraits of fourteen Victoria Cross winners (ten Roman Catholics and four Protestants, all presumably with Irish backgrounds) with portraits of his Grace Dr Daniel Mannix (the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne) and the entrepreneur John Wren in the centre. The VC winners comprise Private (Pte) William Currey, Sergeant (Sgt) George Howell, Corporal (Cpl) Walter Peeler, Pte John Jackson, Lieutenant (Lt) Joseph Maxwell, Lt John Dwyer, Sgt Maurice Buckley (he was accidentally killed the following year) Pte George Cartwright, Cpl Thomas Axford, Cpl John Carroll, Pte Edward Ryan, Sgt John Whittle, Lt John Hamilton, Lt Lawrence McCarthey. It was probably financed by John Wren.
You will find more information on the image here.
And another image showing the 14 VC winners:
Courtesy State Library of Victoria. Image
The State Library of Victoria’s notes for the image read: This image s
Now back to Fr Devine …
Fr Devine later returned to Ireland but moved on to serve in China in 1927, where he stayed for three years before returning to Ireland. He died in Dublin in 1959.
The following article from the Advocate, 12 May 1917, gives an insight into William Devine the man, something that cannot be conveyed in the official record.