Field Marshal Douglas Haig, head of the British forces on the ‘western front’ during WWI, described Father Francis Browne as “the bravest man I ever met.” Not many people know that “Father Browne of The Titanic” went on to serve with great distinction during the First World War.
In 1916 Father Francis Browne joined the British Army as a Jesuit chaplain. He served for most of the war with the Irish Guards at the front in the trenches and on the battlefields of Flanders.
Ministering to soldiers in the thick of the action, at the Somme, Messines Ridge, Passchendaele, Ypres, Amiens, and Arras, Father Browne was wounded five times and badly gassed.
“Father Browne’s First World War” gives an account of his wartime experiences and contains 100 photos from his remarkable collection. There are also extracts from his letters home describing his experiences, and from his messages to the families of the fallen. The book includes a moving account of the time he spent working alongside fellow chaplain, Fr Willie Doyle, killed by a shell.
In recognition of his bravery, Fr Browne was awarded the Military Cross (MC) “for distinguished service in the field”. He was awarded a bar to his MC (a second award) in 1918. His citation read “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was untiring in his efforts to succor the wounded during an attack. His courage and determination under heavy shell fire were a magnificent example to all.” He was also awarded the Croix de Guerre by France.
Father Eddie O’Donnell wrote a fascinating and moving account of Father Browne’s war, brought vividly to life with extracts from his letters and illustrated throughout with photographs taken by Father Browne.
* Originally published in 2014, updated in Nov 2022.