Revd Edward Fitzhardinghe Campbell DSO


'Only Mr. Campbell's determination enabled him to perform the work; his assistants and working parties had frequently to be changed.'

Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Fanshawe

Submitted by Richard Begg, Army Chaplain

Edward Fitzhardinghe Campbell was one of the first to hold both a chaplaincy Commission and be capped for his country at Rugby Union, since the formation of the Army Chaplains’ Department in 1796.

Campbell was born on 17 January 1880 and at the young age of 19 he played on the wing for Ireland in their first game against Scotland at Inverleith, Edinburgh. The game on the 18 February 1899 was won by Ireland and Campbell scored the first try! He went on to receive another 3 caps for Ireland: against Wales in March 1899 and against England and Wales in 1900.

Campbell joined the Department in 1906. In July 1916 he was promoted to Chaplain to the Forces, Class 3 as a Senior Chaplain. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1916-1917 and awarded the DSO in 1917. The forgotten work of the battlefield was where the Padre often could be found. When the battle had been won or lost, the dignity and reverence of the fallen was one of the most harrowing tasks. Campbell found himself in the midst of this work as he worked just in front of Gommecourt Wood, where the London Division had advanced at the beginning of July 1916 at the start of the Battle of the Somme. Campbell was recommended for the award of DSO as a result of this work.
Revd Noel Mellish VC commented on Campbell’s work in his memories at the end of the war with these words; “After all those months our dead were still lying hundreds on the wire, which all our artillery preparation had left untouched, there I came across Edward Campbell, who had been a Senior Padre of our Division, now promoted to a Corps, doing a piece of work which most would shrink from undertaking.”
Campbell was awarded the DSO on New Year’s Day 1918. he continued in the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department following the end of the war and retired in 1932 from the Department. His travels after the war included promotion to Chaplain to the Forces, Class 2 and a period in the late 1920s serving in Malta.

Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Fanshawe said of Campbell, “”[D]evotion and perseverance in[the] burial of numerous dead in[the] Serre-Beaumont hamel area. A most arduous duty, the majority of the bodies being in [an] advanced state of putrefaction. between 5000 and 6000 bodies were buried during about 15 weeks. Only Mr. Campbell’s determination enabled him to perform the work; his assistants and working parties had frequently to be changed.”

Revd Edward Noel Mellish VC reported, “For six weeks he continued that noble work, labelling those identified and directing the burial of them all. Through this devoted work over 600 before marked ‘missing’ were certified as ‘killed in action’. imagine how dreadful and repulsive this work must have been to a sensitive man, yet he never shrank from it till at last, having nearly finished the task, he was taken ill and had to leave it to be completed by others. There is more true devotion in work such as this than much that is spectacular and applauded by the public.”