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Anglicans and Aviators: The First World War and the Forgotten Origins of Royal Air Force Chaplaincy

Rance, Eleanor and Snape, Michael (2021) 'Anglicans and Aviators: The First World War and the Forgotten Origins of Royal Air Force Chaplaincy.', Journal of Religious History, 45 (2). pp. 257-279.


Nineteen-eighteen saw the formation of the world’s first independent air force, and the inauguration of the first independent chaplaincy organisation devoted to military aviation. However, the neglected creation of the Chaplains’ Branch of the Royal Air Force towards the end of the First World War represents far more than just a minor footnote in the institutional history of Britain’s armed forces. The circumstances of its creation, which occurred just as the German sociologist Max Weber was identifying scientific progress as driving the ineluctable ‘disenchantment of the world’, not only belied this famous sociological maxim in the highly technological and supremely modern context of aerial warfare but also demonstrated the competence of Anglican chaplaincy methods and the resilience of British ‘Christendom’ in the context of a war which is widely perceived as having exposed and exacerbated the weaknesses of both.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Religious History published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Religious History Association. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:02 November 2020
Date deposited:22 February 2021
Date of first online publication:06 May 2021
Date first made open access:20 May 2021

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