An island-hopping chaplain

Fr Kevin Dow, a priest of our Archdiocese, is currently serving as Commissioned Chaplain in the Army. He recently paid a pastoral visit to troops based in the Falkland Islands and sent us this report...

Anyone who has made the journey to the Falkland Islands knows that it is not a simple hop, skip and a jump away.

It involves 17 hours' flying with a two hour stop-over in the Ascension Islands (basically two days out the diary each way!).

A full schedule had been put together including a briefing and tour on the soldiers' role as the Falkland Islands Roulement Infantry Company (FIRIC).

Day 1

I joined Padre Al Nicoll, the deputy Chaplain in Chief of the RAF who is equal in rank to a 1 star General and is also a Baptist Minister whose last church was in Anstruther, along with Padre Neil Galloway RAF, a Catholic Permanent Deacon who originally hails from Dundee, on a pastoral visit to HMS Medway.

Fr Kevin, second from right, aboard the HMS Medway.

It was my first time onboard one of His Majesty’s Ships and all stops were pulled out for the visit (the joys of being with a 1 star General!)

We were given a tour of the ship and a chance to meet with the crew to get a feel for how life in the Royal Navy is compared to the Army and RAF.

As part of the FIRIC, members of my unit had spent some time on board the vessel protecting the Island communities and had a great experience trying out new military tactics and so this gave me an opportunity to thank them for looking after my people.

Day 2

I got to jump on board a helicopter and flew across the Islands to Johnson’s Harbour.

We visited one of the foot patrols that the Roulement Infantry Company were providing, fulfilling a childhood dream and bringing a grin from ear to ear!

P-P-Pick up a Padre: Fr Kevin in The Falklands and some native penguins.

There may or may not have been a few thousand penguins seen during this part of the visit, with a walk along the shore to Volunteer Point to meet the rest of the foot patrol.

Plenty of photos were taken of King Penguins, Gentoo Penguins and Magellanic Penguins, along with a seal who thought that the senior officer present was a giant penguin and was looking to eat him!

Day 3

The third day of the visit was to Onion Ranges, located in 'No Man’s Land' to watch live firing section attacks.

Experiencing live firing section attacks. 

A long drive in a rickety Landrover - held together with tape and socks - saw me adorned in full body armour.

I observed infantrymen in their element – who knew grenades made such a loud bang!

Fr Kevin leads a Service of Remembrance for troops.

A short Service of Remembrance was held under the freshly restored Cap Badge, for those who had died during and following the Falkland’s conflict.

At the end of the official visit, the extreme South Atlantic weather decided that things were not to go smoothly on the return trip.

That meant a few extra days on the island, which gave me the opportunity to lose a few pennies at the Officers' Mess race night, and plenty of time for more pastoral conversations with my soldiers and prayer in the chapel dedicated to a son of our Archdiocese, St Cuthbert.

Please remember Service Personnel in your prayers, particularly as we approach Remembrance Day on 11 November, and pray for those who minister to them wherever they may be called to serve.