THE HALF-SHILLING CURATE: A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF WAR AND FAITH, 1914-1918, by Sarah Reay. Published by Helion and Company Ltd ( £25. Hardback.

AFFECTIONATELY known by his family as the ‘Half-Shilling Curate’, the Rev Herbert Butler Cowl is the subject of a book written by his granddaughter which tells the very personal story of his First World War experiences from Christmas Eve 1914 to the end of hostilities.
Drawing on the chaplain’s own personal writings and letters – all of which he signed ‘The Half-Shilling Curate’ – the author recalls the life of a man who volunteered at the outbreak of war to become a Wesleyan army chaplain. It follows Herbert’s journey with the Durham Light Infantry from his service at the Army Home Camp in Aldershot to the adventure and reality of Flanders on the Western Front near Armentières.
While serving at the front, his campaign was cut short when he suffered severe throat and facial wounds during a heavy enemy bombardment. During his journey back to England the hospital ship carrying him, HMHS Anglia, hit a German mine in the English Channel just four miles from Dover and as a result of Herbert’s actions on that fateful day he became one of the first Wesleyan army chaplains to receive the Military Cross.
Despite being wounded by the explosion, he dragged four buoyant life rafts across the ship’s deck and dropped them into the sea to save the lives of soldiers who were close to drowning. Then, as the stricken ship sank, he gave his own life jacket to a soldier, jumped into the sea and managed to swim to a small raft before being rescued by a patrol boat.