Arthur Stafford Crawley was Canon of Windsor from 1934 until his death in 1948. Amongst the papers that are housed in St George’s Chapel Archives, there is an extensive correspondence between Crawley and his wife, Anstice, written whilst he was in France serving as an army chaplain from 1915 to autumn 1917. These letters hold a wealth of information about what life was like for him on the front line as a Chaplain serving the soldiers and as a man missing his family and struggling with the conditions.
Crawley wrote to his wife almost every day, and sometimes more than once a day. He spent most of his time visiting different troops who were always happy to have a visitor. He tries to give services where he can with his busiest times being around Christmas and Easter. In his letter on 28th December 1916, he writes that he will be taking a service every morning that week and on Good Friday in 1917 he took three services in one day (M.126/F/413, M.126/F/493 & 493). He cares for the men practically too and his letters are full of worries and concerns about the long hours and terrible weather the soldiers work in.
The stories Crawley tells his wife about people he has just met exemplify his caring nature. He tells of one occasion when he shared a train carriage with two newly trained flying officers. They had come from the far north of Scotland and had travelled for a week before even reaching France (M.126/F/486). Another such example was a Gunner he met on a boat who had been recalled to the Front after only one night back home with his wife and child (M.126/F/484). Crawley cared enough to ask these people their stories. Although he does not record their names he retained details about them, details he felt worth remembering and sharing. Details, one imagines, he would have remembered after they had parted and the Gunner and flying officers went to fight and possibly make the ultimate sacrifice.
As well as seeing Crawley’s caring nature for the soldiers as Army Chaplain, it is easy to see the father and husband in him. In most letters the last page has nothing to do with the war or what he’s been doing but rather is about the family. Whether he’s sending thanks to one of his children for their letter or advising about potato planting or just sending his love and saying how much he misses them, it is always present. Of particular interest was the difference between a letter written on the 14th March 1917 and one on the 28th. Between the sending of these two letters Crawley had been home for 10 days leave. His excitement about coming home had led to him sending almost the exact same plans and concerns for his leave in three consecutive letters. This contrasts with his complete sadness about having to say goodbye after the ‘perfect happiness’ he has enjoyed with his wife and children (M.126/F/483). The interesting nature of Crawley’s letters and the information they contain leave you wanting to know more of his time there. But more so, the caring nature of the man himself endears you to him and leaves you wanting to know how the rest of his family is and when he is going to receive another letter from them.
Hannah Pomeroy, work experience student