Battle centenary book reveals bravery of wartime chaplain

Chaplain Maurice Peel - courtesy of the Peel Society
Chaplain Maurice Peel - courtesy of the Peel Society

The centenary of a battle is commemorated in a new book which reveals the bravery of a vicar of Wrestlingworth and Eyeworth churches.

The book entitled ‘Bullecourt 1917: Breaching the Hindenburg Line’, by Paul Kendall has just been published by The History Press to coincide with the centenary of this battle.

Wartime chaplain, The Honourable Maurice Peel, was killed in the Battle for Bullecourt in France on May 14, 1917, when he was attached to the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Peel, who was born in London in 1873 was the son of Arthur Wellesley Peel, the First Viscount Peel and a former Speaker of the House of Commons, and his grandfather was Sir Robert Peel, Prime Minister and founder of the Metropolitan Police Force.

The book tells the stories of the fierce battles fought by three British and three Australian Divisions to pierce the formidable defences of the Hindenburg Line at Bullecourt which had been transformed into a fortress.

Peel chose the church as a vocation and after ordination in 1899 he worked for a short time in the East End slums in Bethnal Green, before becoming vicar of Wrestlingworth and Eyeworth. Later as vicar at Beckenham he enlisted as a chaplain and within six months was awarded the Military Cross.

Peel spent his time helping the wounded and dying on the battlefield and was shot himself in 1915 and evacuated back to England.

But he returned to the war in 1917 to join the 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers who were fighting for control of Bullecourt. It was while he was carrying wounded man near the church that he was fatally wounded himself. Chaplain Maurice Peel’s remains were eventually recovered after the battle and his body was laid to rest in Quéant Road Cemetery.

Read the full story of his bravery in the book, available from Amazon.