Entertainment Book Reviews

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Father Browne at the Front

Published 17/08/2014 | 02:30

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Father Browne, left, in British army uniform

Best known for the photographs he took on the Titanic, not many people know that Jesuit priest Fr Frank Browne went on to serve with great distinction during the Great War.

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Joining the British army as a chaplain in 1916, he served for most of the war with the Irish Guards, ministering to the troops at the Somme, Messines Ridge, Passchendaele, Ypres, Amiens and Arras.

Determined to stay at the front with his men, he was wounded five times, starting with a broken jaw in 1916, and was gassed in 1918. Each time he returned to war as soon as his senior officers would let him. His commanding officer described Fr Browne as "the bravest man I ever met".

He was awarded the Military Cross with Bar, the Belgian Croix de Guerre (First Class), and the French Croix de Guerre (with Palm).

Father Browne died in 1960 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. It is estimated that he took over 42,000 photographs in his lifetime. His forgotten collection of negatives was discovered by chance in a tin trunk by Father Eddie O'Donnell SJ in 1986.

Fr O'Donnell has already produced a number of books of Fr Browne's pictures and the latest is a fascinating account of Fr Browne's war experiences. Brought vividly to life with extracts from his letters this is a unique window into the war through Fr Browne's eyes. The book is illustrated throughout with photographs Fr Browne took during the war, some of which can be seen on these pages.

Father Browne's First World War is published by Messenger Publications at €19.99

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