Were there chaplains for the soldiers to talk to during World War 1?
Oh, yes. Every army had chaplains. Somebody wrote a letter to the London Times pointing out that this put God in rather an awkward position.
However. You'll probably get lots of US answers, so I'll talk about the British side.
Every unit had a Church of England chaplain, since England has an Established Church and everybody is assumed to belong to it unless they claim otherwise. There were, however, also Ctholic, Free Church and Jewish chaplains as well.
Some of the chaplains became very famous, especially two, Tubby Clayton and G.A.Studdert Kennedy, known as 'Woodbine Willie'.
Studdert Kennedy was a poet as well as a Chaplain, and wrote a memorable volume of 'trench verses' while going up and down the line handing out advice, comfort and free cigarettes (Wills' Wild Woodbine brand, the soldier's friend). Here is his obituary from TIME (1929):
Died. Rev. Geoffrey Anketell ("Wood-bine Willie") Studdert-Kennedy, 46, of London, famed & beloved Wartime chaplain, champion of workingmen, author (Food for the Fed-Up, The Warrior, The Woman and the Christ), rector of St. Edmund's, London; of influenza; in Liverpool. "Woodbine Willie" personally gave away 8,750,000 Woodbine cigarets to soldiers. As one of 15 Court Chaplains he preached to King George V at Buckingham Palace. He slept there, and under hedges with tramps. Visiting the U. S. often, he delivered his tirades against social conditions. The most famed "Woodbine Willie" stories tells of his interruption of an English wire-cutting party near German trenches on a murky night.
"Who are you?" hissed a cutter.
"What the hell is the church doing out here?"
WASTE of Muscle, waste of Brain, Waste of Patience, waste of Pain, Waste of Manhood, waste of Health, Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears, Waste of Youth's most precious years, Waste of ways the Saints have trod, Waste of Glory, waste of God,-- War!
WHEN Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged Him on a tree, They drave great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary; They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep, For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham they simply passed Him by, They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die; For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain, They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do," And still it rained the wintry rain that drenched Him through and through; The crowds went home and left the streets without a soul to see, And Jesus crouched against a wall and cried for Calvary.
SOLOMON IN ALL HIS GLORY
STILL I see them coming, coming In their ragged broken line, Walking wounded in the sunlight, Clothed in majesty divine.
For the fairest of the lilies, That God's summer ever sees, Ne'er was clothed in royal beauty Such as decks the least of these.
Tattered, torn, and bloody khaki, Gleams of white flesh in the sun, Raiment worthy of their beauty And the great things they have done.
Purple robes and snowy linen Have for earthly kings sufficed, But these bloody sweaty tatters Were the robes of Jesus Christ.
As for Tubby Clayton, :
Who's Who: Tubby ClaytonUpdated - Wednesday, 26 December, 2001
Philip Thomas Byard Clayton (1885-1972), popularly known as 'Tubby' Clayton, served as a priest during the First World War, and opened and maintained a place of rest near Ypres, an Everyman's Club, much frequented by officers and men alike.
Tubby Clayton was born in Queensland on 12 December 1885 to an English family. Returning to England with his family at the age of two, Clayton was educated at St. Paul's School in London and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied theology (graduating with a First).
Having taken up a position as curate to St. Mary's Portsea in 1910, Clayton travelled to France in early 1915 as an army chaplain having determined to serve his country in the new war.
Once in France Clayton was approached by the British Sixth Division's senior chaplain, Neville Talbot, with the idea of establishing a rest house for serving soldiers near the fierce battleground of Ypres in Flanders.
Clayton agreed, and Talbot House - named in honour of Neville Talbot's dead brother Gilbert (killed at Hooge) - was opened on 11 December 1915 in Poperinghe, quickly becoming popularly known as 'Toc H' (with Poperinghe becoming 'Pop').
Notices were posted throughout Talbot House instructing soldiers to leave their rank at the door when they entered; all were treated equally by the humane, energetic, rotund Clayton.
With the end of the war Clayton returned to London. In 1920 he established a new Talbot House, in London, to rekindle the fellowship created in Flanders; it inevitably became popular with old soldiers, many of whom he helped to become ordained in the church following promises made during the war. This building subsequently became the headquarters of the famous 'Toc H' organisation, which continues to this day.
In 1922 Clayton was asked to take up a position as curate of Vicar of All Hallows-by-the-Tower; he remained vicar of All Hallows for the following forty years, living in nearby Tower Hill for the remainder of his life.
Ten years later, in 1932, Clayton sailed to West Africa where he experienced leper colonies at first hand. Much moved with his experience of these, Clayton rapidly organised a group of 50 volunteers willing to devote five years of unpaid work with lepers. Ultimately �250,000 was raised on behalf of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association.
With war renewed in 1939, Clayton established a new Toc H club in 1940 at Scapa Flow (in the Orkneys). The following year he was appointed naval chaplain to the Anglo-Iranian Line, spending much of the war at sea.
Returning to All Hallows after the war, Clayton attended to the church's rebuilding (it had been heavily bombed during the war), raising funds for the task by travelling the world. While fundraising in the U.S. in 1947 Clayton established the Winant Volunteers Scheme, which helped American students to travel to Britain to work in youth clubs and in summer camps.
Clayton stepped down as vicar of All Hallows in 1962, but remained active in the growing Toc H movement, and continued living in Tower Hill. He died at the age of 87 in December 1972.
The original Talbot House, in Poperinghe, doubles now as a museum (detailing the history of the Talbot House during both world wars) and as a hostel for visitors. The 'Pool of Peace' - a lake created by one of the 19 mines exploded by the British signalling the start of the Battle of Messines, is also owned and maintained by the Toc H movement, also near Ypres.