Warrior Welcome Home
Father Rob Sutherland, who is also an Australian Army padre, heads up this initiative, which enables us as a parish to assist men and women deployed on active service recover from Spiritual Wounds of Combat.
Here at St John’s we have a long and distinguished link to those who have fought in War. In the first two World Wars men were recruited from local areas. This meant that men fought alongside others they had usually grown up with or at least knew.
At the outbreak of WWI the local Battalion was the 18th. This unit fought with distinction from Gallipoli to Pozières. The Battalion Cross which stood at the cemetery at Contlemaison some 2kms south east of Pozières. At the end of hostilities this cross was brought back to Australia and placed in the chapel. The Battalion colours were also laid up.
At the outbreak of WWII the Battalion was reformed, and as it was the second time it was raised it was given the nomenclature 2/18. This unit fought with distinction in Malaya inflicting one of the first defeats on the Japanese.
The unit had to retire to Singapore where the men went into captivity with the fall of Singapore. The men were brought out of the camp to bury the dead from the battlefield and to de mine the area. They erected the second cross for the battalion members. At the conclusion of hostilities the cross was removed back to Australia and erected in the chapel.
A number of Rectors of the Parish have also served in the military either as chaplains, or in Father Keith Dalby’s case as a regular service member with the Royal Australian Navy as a Submariner. In 2019, Fr Keith was elevated to the post of Bishop of the Diocese of the Murray.
The longest serving Rector, Father Roy Wotton (1950-1979) served as an Army Chaplain in PNG in WW2. He personally buried some 400 diggers on the Kokoda Track. His Communion set which travelled with him on the Track is kept in the church.
Father Rob Sutherland CSC (2001-2004) was an Army Officer, and then later an Army Chaplain. Fr Rob has been to the Afghanistan and Bouganville among many other deployments as a Chaplain, and regular Army Officer. In 2014 Fr. Rob was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross (CSC) for his role as Chaplain and his pioneering work here in Australia investigating the Spiritual Wounds of Combat. Fr Rob is currently the Army Archdeacon for Australia.
Father Clive King AM who is the Archdeacon Emeritus for the Air Force is a member of the parish. Our current Rector, Father Robert Happer, served in the Royal Australian Air Force.
In 2007, just before the Federal Election the Chapel was dedicated to Defence Personnel in the presence of the Minister for Defence The Hon Brendan Nelson MP, and was conducted by Fr Rob Sutherland.
These strong links serve us well to assist in the Warrior Welcome Home ministry that is vital to our Defence Force Personnel.
The First warrior Welcome Home was held at Q Station Manly in September 2012, and had four participants, all Chaplains who had served in either Timor, Afghanistan or Iraq. The Second Warrior Welcome home was held in August 2014, and had eight participants. It is anticipated that this ministry will continue into the future. At the last Warrior Welcome Home Dinner the Parish Bp. Tom Frame launched the “Fr. Roy Wotton Fellowship.” This is to provide a burs ary to enable the further development of our knowledge and treatment options for the Spiritual Wounds of Combat. The Parish is also supporting Bp. Frame in his new role as the director of the newly formed Australian Centre for the Study of Armed Conflict and Society (ACSACS). We remain committed to supporting through prayer and the Warrior Welcome Home Programme the support of our Armed Services Personnel.