National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Reverend Ryan’s Trunk

By Georgie Fell, Registrar

This interesting item recently came into the collection via donation from a gentleman who had previously bought it at auction. It is a trunk containing the worldly possessions of the Reverend Maurice J Ryan who served as an Army chaplain in Malaya. Little is known about Reverend Ryan, except that he was Catholic CMT chaplain at Papakura camp before being despatched to Malaya in November 1958.

Known colloquially to troops as “Padre”, Army chaplains perform many varied and challenging duties. The chaplain is largely responsible for unit morale and in addition to comforting the wounded and dying, the chaplain is also required to officiate at burials. In times of war and conflict, the chaplain made the official identification of the body, removed the soldier’s identity discs, and collected all personal belongings from their pockets. According to J. Byrant Haigh, author of ‘Men of Faith & Courage’, it was also “often the chaplain’s responsibility to place a tin (or shellcase) containing all particulars in the grave. Then, to assist the Graves Registration unit, he had to give a six-figure map reference for the grave and supply a sketch map of the locality!” this is all in addition to conducting Divine Worship services.