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Faith in the Furnace: British Christians in the Armed Services, 1939-1945

BROOM, JOHN (2018) Faith in the Furnace: British Christians in the Armed Services, 1939-1945. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Many historians have sought to portray the World Wars of the twentieth century as drivers of secularisation in Great Britain. Much of this analysis has been based on an over-reliance on religious statistics, typically those relating to churchgoing. More recently, greater focus has been brought to bear on other manifestations of Christian belief and practice in British society, with some historians focussing on the impact of warfare on religious faith on the home front or in the British Army. To date, no wider, in-depth study of the religious experiences of men and women across the armed services, who considered themselves to be active Christians, that is pre-war church members and regular attenders, has been undertaken. This study argues the British armed forces during the Second World War was a milieu within which Christian faith could flourish. This was supported by the provision of effective chaplaincy services, as well as by service personnel developing their own modes of devotion and worship. Although, initially, not always fitting comfortably into a military environment, Christians were able to develop new aspects of their identity as warriors, identities that were informed and underpinned by their religious convictions. The resilience of pre-war faith, as expressed through frequent use of the Bible, hymnody and prayer, enabled them to mediate the ethical and moral challenges of warfare, and to emerge from the war with a strengthened faith. Ultimately, this study challenges existing notions of a slump in faith during the war years and positions itself within a growing historiography that acknowledges the continued and renewed importance of religious faith for millions of Britons during this period. It also suggests that this recasting of faith helps to account for the religious revival in 1950s Britain, therefore challenging recent narratives of this being a decade of religious torpor and decay.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Christianity, Religion, Second World War, Faith, British Army, Royal Navy, Military, Royal Air Force, Faith, Churches, National Identity, Prayer, Bible, Hymnody, Ethics, Morality, Chaplain
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2018
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:05 Jul 2018 14:50

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