Subfonds 2 - Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the Second World War

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Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the Second World War


  • 1925-2020 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

The Irish Province of the Society of Jesus is the local branch of the Society of Jesus, one of the largest religious orders in the Catholic Church, was formed in 1860, having been a Vice-Province from 1830. When Fr Peter Kenney SJ, led the Jesuits back to Ireland in 1814 after the Suppression of the Society (1773-1814) his first action was to open a new school at Clongowes Wood College. In the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century the Order was associated with training Catholics to take on a leadership role in the emerging independent Ireland.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Deposited at the Irish Jesuit Archives from Irish Jesuit Provincialate.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Twenty-one Irish Jesuit chaplains served as chaplains in the Second World War in the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. Fr John Hayes SJ, who died of typhus on 28th December 1944, was the single casualty to the Irish Jesuit Province.

The papers of the Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the Second World War consist mainly of letters and telegrams from individual chaplains to the Irish Jesuit Provincial - Fr Laurence J. Kieran SJ was the Irish Provincial at the outbreak of the War and on 8 September 1941, Fr John R MacMahon SJ became Provincial. Also includes letters to Irish Father Provincial Laurence J. Kieran SJ from various Jesuits volunteering to become military chaplains (1 September 1939-7 April 1941); letters and telegrams from Monsignor John M. Coghlan (Principal Chaplain (R.C.) and Vicar General, British Army, War Office) seeking chaplains to serve in the forces and thanking Father Provincial for those he has offered (1941-1944); memoranda and lists (1942); volunteers’ letters (April 1941-July 1942); correspondence with the Royal Air Force (1941-1945); letters from newly appointed chaplains (1941); miscellaneous letters to Provincial (1941-1945).

1st four left Dublin, 26 May 1941: Richard Kennedy (Tertian); Michael Morrison (Tertian); Conor Naughton (Tertian); Cyril Perrott.
2nd batch, left 1 September 1941: John Burden; Leo Donnelly; John Hayes; Sydney Lennon; Conal Murphy.
9 September 1941: Fr Gerard Guinane.
29 December 1941: Fr Maurice Dowling.

Michael O’Mahoney (1905-1981), County Tipperary, part of the Australian province of the Society of Jesus, served as chaplain in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling

All items retained permanently.


System of arrangement

Papers of chaplains, and individual file number.
i. Fr Alan Birmingham SJ (1911-1991) J642
ii. Fr Matthias Bodkin SJ (1896-1973) J6
iii. Fr John Burden SJ (1907-1974) J76
iv. Fr Fergus Cronin SJ (1909-1990) J651
v. Fr Leo Donnelly SJ (1903-1999) J595
vi. Fr Maurice Dowling SJ (1896-1965) J729
vii. Fr Gerard Guinane SJ (1900-1971) J169
viii. Fr John Hayes SJ (1909-1945) No file
ix. Fr Laurence Kearns SJ (1912-1986) J199
x. Fr Richard Kennedy SJ (1906-1986) J216
xi. Fr Sydney Lennon SJ (1906-1979) J231
xii. Fr John Anthony MacSeumais SJ (1910-1989) J524
xiii. Fr Joseph MacSweeney SJ (1909-1982) J297
xiv. Fr Thomas J. Martin SJ (1907-1978) J242
xv. Fr Michael Morrison SJ (1908-1973) J256
xvi. Fr Conal Murphy SJ (1902-1979) J230
xvii. Fr Conor Naughton SJ (1907-1992) J512
xviii. Fr Michael O’Meara SJ (1909-1998) J610
xix. Fr Michael Pelly SJ (1907-1990) J20
xx. Fr Cyril Perrott SJ (1904-1952) No file
xxi. Fr Daniel Shields SJ (1898-1986) J404

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: [email protected]

Conditions governing reproduction

No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.

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Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Individual Jesuit files, for example, IE IJA/J6 - Fr Matthias Bodkin, SJ (1896-1973) may contain further material.

The National Archives, UK.

Archives of the British Jesuit Province

Related descriptions

Publication note

Irish Province News. 1925-1992.

Publication note

O'Connor, Steven. “Irish officers in the British armed forces, 1921 -1950', PhD Thesis, University College Dublin, 2012.

Publication note

Ryan, Fr. Thomas SJ. “Jesuits Under Fire in the Siege of Hong Kong, 1941”. Dublin: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1944.

Publication note

Interfuse, No. 41, Special Edition ‘Between the Lines’ devoted to the experiences of all 21 chaplains during the War, February 1986.

Publication note

Dempsey, Martin, 'The priest among the soldiers', London, 1947.

Notes area


ADS Advanced Dressing Station
AGRA Army Group Royal Artillery
BAOR British Army of the Rhine
BDS Beach Dressing Station
BFCU British Field Censorship Unit
BLA [British Liberation Army ?]
BNAF British North Africa Force
CMF Central Mediterranean Force
CMH Combined Military Hospital
CRE [Commander Royal Engineers]
DC-G Deputy Chaplain General
DLA Durham Light Infantry
Fd. Coy. RE [Field Company, Royal Engineers]
HAA Regt. Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment
KOSB King’s Own Scottish Borders
LAA Regt. Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
LCU Lines of Communication Unit
MEF Middle East Forces
PAIFORCE Persian and Iraq Force
RA Royal Artillery
RAC Royal Armoured Corps
RMP Royal Military Police

SEAC South East Asia Command
SCF (RC) Senior Chaplain (Roman Catholic)

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Dates of creation revision deletion

1998, 2014, 2020




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