The RAF's first reservist chaplain: Revd Dr Giles Legood

Giles Legood

‘I realised that some of the skills and experiences I had might be applicable in another sector – in a school, a prison or a hospital, or in armed forces’ chaplaincy. That’s to say, I particularly enjoyed working with people who didn’t much go to church, or who perhaps would never meet a member of the clergy.’

The Revd Dr (Wing Commander) Giles Legood AKC MBE (Theology & Religious Studies, 1988) had served as chaplain at the Royal Veterinary College for 12 years before he found himself hungry for a new challenge.

St Clement Danes to Iraq

Having covered at St Clement Danes, the RAF church on the Strand, Padre Legood chose to become the Royal Air Force's first-ever reservist chaplain.

In December 2007 he became a full-time chaplain before he was then stationed in Basra, Iraq, eight months later. During his second tour in 2013, he became hospital chaplain at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.

‘I’d started my ministry in a 13th century church in leafy Hertfordshire and now I was in a canvas tent in the sand, the organ was an iPod docking station and our singing was often drowned out by the helicopters flying overhead,’ says Padre Legood. ‘Part of my job was to act as a reassuring presence for the staff, to chat with them after the patients went into the emergency department or operating theatre. Many of them were young and on their first deployment, and they were experiencing things you might never see in a civilian A&E department.’

A difficult job

Every day there was the constant threat of enemy attack. ‘There were rocket attacks on both bases while I was there and I’ve been under small arms fire,’ he says. ‘One of the most difficult things is standing alongside people who have just lost comrades. When you are standing alongside a dead soldier, you’re thinking there’s someone in another part of the world whose life is about to be turned upside down. In the next few hours they’ll be given the news that they dread most.’

Now stationed at RAF High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire and appointed MBE for service to staff, the wounded and bereaved, Padre Legood maintains that the role of a chaplain in the grim reality of warfare is to listen and offer prayer.

‘There are no easy platitudes, and you’d be a fool to say you have a nice slick answer for these frankly horrific conditions, where you’ve seen the very worst of what humanity can do. When people say, “This is bloody awful, isn’t it?” you say, “Yes it is.” And when they want someone to be vulnerable with and to cry with, to be silent with, you can be there.’

If you've been impressed by the valour of Padre Legood, you can carry on reading about another inspiring alumnus.

Article published: April, 2015

 

 

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