Serra Council of Australia New Zealand and the South Pacific

WW1 Chaplains - Bergin

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References

MICHAEL BERGIN (1879 – 1917)

Michael Bergin (1879 - 1917)Jesuit priest and military chaplain, Michael Bergin, was born in August 1879 in Tipperary, Ireland. The son of a mill-owner, he entered the Jesuit noviceship in September 1897 and was sent to utilise his English-speaking skills in the Syrian Mission in 1899. Returning to the Middle East in January 1914, he was placed in charge of Catholic schools near Damascus until the outbreak of the First World War. Imprisoned, along with other foreigners, and expelled by the Turkish government, he reached the French Jesuit College in Cairo in January 1915 where the first Australian troops in Egypt had arrived.

Through his experience of the Australian troops, he offered to informally assist the Catholic military chaplains in their work. Although still a civilian, he was dressed in the uniform of a private in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) by the men of the 5th Light Horse Brigade and departed with them for Gallipoli. Sharing intimately in the hardships of the troops, he acted as priest and stretcher-bearer until his official appointment as AIF chaplain was approved on the 13th May 1915. He remained at Anzac Cove until September, when he fell ill with typhoid fever and was evacuated to Britain. He later returned to Lemnos but was pronounced unfit and subsequently confined to serving in hospitals and medical ships. He was evacuated to Alexandria in January 1916 where he continued to work in camps and hospitals in Egypt.

Re-joining the 51st Battalion in April 1916 at Tel-el-Kebir, he accompanied his men to France and served as chaplain in all their actions during the period of 1916-17. These actions included the battles of Poziers, Mouquet Farm, and Messines, and the advance on the Hindenburg Line. During the Battle of Passchendaele, on the 11th October 1917, he was killed when a heavy shell exploded near the aid post where he was presently engaged. His heroic efforts during his military service earned him a posthumous award of the Military Cross - the award citation praising his “unostentatious but magnificent zeal and courage”.  Although he has never seen Australia, he was deeply admired by thousands of Australian soldiers and has been referred to as “a man made great through the complete subordination of self”. He is buried in the village churchyard at Renninghelst, Belgium.

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References

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