Charles Campling – a pastor in the trenches

Soldier’s name : Charles Campling

Descendent : Susan Dawson

Susan Dawson is the founder and chairperson of Phibsborough Village Tidy Towns (PVTT), an active community group for this important North Dublin city area. As well as tidy ups and flower planting, PVTT organises biodiversity and cultural events, such as a Bloomsday reading in the local library.

Susan is also active with the church, both with All Saints Church of Ireland in Grangegorman and as a lay Presbyterian pastor for the hospital service.

In this role, she is following in the tradition of her father, who is still an active chaplain in his 90s, and her grandfather, whose experience and war time diaries have inspired his family, not least in the creation of a powerful and moving musical oratorio.

Your own name: Susan Dawson

Your relative: Grandfather, Canon William Charles Campling

Period of activity: World War One September- November 1918

Specific regiment: Served as Chaplain to the Essex Regiment and the 11th Somerset Light Infantry of the British Forces

Areas served in: Belgium and France.
11th Corps HQ was at Busnes, northwest of Bethune
Joined his two units on the south bank of Lys, 18 miles west of Lille. His war ended on the Belgium border on the banks of the river Scheldt or Escaut, north of Tourai.

Did you have much contact with him?

Yes, we would visit him regularly during my childhood. He died when I was 15 years old. He never spoke of his wartime experiences and no one knew of the existence of his diaries until after he died.

What are your most striking memories of him?

He was very tall, 6’6”, very deaf and quiet. I remember staying with him and granny when he was retired and living in Rousham, Oxfordshire.

I slept in a small camp bed beside his big single bed. My granny slept in a different room. It was decided that I would sleep in his room because he would not hear me, and my granny was a light sleeper and easily disturbed. I am not sure why they would think I would make a disturbance at night time!

Where is he buried?

In Pershore, Worcestershire. UK He was born 1887 and died 1973

Do you have any mementos of him?

I have a photo of him in his army uniform and a small glass dog ornament that belonged to him, copies of small leaflets of prayers he wrote (pictured above) and a copy of his diary. His diary can be obtained on line –

My brother, Andrew Campling composed an oratorio for narrator, tenor solo, choir (SATB) and orchestra inspired by grandfather’s WW1 diaries. ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’.

The oratorio was performed in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin 7th November 2015. The concert was in aid of Focus Ireland.
Three choirs–
Dublin Bach Singers, Musical Director Blanaid Murphy
Dublin Airport Singers – Musical Director Paul Deegan
London Dockland Singers – Musical Director Andrew Campling.
The orchestra were Dublin based musicians.
Narrator – Bryan Murray

More details here:
Phibsboro Village Tidy Towns – Phizzfest

Complete recording here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: