Shards of stained glass found in the ruins of churches on the battlefields of the Somme, carefully gathered and carried back to Canberra in 1918, now form two windows in Canberra’s oldest building. Their rescuer, Captain Frederick Greenfield Ward, had witnessed firsthand the destruction of churches in the villages of Doignes, Flers, Beugny and Bapaume.
Reverend Ward was the incumbent minister of St John’s at the outbreak of war and knew many of the Duntroon cadets who attended his services. He enlisted in October 1915 and sailed on the transport ship Beltana for Egypt. In June 1916 he embarked for France and as Chaplain to the 30th Battalion his duties would have been onerous, particularly when the battalion came under fire. He was continually requisitioned by Brigade Headquarters to read burial services, in different locations and in all sorts of weather. He kept up the morale of the troops, provided spiritual guidance and comforted the wounded and sick. Throughout the freezing winter of 1916–17 he was instrumental in administering kitchens providing hot soup and drinks to the men, even when he was under heavy fire.
His service file states his actions were recognised by Sir Douglas Haig with a Mention in Despatches in March 1917 for his work at Waterlot Park during November and December 1916. His later work at Delville Wood, Bapaume and Bugny was recognised the following September with the award of the Military Cross. The citation in part reads ‘although under heavy shell fire he never failed in administering to the comfort of the troops ... The untiring energy and devotion to duty displayed by this Officer during the winter campaign in the Somme, won for him the admiration of all ranks’.
In ill health he was evacuated to England in May 1917 and following surgery he was invalided home and discharged from the army in January 1918.
St John’s is evocative of an English country church, with its lych-gate and beautifully maintained graveyard, but there is a poignant reminder of France and all it suffered in the gift of Reverend Ward’s two small windows.