A HEREFORDSHIRE clergyman’s courageous wartime work has remained untold for more than 70 years until now.

A well-known vicar at Fownhope and Kington, and later as rector in Whitbourne, the late Rev Preb Rowland Chignell’s daring efforts during the Second World War were known only to his close family. Now the story of Chig, as he was affectionately known, is told in a new book by his long-time friend, the Rev Preb Mike Vockins.

After Mr Chignell’s death in 1994, the author was asked to look through his personal papers. As a result, a bundle of 84 letters came to light giving details of the young vicar’s work as army chaplain to the Glider Pilot Regiment known for its ‘flying coffins’.

Letters home to his father, the Rev George Chignell only ceased in September 1944 when the 35-year-old priest instead despatched a detailed diary dealing with the historic Arnhem campaign. Chig was Mentioned in Despatches, an unusual attainment for a chaplain, and a recognition he received again when the Glider Pilot Regiment later served later in Palestine.

His brave contributions to the war effort remained virtually a secret for many years. Even his parishioners knew little of this chapter of their vicar’s life. It was a surprise to Mr Vockins, who discovered the letters and an eight-page diary.

“It proved amazing reading,” said Mr Vockins who felt his friend’s writings deserved a wider audience. These can be read in Chig. Sky Pilot to the Glider Pilots of Arnhem, published by military history specialists, Helion & Company Ltd.

“His father, George had shared those wartime letters, which begin in the early months of the Second World War, by which time Chig was the newly appointed and newly married vicar of the rural parishes of Cressage and Sheinton, with other members of the family,” said Mr Vockins. After the war, the letters were returned to Chig.

Before volunteering for the Parachute Regiment, he had encouraged parishioners in the Dig for Victory campaign, as well as setting up a pig club and keeping hens to help with the war effort.

A searchlight battery based in a neighbouring village led him to take on extra duties as visiting chaplain, then he bravely volunteered as an army chaplain, known in the services as ‘sky pilots’.

“In September 1944, the letters ceased and were replaced by eight pages of foolscap,” said Mr Vockins.

“Understandably, the correspondence changes tenor and, as far as wartime security allowed, Chig tells his father of the preparations for D-Day and then of Operation Market Garden: the Arnhem landings.”

After the war, Chig was to be a popular and highly regarded vicar at Fownhope and in Kington before being appointed rector at Whitbourne where he eventually retired. He remained a keen cricketer, becoming the Worcestershire club’s honorary statistician and from 1978 – 1980 its president.

*Chig is available at Food for All in Bromyard, Waterstones in Hereford or from the publishers at www.helion.co.uk