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W.H. BADDELEY, LORD BISHOP of MELANESIA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, WW 2

The Air Mail letter was sent with the orange ½d ‘Kangaroo’ and the purple 5d ‘Merino sheep’ stamps cancelled with a wavy lines roller postmark of ADELAIDE/ 430AM/ 11 MCH/ 1942/ SOUTH AUST. It was handstamped with a purple 3/ PASSED BY CENSOR and it was addressed to The Right Rev. The Lord Bishop of Melanesia, Box 3416 R, G.P.O. Sydney and the address was crossed out with a red crayon and readdressed in red to ‘British Solomon Islands’ . It had a purple handstamp of the ‘Pointed Finger’ type with a RETURN TO SENDER/ SEE BACK’ as well as a 2-lined purple ‘NOT TRANSMISSIBLE/ SERVICE SUSPENDED’. The destination for the Sydney G.P.O. is shown on the reverse (Figures 1, 1A).

The original place addressed is seen as a purple handstamp at upper left as a 4-line ‘From the/ Melanesian Mission/ [the building is largely illegible]/ 16-20 Bridge Street, SYDNEY, N.S.W. and there is a boxed black roller reception postmark SYDNEY/ 8 8MAR/1942/ N.S.W./ AUST. Because of the WW2 Japanese invasion of the Solomon Islands the letter could not be delivered and it was sent back to Australia as shown by the red DEAD LETTER OFFICE/ 7 JY 42/ BRISBANE and another purple ‘Pointed Finger with RETURN TO SENDER’ was applied. The sender was the addressee’s wife Mrs. Baddeley (with uncertain initials), 82 Hill St., North Adelaide (Figures 2, 2A, 2B, 2C).

Walter Hubert Baddeley, the anglican priest and future Bishop of Melanesia, has been described as ‘The Right Man in the Right Place at the Right Time’, a truly fitting accolade, and he was also known as the ‘Fighting Bishop’. He was born on 22 March 1894 at Portslave-by-Sea, Hove, Sussex, and he came from relatively humble origin for his father Walter Smith Baddeley was a grocer-shopkeeper in Sussex. The future Bishop was educated at Keble College, Oxford and Cuddesdon Theological College. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1921, after which he served as both curate and vicar in the Diocese of York, England. He has a well documented biography for his 65 years, by the time of his death in 1960. He was always known as Hubert by his family members, whereas he was known as Walter, the Bishop of Melanesia, a wide sweep of islands in the Pacific Ocean. The vast Diocese was 90,000 square miles in extent, mostly water.

From July 1915 to 1919 he served with the Royal Sussex and the East Surrey regiments as a major and acting lieutenant-colonel in WWI, and in July 1916 he was at the battle of the Somme. In May 1917 he was mentioned in despatches 4 times. In August1917 he won the Military Cross at Arras, and in June 1918 he was awarded a Military Cross and bar at St. Quintin. In June 1918 he was a major in the 8th battalion Royal Surrey regiment. In 1919 he received the DSO and bar, and he retired from the army in April 1919, returning to his studies at Oxford University in September of that year, becoming President of the Oxford University Archeological Society. Between 1921 and 1932 he held several sequential positions as vicar, curate and proctor throughout England. He was elevated to the 7th Bishop of Melanesia in 1932-1947 replacing Frederick M. Molyneux after the latter’s resignation and he was inducted into that position in New Zealand. His consecration took place in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Parnell, New Zealand, on St. Andrew’s Day.

He married Mary Katharine Thomas on 13 November 1935 at the Adelaide Cathedral, South Australia, the younger daughter of two, the second child of three, of the Right Reverend Arthur Nutter Thomas, the 4th Bishop of Adelaide, who performed the marriage. Mary Katharine was born in South Australia on 16 August 1910 and, after his death she retired in 1975 to Adelaide. They had two children, the first a son, Reverend Martin Baddeley on 10 November 1936, the first white child born in the Solomon Islands and daughter Bridget Baddeley on 6 December 1940 who was also born in the Solomon Islands.

An obituary was published on the Late Right Reverend W. H. Baddeley D.S.O., M.C., D.D., M.A. Std., Bishop of Melanesia (1932-1947) by Archdeacon Harry V.C. Reynolds which was devoted to his missionary work during and post-WW2, but I will only record his efforts during WW2 pertaining to his help to the indigenous population in the Solomon Islands as well as the allied troops of Australasia and the U.S.A.

Soon after his appointment as Bishop, the Pacific War came to the very shores of Melanesia, and Baddeley had to make vital and difficult decisions, which he made with both faith and courage. His influence was considerable with the Administration and the Resident Commissioner was his personal friend who turned to him for advice and counsel. Bishop Baddeley's famous reply has become historic: "I'm staying", when his position in Florida Island in the Solomon Islands was over-run by Japanese troops . They were words of strength when strength was needed.

The year 1943 brought the arrival of both the Americans and New Zealanders, and his happy liaison with the Allied troops meant much to all. His 1914-1918 war record name was a byword among the troops. In his little leaf hut at Taroaniara he entertained hundreds of Navy officers and men, and he was a much-sought-after speaker on the scores of naval vessels that came in and out of Port Purvis, Taroaniara. After the arrival of the N.Z. troops, he spoke at five great open-air services as well as conducting a Confirmation Service.

Peace came once again to the Islands, and his base ship M.V. Southern Cross VII returned from her years of war service. He was anxious that she should be returned without delay, after refitting and painting. It was amazing what the Bishop did in the following eighteen months with unbounded enthusiasm, the tired man that he was, he was ceaseless in all his travels, especially to the outer islands that had been cut off for years. He went to New Britain, which had suffered so severely, where two priests, John Barge and Bernard Moore, gave their lives. Wherever he went his aim was to repair the breeches and rebuild the waste places. For years he had been separated from his wife and family, for from early 1942, they had been sent to the safety of Adelaide, South Australia. An early as well as a later photo of Bishop Baddeley are seen in Figures 3 and 4.

In 1944-45 he spent 11 weeks in the USA, lecturing on his life in Melanesia during the war. He was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity at Columbia University in New York, and he was written up in the Times Magazine dated Dec 4, 1944 as follows: "Columbia University last week gave an Anglican Bishop from the South Seas an honorary degree (Doctor of Sacred Theology) for outstanding service in the task of winning this war".

"The Bishop was Melanesia's Walter Hubert Baddeley, now homeward bound to England after twelve years in the South Pacific. To get around his thousand-island see, he has sailed some 23,000 miles a year in his 300-ton ship, The Southern Cross".

"Bishop Baddeley's war service has been to keep his natives loyal to Britain and the U.S. Military officials, grateful for the way islanders have helped beat the Jap and rescued many a U.S. serviceman, give full marks to the Anglican Church's 96 years of work in the islands. When the Japanese invaded Florida Island, (the Bishop wished that the name, Gela Island be used) [in the Solomon Islands, north of Guadalcanal], the Bishop and his charges took to the jungle, lived "like rabbits" until the Japanese had been routed. New Yorkers had never seen the tall, blue-eyed Bishop before last week. But many a U.S. serviceman in the Solomons counts him a friend. As soon as the Japanese had been driven from Florida Island, the Bishop returned, opened a new episcopal palace, a leaf hut built on the ruined foundation of the mission warehouse. There he kept open house for servicemen. The No. 1 refreshment, prepared by the Bishop in person was fresh-fruit salad."

The best map of Melanesia which is shown in red, stretches from New Ireland and New Britain in the north, to the Solomon Islands centrally placed, to the New Hebrides Islands in the south. The large land masses in yellow are Papua and New Guinea in the north, and Queensland, Australia in the south (Figure 5).

On 1 April 1947 he collected his wife and children in Adelaide en route to Thirsk, Yorkshire, and he departed Sydney on the flying boat ‘Hythe’, arriving in London on 10 April 1947, on furlough before taking up his position as the Bishop of Whitby (1947-54) and subsequently as Bishop of Blackburn (1954-60). He died on 11 February 1960 and his wife scattered his ashes in the sea.

 

The only reference that I found of him being addressed as ‘Lord Bishop’ of Melanesia (as shown on the reverse of the cover from his wife) was in a publication of the Melanesian Mission in 1936, when their address was given as Union House, 247 George Street, Sydney, N.S.W. His wife was probably one of the few people who knew how he was properly addressed. I must admit that she was upset with him because of his long absences both during and post-war. This unfair thought as provoked by the last line of the Bishop’s obituary by Archdeacon Harry Reynolds which read "To Mrs. Baddeley, who sacrificed so much for Melanesia ...grant to her and her family His Peace and Joy".


 

 
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