Raymond Roberts Braved the Aden Emergency to Serve as a Chaplain with the British Royal Navy

Photo Credit: Terry Fincher / Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Terry Fincher / Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Of the many brave chaplains to serve with military personnel throughout history, Reverend Raymond Roberts stands out. Born in Wales on April 14, 1931, he earned both a Bachelor and Master of Arts before beginning a lifelong career as an Anglican priest.

British soldier and tank moving along a street
British squadron conducting a street sweep during the Aden Emergency, 1967. (Photo Credit: Jim Gray / Keystone / Getty Images)

After being ordained as a priest in 1957, Raymond Roberts worked at St. Basil’s Church, in south Wales, while maintaining a role as a part-time chaplain with the Royal Naval Reserve. In July 1959, he made the decision to transfer into active service and was commissioned as a chaplain. He was fondly remembered as someone who could adapt to whoever he was talking with, regardless of rank, as members of the Royal Navy Chaplaincy Services don’t hold rank.

Roberts could converse just as easily with commanding officers, at least one of whom allowed him unrestricted access to his office, and sailors. Of the latter, he once said, “You can’t call them miserable sinners, because no one sins so cheerfully.” One of his most famous moments with them was when he visited three sailors serving prison time in Crete. He reported back that they were successfully running the jail with the cigarettes he’d brought them as currency.

The reverend served in many locations, including Singapore, at the Royal Naval Engineering College (RNEC), at the Britannia Royal Naval College (BRNC) and during the Aden Emergency.

The Featured Image of this article was taken on April 24, 1966 while Roberts was conducting a prayer service for a British Army patrol in Aden. Famous photographer Terry Fincher took it for the Daily Express. In an alternative shot captured by Geoffrey White, another soldier can be seen standing guard over those participating in the service.

Evidently dedicated to his work, it’s no surprise Roberts was eventually promoted to Chaplain of the Fleet and Archdeacon of the Royal Navy, roles he held from 1980 until his retirement in ’84. In 1980, he was also named an Honorary Chaplain to the Queen.

Hawker Hunter flying over members of the 45 Commando Royal Marines
45 Commando Royal Marines during the Aden Emergency, 1967. (Photo Credit: Terry Fincher / Daily Express / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

More from us: How An American GI Grieving During the Korean War Became Known Worldwide

When Raymond Roberts left the military, he was appointed as a Companion of the Order of the Bath. He returned to working as a parish minister in Wales until 1995, when he retired from everything but officiating weddings. He died on September 25, 2019, at the age of 88.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.