Project Canterbury

Obituary from Southern Cross Log, London, June 1960, pages 34-36.

By Harry V.C. Reynolds

Photograph from cover of Southern Cross Log, London, March 1960.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

The Late Right Reverend W. H. Baddeley
D.S.O., M.C., D.D., M.A., Std.
Bishop of Melanesia 1932-1947
Chairman of the English Committee

[34] Walter Hubert Baddeley,
D.D., D.S.O., M.C.
Bishop of Melanesia, 1932-1947

Mine is indeed a privilege to pay tribute to one who did so much for the growth of the Church in Melanesia. So often it has been truly said: "He was the right man in the right place at the right time," referring to the Bishop's outstanding leadership during the years of the Pacific War. However, do not let us forget what he accomplished in the first years of his episcopate, it is of this that I would first write. Above all, he had a love for the souls, the minds and the bodies of men, the full man must be developed.

The Melanesian Brotherhood had done much work already, but under the leadership of the new Father of the Brotherhood, for such he was, the Brothers were on the move going to the uttermost parts of the earth in Melanesia. To New Britain, Nukumanu, Lord Howe or Ongtong Java, Santa Cruz and many other almost untouched places. It could be said that the mantle of S. Paul had fallen upon Bishop Walter, the Gospel of Christ must be preached to all people.

So closely associated with that was the urgent need of the growth of the Melanesian Ministry, as churches were established in these outer islands shepherds must be sent to minister to them, new converts to the Christian Faith must receive the regular ministrations of Word and Sacrament. Thus many, through this servant of God, heard the call "Whom shall I send?" and answered "Here am I, send me."

He saw that the Church in Melanesia must go forward and so the policy of this visionary bishop was very practical--Christian education must be to the fore--young men, and young women too, must have sound education under the care of Mother Church. These young people would be the Church of the future, and many of them leaders in the development of their own people. How true this has proved to be, and both the Church and the State owe much now to the wisdom, foresight and courage of Bishop Baddeley.

Then what of the bodies of men and women and children too stricken with so many diseases--malaria, yaws, hook-worm, tropical ulcers, tuberculosis, elephantiasis, leprosy, to name the worst--it was not enough just to preach the Gospel. Christ also commanded "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers." Thus among the first acts of the Bishop were the establishment of new hospitals, the recruitment of more trained nurses, the training of Melanesian young men and women for medical work that they might go forth in the name of Christ. The training of Melanesian nurses has resulted in the establishment of maternity centres, which have considerably decreased both the heavy infant and maternal mortality, of which the Bishop so often and gravely spoke.

[35] Thus were foundations strengthened and seeds sown for a new growth. Soon after came the Pacific War to the very shores of Melanesia. Vital decisions, difficult ones, had to be made, and the Bishop made them with both faith and courage. Space does not permit me to write of the many incidents which so clearly portrayed the Bishop's tenacity and also optimism. It is well known that his influence was considerable with the Administration, the Resident Commissioner was his personal friend and turned to him for advice and counsel. Bishop Baddeley's famous reply has become historic: "I'm staying". They were words of strength when strength was needed. It meant much more than words of mine can express to the Melanesians, they saw in him a true shepherd of the flock committed to his care. Those of us who were privileged to remain during those war years will never forget his Pauline letters of encouragement which reached us by devious means, his unbounding optimism in the very darkest days, when he could still write "It won't be long now," cheered us all. The year 1942 was grim for us all, but even at that time his missionary zeal was always at work, visiting the hill villages of Malaita with shoes that had to be sewn up with string and with little food for the journey. 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. With his 1914-1918 War record his 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. Well do 1 remember a Sunday on Guadalcanal soon after the arrival of the N.Z. troops, when he spoke at five great open-air services as well as conducting a Confirmation Service.

Peace came again to the Islands, the M.V. Southern Cross VII returned from her years of war service. How anxious he was that she should be returned without delay. There had to be refitting and repainting. A cable arrived as to what colour she should be painted--his reply was typical: "Paint her pink, but send her quickly!" It was amazing what the Bishop did in the following eighteen months--still that unbounded enthusiasm, tired man that he was, he was ceaseless in all his travels, especially to the outer islands that had been cut off for years, and to New Britain, which had suffered so severely, and 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. The writer was with him in Graciosa Bay, Santa Cruz, when he received the cable calling him to Whitby, and knew something of the internal struggle that he had to make his decision. For years he had been separated from his wife and family. Will I ever forget those six weeks of his final farewell of the Solomons and of the crowds, either at the schools or in the villages, that knelt to receive his find blessing. On his way out, his last words as Bishop of Melanesia were from the famous farewell of S. Paul [35/36] to the Church at Ephesus: "And now I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified."

The secret of such a wonderful Episcopate (as all who knew him will readily testify) was that, like Saint Barnabas, he "was a good man, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith." Morning by morning--sometimes in very difficult circumstances--he stood at the Altar, and day by day in his prayers, he presented Melanesia's needs before God.

So much else could be written, not forgetting his forceful presence as a Member of the Advisory Council where his ever-pungent and telling criticisms were appreciated by all, and not least by the Administration itself!

His home was always an open house to members of the staff, and he was ever willing to hear their problems and to help them through their difficulties. Mention has already been made of his letters to the staff during the war years, and it was so in the years of peace. If he was not on the Southern Cross, there was always a letter from him, even to the junior members.

Melanesia will mourn the passing of their great leader, but will ever remember with thankfulness all that he did for the Church of Melanesia, and for them as individuals. Tales of his life amongst them will be told for many years. "May his soul rest in peace."

To Mrs. Baddeley, who sacrificed so much for Melanesia, we send our love, and pray that God will grant to her and her family His Peace and Joy.

H.V.C.R. [Archdeacon Harry V.C. Reynolds]

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