The Bickersteth crucifix and prayer book

The Bickersteth cross

Rev’d K. Julian F. Bickersteth served as Chaplain at Melbourne Grammar School from 1912 until 1915 when, upon seeing so many former students of the School heading to serve their country in WWI, he felt compelled to do the same. Rev’d Bickersteth worked as an army chaplain on the Western Front for three years administering to the spiritual needs of his fellow servicemen.

The School Chapel’s servers gave Rev’d Bickersteth a crucifix on his departure for the battlefields and he carried the crucifix with him throughout his three years’ ministry to servicemen on the Western Front.

At his invitation, countless dying soldiers placed a finger on the cross, or held it, as their final act.

In 1999 Rev’d Bickersteth’s nephew, Bishop John Bickersteth, returned the crucifix to the School during a small ceremony. The Bickersteth crucifix, which began life in the Chapel of St Peter, will soon move from the School Archives and return to the Chapel, on display as an object that inspires prayer and devotion.

Commencing during his own school days, Rev’d Bickersteth kept a record of the prayers he wrote in a small book. He maintained this tradition for many years, including during his time serving on the Western Front. The Prayer for Peace, presumably written during this time, is below.

The prayer book also contains a register of the Choir boys, and those students he confirmed, during his time at Melbourne Grammar School. Bishop John Bickersteth also gave this book to the School during his aforementioned visit and it remains an important artefact in the School Archives.

Prayer for Peace

Give peace in our time O Lord

For there is none other that fighteth for us but only thou, O God.

O God this Lord of all Kings and Kingdoms

Who in chastening us dost heal us - and in forgiving us dost save us: extend to us Thy mercy and restore to us the tranquillity of peace, that we may use it for the benefit of our amendment through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev’d K. Julian F. Bickersteth, c. 1916

About Rev’d K. Julian F. Bickersteth

Kenneth Julian Faithfull Bickersteth MC QHC was born in Yorkshire, England on 5 July 1885. The son of the Vicar of Leeds, he was educated at Rugby School and at Christ Church, Oxford.

After completing an undergraduate degree at Oxford University, and teaching English for a year, Bickersteth determined to enter the clergy. He was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1909 and as a priest in 1910.

In 1912, Rev’d Bickersteth was appointed to the role of Chaplain at Melbourne Grammar School (then known as Melbourne Church of England Grammar School) where, in addition to his Chaplaincy duties, he was an active member of School community. Assigned to Ross House, Rev’d Bickersteth was involved in the Debating Society, the Camera Club, the Cadet Corps, the Aviation Club and many other School activities.

In 1915, one year after the start of WWI, Rev’d Bickersteth returned to England with the intention of becoming a military chaplain. Attached to the British Expeditionary Forces, he served on the Western Front from 1916 to 1919 with valour and honour, being awarded the Military Cross and twice mentioned in despatches.

He returned to Australia in 1919 as Headmaster of St Peter's College, Adelaide, before returning to Britain in 1933 for a distinguished career as a headmaster and churchman. He was appointed Honorary Chaplain to the Queen in 1953.

Rev’d Bickersteth died on 16 October 1962, aged 77 years.

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