Irish military chaplain Fr. Willie Doyle, S.J., died in action
during the Battle of Passchendaele on August 16, 1917, having
been hit by a German shell while rushing to the aid of
wounded soldiers trapped in No Man's Land. In To Raise
the Fallen, Patrick Kenny introduces readers to this remarkable
man, whose faith, heroic courage and generosity in the
trenches of World War I continues to inspire Christians and
To Raise the Fallen incudes a selection of Willie Doyle’s rich
and vivid letters from the front, along with diary entries,
prayers, spiritual writings and extracts from the pamphlets
that made him a publishing sensation across Europe in the
early years of the twentieth century. Fr. Doyle’s compassion,
cheerfulness and humility, alongside his great valor in wartime,
are a testament to his commitment to Christ. His final
act of bravery epitomizes Christ’s words that there “is no
greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”.
Those who knew Fr. Doyle testified to his heroic virtue. They
witnessed his fearlessness in the face of enemy fire as he rescued
the wounded, anointed the dying, and buried the dead.
His letters home reveal both his deep faith and his great
humor, even in the face of unspeakable horrors. His daily
conquest of himself in little things, over many years prepared
him for his selfless service on the battlefield.
"Father Doyle was one of the best priests I ever met, and one
of the bravest men who fought or worked out here. He left
a memory and a name behind him that will never be forgotten."
— Maj. Gen. William Hickie, Commander, 16th Irish
"The Orangemen will not forget a certain Roman Catholic
chaplain who lies in a soldier’s grave in that sinister plain
beyond Ypres. He went forward and back over the battlefield
with bullets whining about him, seeking out the dying and
kneeling in the mud beside them to give them absolution.
They remember him as a saint – they speak his name with
— Sir Percival Phillips, Daily Express, August 1917