Anglican chaplains had been awarded commissions since the Restoration from 1662 onwards. They usually were attached to the staffs of the Commanders in Chief which meant that they were removed from the rank and file but were at least witnesses to many of the campaigns and often wrote vivid accounts and details due to their literary skills.
An Army Chaplain's Department was set up in 1796 with a Chaplain General. The Duke of Wellington still complained of the shortage of Chaplains to tend to the spiritual needs of his army. This war partly as a result of the poor pay and conditions. The Duke duly improved them and saw a consequential rise of young ministers to his forces in the Peninsula.
During the Crimean War, it was to be the reports of William Russell that would lead to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel to help finance additional clergymen for the hospitals in Scutari and the camps in the Crimea. Eventually sixty Chaplains went to the Crimea - twelve of whom died.
After the Crimean War, the Chaplain General of the period, the Reverend G R Gleig, attempted to organise the ChaplainsŐ Department on efficient lines. The Army List of list October 1856 shows the Chaplain General, twenty Chaplains and thirty-five Assistant Chaplains.
The department was not restricted to just clergy of the Established Church. It could hardly be otherwise given the quantity of Catholics and non-denominational ranks throughout the service. The first group to succeed in this were the Roman Catholics in 1836. They were followed by the Presbyterians in 1858, Wesleyans in 1881 and Jews in 1892.
Army chaplains, although non-combatant by profession, wore uniforms and held ranks parallel to combatant officers. A fourth-class chaplain was the equivalent of a captain whereas a first-class chaplain the equivalent of a major-general. Being non-combatant did not mean that they escaped the dangers of the battlefield. They were often exposed to the same conditions and dangers that faced the armed soldiers - possibly greater considering that they were unarmed and were often looked towards to provide an example to the men. There duties often went well beyond their spiritual brief and they would often find themselves advocates for improvements in the general welfare of all the troops and would be employed frequently to try and raise the morale of the troops and keep them busy and occupied in a collegial manner. They were awarded the prefix 'Royal' after the First World War.