Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Father Bill Masters OBE

Fr Masters by Beth Zanders

William Mansfield Masters became the fourth vicar of St Jude's in 1955. Born in 1898, he served during the First World War with the London Regiment of the Royal Artillery in France, Salonica and Palestine and was twice wounded. In 1920 he joined the RAF and served again in the Middle East where he developed an interest in Christian Unity.

In 1928 he enrolled at the Knutsford Ordination Test School (situated from 1927 in the Old Rectory at Hawarden) which  opened 1919 with the purpose of educating men leaving the armed forces so that they could obtain the qualifications required to study for ordination.

Bill (as he was always known) proceeded to Chichester Theological College in 1929, and then to St Gabriel's Church in Pimlico where he 'served his title', being ordained deacon in 1932 and priest in 1933. After a further curacy in Wendover (1934 - 1940), he joined the Royal Army Chaplains' Department serving, during the Second World War, in Sudan, South Africa, Palestine, North Africa and the Gulf. 

From  1949 to 1955 he was (British Embassy) Chaplain at Christ Church, Vienna from where he also served Anglican communities behind the Iron Curtain in Prague, Budapest, Bucharest and Sofia. He was awarded the OBE in 1953 for this work.

Fr Bill was inducted as Vicar of St Jude's on 29 April 1955 by the Bishop of Willesden. He served for seven years here before returning in 1962 to Europe as Chaplain in Helsinki and Moscow. He was also Rural Dean of Scandinavia from 1962 to 1966 when he 'retired' to a curacy at St Mary's, Bourne Street. He was made an Honorary Canon of Gibraltar in 1973.

Ed Zanders in A Suburb Childhood (2007) remembers Fr Bill as "a man with a larger than life personality and a great sense of fun". Beth Zanders' portrait of Fr Bill, until recently on display in the south-west porch, shows the vicar in front of a reproduction of Andrei Rubelev's icon of the Trinity, the original of which is in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

In his last years Fr Bill resided at the 11th century Hospital of St Nicholas in Harbledown whose medieval inmates supported themselves by displaying (for a donation) a slipper that had been worn by St Thomas Becket. He died in 1978.

An unusual picture of the giving of communion at the high altar rails
and signing the wedding registers in the vestry.
Fr Masters on a return visit (possibly) for the dedication of the new Church Rooms in 1967.

Photographs above courtesy of Ed Zanders
London Gazette New Year Honours List 1953