Frederick Ference Komlosy

A priest at Gallipoli: Frederick Ference Komlosy, incumbent of Christ Church 1933-6

Frederick Komlosy  Frederick Komlosy

2015 is the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, in which 100,000 Allied and Ottoman troops died on and around the shores of the Bosphorus. Among those who served there was one of the more colourful priests in the history of Christ Church, Bath.

Frederick Ference Komlosy was born in Islington in 1881. His father Louis was a furrier and his grandfather Anton had come to London from Hungary in 1839. After working as a clerk in the Civil Service he trained for the ministry, and served curacies in Lancashire, interspersed with travel to what is now Nigeria for various missionary societies; his work in both places included helping to set up new churches. On his return from Africa he was ordained priest and at the outbreak of the First World War became a military chaplain.

In 1915 he sailed to the Dardanelles with the expeditionary force. It's clear from the accounts of others that he was very much on the front line: one writes of him 'The padre paid his usual visit and we were pleased to see him. I must say he is a good chaplain and often finds his way into the firing line trenches.' His duties included the sad tasks of taking the funerals of those killed and writing to bereaved relatives. In 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross.

On his return, Komlosy became passionately concerned about the moral effects of the Russian Revolution on family life in that country, writing in an American newspaper: 'Morally, Russia is dead. Mentally, she has fallen into decay'. He spent some years working for a charitable precedessor of Save the Children, including visiting the USA and Canada as a guest of the philanthropist J. P. Morgan Jr. In 1923 he married the Australian-born Florence Edith Law; they had two daughters, Chrystal and Angela.

In 1929 he returned to parish life as vicar of Fleet in Hampshire, before arriving at Christ Church, Bath in 1933. Christ Church was (and remains) a 'proprietary chapel', outside the Church of England's parish system. The mid-1930's seem to have been a quiet period in Christ Church's history. Perhaps Komlosy's main achievement was, soon after his arrival, to set up a Finance Committee to put the church's accounts into order. Christ Church was not a hugely wealthy church, and had no particular interest in mission; as few records from his time there survive, we can only speculate on how his incumbency was received.

After three years he moved on in 1936 to become rector of Kilndown in Kent and a report of his induction may give a flavour of his preaching: 'he came to remind [his congregation] that they were not the only Christians in the world and that they had a duty towards the other members of the family, all of whom were trying to serve the one great Master'. In the Second World War he returned to military chaplaincy, this time for the RAF. At the end of the war he and his wife emigrated to join members of his wife's family in South Africa, where he died in 1962.

Frederick Ference Komlosy appears to have been a restless soul whose ministry was exercised on three continents (and within sight of a fourth), and who never stayed in one place for long. He seems to have had a practical bent, but was he disappointed with congregations that did not share his enthusiasm for the overseas Church?

I acknowledge the help of and its members, of Andrew Sillett, of Anna-Maria Hajba of the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick, and of Gill Joye of the Goudhurst & Kilndown Local History Society in the preparation of this article (adapted from the May 2015 issue of Christ Church News). Any further biographical information would be gratefully received.

Virginia Knight
virginiakni at gmail dot com
May 2015