Willie Doyle

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Willie Doyle
Father William Doyle.jpg
Born (1873-03-03)3 March 1873
Dalkey, Dublin, Ireland
Died 16 August 1917(1917-08-16) (aged 44)
Passendale, Belgium
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Years of service 1915-1917
Rank Military chaplain
Unit 8th Royal Irish Fusiliers

World War I

Father Willie Doyle, S.J., MC or William Joseph Gabriel Doyle (3 March 1873 – 16 August 1917), was an Irish Jesuit priest who was killed in action during the First World War.[1]

Early life[edit]

Doyle was born in Dalkey, Ireland and the youngest of seven children of Hugh and Christine Doyle (née Byrne).[1] He was educated at Ratcliffe College, Leicester.[2] After reading St. Alphonsus’ book Instructions and Consideration on the Religious State he was inspired to enter the priesthood and was an ordained Jesuit priest in 1907.[3] He served for five years on the mission staff.

Service World War I[edit]

Doyle served in the Army Chaplains' Department of the British Army during World War I, appointed as a chaplain to 48 Brigade of the 16th Irish Division.[3] During the Battle of Loos Doyle was caught in a German gas attack and for his conduct was mentioned in dispatches.[4] A recommendation for a Military Cross was rejected as "he had not been long enough at the front".[4] Doyle was presented with the parchment of merit of the 49th (Irish) Brigade instead. He was killed in the Battle of Langemarck, on 16 August 1917.[5]

A stained glass window dedicated to his memory is present in St Finnian's Church, Dromin, Co Louth Ireland.


General Hickie, the commander-in-chief of the 16th (Irish) Division, described Doyle as "one of the bravest men who fought or served out here."[4]

Doyle was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery during the assault on the village of Ginchy.[1][4] He was recommended for a posthumous Victoria Cross and Distinguished Service Order[6] but was awarded neither.[2] Fr Doyle's body was never recovered but he is commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial.[1]

Doyle was proposed for canonisation in 1938, but this was not followed through.[2] His papers can be found in the Jesuit archives, Leeson Street, Dublin.[2]

Published pamphlets[edit]

  • Retreats for working men: why not in Ireland? (1909)
  • Vocations (1913)
  • Shall I be a priest? (1915)


  1. ^ a b c d Unknown. "Father William Doyle". Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Murphy, David. "Doyle, William Joseph Gabriel". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge University Press. 
  3. ^ a b Unknown. "Fr Doyle's Life". Remembering Fr William Doyle SJ. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Unknown. "Fr. William 'Willie' Doyle S.J., M.C.". The Awen. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Kenny, Mary (18 May 2014). "How Irish priests brought comfort to the battlefield". Irish Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  6. ^ McCarrick, Susan. "Memorial for Rev W Doyle SJ". Europeana 1914-1918. Retrieved 15 February 2015. 

Further Reading[edit]

  • O'Rahilly, Alfred, Fr William Doyle, S.J.: a spiritual study (1920)
  • Stuart, Henry L., "Fr William Doyle S.J.", The Commonweal, no. 8 (11 Nov. 1925), 11–14
  • Smyth, John (Sir), In this sign conquer (1968)
  • McRedmond Louis, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991)
  • Johnstone, Tom and Hagerty, James, The cross on the sword: catholic chaplains in the forces (1996)