Kathleen Chambers: Little Girl in a WWI Camp

Kathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?

Kathleen Chambers was the only little girl in a World War I camp in Egypt.

Her father, Oswald Chambers served a chaplain at the Zeitoun YMCA camp in Cairo.

He brought along with him his wife Biddy and their toddler daughter, Kathleen.

As best I can tell, a child in a World War I YMCA camp was an unusual presence.

Kathleen, of course, was a favorite with everyone.

YMCA camps were designed to provide rest and relaxation spots for soldiers stuck in military camps far from home. They provided films, libraries, writing supplies, tea, refreshKathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?ments and a wholesome environment.

Cairo, Egypt, like many such spots had a host of exotic entertainments in which Army officials preferred their soldiers not participate. (Penicillin was not discovered until long after World War I; there were few, if any, successful treatments for sexually transmitted diseases at the time.)

The British Army actually leased three acres of prime land in Ezbekiah Gardens to distract soldiers from the nearby Fish Market area of Cairo.

Ezbekeiah Gardens included a swimming pool, a roller rink/open air auditorium that could seat 3000 men and a continuous tea canteen.

Zeitoun

Eight miles north of town, adjacent to the Zeitoun military establishment for mostly New Zealand and Australian soldiers, Oswald Chambers and his wife oversaw a smaller camp.

They lived in a simple bungalow on the grounds of the Egyptian General Mission compound. Oswald spent his days praying, preparing, and visiting soldiers in hospital, while Biddy’s hospitality preparations went on all day.

Soldiers visited the large hut made from reeds every day. They could write letters, sing, visit with the family and relax away from the dust-filled, fly-infested, hot, sandy camp–where  showers were irregular and the tents hot and crowded.

In the evenings, after training settled down for the day, hundreds of men settled in. Oswald Chambers taught out of the Bible for an hour each night.Kathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?

And a little girl with blond hair and often a bow in her hair scampered among them all.

Of course all those men far from home and family loved her.

Of course they lavished attention and gifts on her.

The family loved animals. The men provided a menagerie.

Kathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?

Chambers was a doting father

Kathleen Chambers had many admirers. An Australian soldier bought her a donkey and taught her to ride it.

Her father always doted on his only child whom he called “Scallywag.”

David McCasland in his book Oswald Chambers: Abandoned for God, tells a sweet story about the importance of Kathleen’s presence.

“Occasionally, a man, lonely for his own little ones, sat outside her (Kathleen’s) window at night just to listen to her bedtime prayers. Some of her favorite soldier-friends tiptoed in after family prayers to watch her sleeping and give her a good-night kiss before sprinting back to camp before the sounding of ‘Last Post.'”

Challenges

A wife and child was unusual, but for the Chambers family, providential. Because Oswald died in 1917, when Kathleen was only four years-old, this was the only time with her father.

The family was happy together.

Kathleen, of course, was in Zeitoun when her father died. She was a balm to those who mourned Oswald Chambers and gave her mother great encouragement when she matter-of-factly spoke the

biographer, Kathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?

Kathleen was a major source for  Mrs. Oswald Chambers, now available for pre-order

truth as she knew it about his death:

“Don’t forget. Daddy’s quite near you.”

Biddy Chambers stayed in Zeitoun to teach and help run the camp after her husband’s death. Her sense was that though Oswald had been released from his duty, she had not.

She and Kathleen returned to England in 1919 to a different life, empty without Oswald but full of ministry opportunities to come.

The little girl from the WWI YMCA camp, of course, went with her.

(Note: all the photos on this post are from Wheaton College‘s Special Collection library and used with permission. Other photos about Oswald and Biddy can be found on my Pinterest board of the same name).

Biddy , Kathleen Chambers, Oswald Chambers, WWI, Zeitoun, YMCA camp, YMCA chaplains, children, Oswald Chambers' children, Did Oswald Chambers have any children?

Biddy and Kathleen; (Wheaton Special Collections Library)

 

Tweetables

Kathleen, Oswald Chambers’ daughter, charms at WWI YMCA camp  Click to Tweet

What was Oswald Chambers’ daughter doing in a WWI camp? Click to Tweet

The Oswald Chambers family in Egypt Click to Tweet

 

Interested in Oswald and Biddy Chambers? I’ll be telling stories about the amazing ways God led me through

the writing of two books about them, starting in my January newsletter–one a month for 2017, free.

If you’d like to follow the serial–the same chronological way it unfolded for me–sign up for my newsletter here.

%d bloggers like this: