Following attending Marlborough, Joe Mullins (C1 1934-38) went on to work on an uncle’s farm in Kenya. When war broke out in September 1939 he returned at once to Britain and enlisted as a “private gentleman”, an archaic arrangement, in the hastily and eccentrically raised 5th Battalion, Scots Guards. Intended to assist the Finns, and nicknamed “The Snowballers”, the battalion comprised able skiers and conducted training operations near Chamonix in the French Alps. Before they could be put to any use, Finland concluded an armistice with the Soviet Union. The battalion was disbanded in March 1940. Mullins entered the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and was commissioned the following year into The Queen’s Royal Regiment, whose first battalion was in garrison in India.
As part of Slim’s 14th Army, 1 Queens would be almost continually in action after the Japanese invasion of Burma (now Myanmar) in 1942, until after the desperate Battle of Kohima in 1944, which together with the concurrent action at nearby Imphal on the border with India, had been the high-water mark of the Japanese offensive in southeast Asia. The battalion was then rested in India for several months and made up to strength again.
After the action for which he was awarded the MC, Mullins spent eight weeks in hospital with infected leech bites, and there felt the call to ordination. On demobilisation when Japan surrendered in August, Mullins went up to Trinity College, Oxford, to read theology, and thence for pastoral training at the strictly evangelical Ridley Hall, Cambridge. After ordination and a curacy in London, in 1952 Mullins went back to India to work with the Children’s Special Service Mission.
Here he met Edith Gooding, from Barbados, who was at a language school learning Hindi. Strict rules obliged them to carry out their courtship by letter until she had finished her initial period of service. They were married in 1956. Edith died in 2009. Their six children survive him: Ruth, a teacher and Anglican minister; Jennie a registered midwife in Canberra; Chris, a manager with Volvo in Canberra; Rachel a registered nurse in Sydney; Danny, chaplain at Macquarie University in Sydney; and Beth, a teacher and farmer in New Zealand.
From 1962 to 1974 Mullins was priest-in-charge of St John’s, Bangalore, south India, until the family moved to Australia, where for eight years he was senior minister at St Peter’s, Weston, a suburb of Canberra, followed by two at St Nicholas’ in Goulburn, New South Wales, before formally retiring in 1984. Subsequently he and his wife took a caravan around Australia, visiting outback Bush Church Aid parishes. His evangelism undiminished, in the Nineties he did a locum in Jakarta and Paris, and joined a mission team teaching English in Kazakhstan. He was still preaching in Canberra at 99.
Mullins remained certain to the end that the harmless course of the three bullets striking his helmet had been by divine providence.
Major The Rev Joe Mullins MC was born on July 16, 1920. He died on December 2, 2023, aged 103
The full obituary and more about his achievements in obtaining the Military Crosses can be found here on The Times website.
Credit to The Times for the use of the photo.