He was in his third year of training as a Wesley and Methodist minister when he enlisted, age 25, in 1914. After his superiors became aware of his background he was commissioned as an army chaplain. His memories are unusual because he was both a fighting soldier and a non-combatant minister.
When Robert J. Rider died in 1961, he left to his descendants a typescript text, tentatively entitled "Flashbacks", which would eventually become "Reflections of the Battlefield". Broadly autobiographical, this text offers an account of its author who fought as an infantryman while also serving as a chaplain, thus exposing himself in particular directness, to the ambiguities of chaplaincy service on the battlefield. A further particularity is that Robert J. Rider was in a minority among chaplains, being a Methodist chaplain. In August 1914, Rider, aged 25, was about to begin his third year of training for the minisitry of the Westleyan Methodist church, at Handsworth Theological in Birmingham. Two months later he had enlisted with the First Birmingham Battalion, later termed the 14th Battalion, o the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Because Rider endured the carnage and brutality of the Western Front both as an infantryman and as a chaplain, his first hand accounts of Ypres, the Somme and Arras reveal a man morally opposed to war and yet adamant that Germany and her allies needed to be defeated.