Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Monday, 29 March 2010 15:15 UK
The Rev. Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy or Woodbine Willie
Rev. Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy known as Woodbine Willie
The war memorial at the church where he is buried is being restored

The Rev Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, better known as "Woodbine Willie", was the vicar at St Paul's church in Worcester, and he is buried at St John's cemetery, in the city.

At the outbreak of WW1 he volunteered as a chaplain, and won the Military Cross in 1917.

His habit of handing out cigarettes to troops earned him his nickname, being a heavy smoker himself.

Big crowds lined the streets of Worcester for his funeral in 1929.

Bravery and comfort

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy was born in Leeds in 1883, the son of a vicar, and after reading divinity and classics at Trinity College, Dublin, became a vicar, first in Rugby and then in Worcester.

As a chaplain in WW1 he was well-known for going into no-man's-land in the thick of a battle, to comfort wounded soldiers.

British troops moving up to the trenches, near Ypres
British troops moving up to the trenches, near Ypres

He was never afraid to be close to the fighting - one celebrated story tells of him crawling out to a working party putting up wire in front of their trench.

A nervous soldier challenged him, asking who he was, and he said "The church."

When the soldier asked what the church was doing out there, he replied "Its job."

Poems and peace

He was also a published poet, writing two books about his war experiences: Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and More Rough Rhymes (1919).

After the war he became closely involved in the Christian socialist and the pacifist movements, touring the country giving public lectures.

British infantry troops on the offensive near Arras
British infantry troops on the offensive near Arras

He was in Liverpool on one of his lecture tours in 1929 when he fell ill and died.

A crowd of more than 2,000 turned out for his funeral procession, lining from Worcester Cathedral to his old parish church of St Paul's.

They tossed packets of Woodbines onto the passing cortege - a gesture the Rev. Studdert Kennedy would probably have thoroughly approved of.

His life is remembered on a plaque in the cathedral which reads:

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy M. C.

A Poet: A Prophet: A Passionate seeker after Truth:

An ardent advocate of Christian Fellowship

Chaplain to H. M. King George V.

Chaplain to the Forces.

Rector of S. Edmund King and Martyr in the City of London

Sometime Vicar of S. Pauls in this City

Born 27 June 1883 Died 8 March 1929.

The plaque was made of bronze by the Bromsgrove Guild.




SEE ALSO
Elgar and the best known war poem
03 Nov 09 |  History
Pilgrimage to WWI mass grave site
28 Jan 10 |  History


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