Woodbine Willie : An Unsung Hero of World War One, Paperback

Woodbine Willie : An Unsung Hero of World War One Paperback

4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Woodbine Willie was the affectionate nickname of the Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, an Anglican priest who volunteered as a chaplain on the Western Front during the First World War.

Renowned for offering both spiritual support and cigarettes to injured and dying soldiers, he won the Military Cross for his reckless courage, running into No Man's Land to help the wounded in the middle of an attack.

After the war, Kennedy was involved in the Industrial Christian Fellowship, and he wrote widely.

This superb biography is based on original interviews with those who knew and loved him.

A deep and real concern for his fellow men drove him relentlessly, and this book shows how vital was the role he played, on the battlefields of the trenches and then the slums. Bob Holman, described by the Daily Telegraph as 'the good man of Glasgow', has made a mission of living alongside the disadvantaged of British society.

An accomplished writer, who contributes regularly to the Guardian, he is the author of several books, including Keir Hardie (Lion Books).




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On Sunday March 10, I attended the evening service at Westminster Abbey which was dedicated to Geoffrey Stoddart Kennedy, a respected Anglican chaplain WWI and later anti-war pro-labor activist. March 13, I bought this life of him in the National Archives bookshop. Unlike some Anglican chaplains in WWI (who notoriously stayed safe behind the lines) he went out and tended the wounded in No Man's Land.He was asked "Who are you?" Answer: "The church" "What are you doing?" Answer: "It's job." He also gave them cigarettes (hence "Woodbine Willie"). He wrote poetry, some of which was read during the service.

Review by

Showed great devotion to the poor and powerless, both as a Chaplain in WW1 and in serving as a priest and preacher in the 20s. He supported the war effort, and was belligerently anti-German but was disappointed as were so many others by the poverty and failure of society post-war. The biography does justice to his life as a priest, as a family man, chaplain in WW1 and then as a national speaker for Industrial peace in the 20s. He was very much an Anglican and sceptical about Unions and Politics, or perhaps knew that was not his place. He revered Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the life of the church that flowed from it but seems not to have been much inspired by the bible.

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