~Remembrance Day, November 11th~

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, MC (June 27, 1883 - March 8, 1929)

Born in Leeds in 1883, Kennedy was the seventh of nine children born to Jeanette Anketell and William Studdert Kennedy, a vicar in Leeds. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained a degree in classics and divinity in 1904.
After a year's training, he became a curate in Rugby and then, in 1914, the vicar of St. Pauls, Worcester. On the outbreak of war, Kennedy volunteered as a chaplain to the armed forces on the Western Front, where he gained the nickname 'Woodbine Willie'. In 1917, he won the Military Cross at Messines Ridge after running into no man's land to help the wounded during an attack on the German frontline. He wrote a number of poems about his experiences, and these appeared in the books Rough Rhymes of a Padre (1918), and More Rough Rhymes (1919).
After the war, Kennedy was given charge of St. Edmund King and Martyr in Lombard Street, London. Having been converted to Christian socialism and pacifism during the war, he wrote Lies (1919), Democracy and the Dog-Collar (1921) (featuring such chapters as "The Church Is Not a Movement but a Mob," "Capitalism is Nothing But Greed, Grab, and Profit-Mongering," and "So-Called Religious Education Worse than Useless"), Food for the Fed Up (1921), The Wicket Gate (1923), and The Word and the Work (1925). He moved to work for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, for whom he went on speaking tours of Britain. It was on one of these tours that he was taken ill, and died in Liverpool.


THERE'S a broken, battered village
Somewhere up behind the line,
There's a dug-out and a bunk there
That I used to say were mine.
I remember how I reached them,
Dripping wet and all forlorn,
In the dim and dreary twilight
Of a weeping summer morn.
All that week I'd buried brothers,
In one bitter battle slain,
In one grave I laid two hundred.
God! What sorrow and what rain!
And that night I'd been in trenches,
Seeking out the sodden dead,
And just dropping them in shell-holes,
With a service swiftly said.
For the bullets rattled round me,
But I couldn't leave them there,
Water-soaked in flooded shell-holes,
Reft of common Christian prayer.
So I crawled round on my belly,
And I listened to the roar
Of the guns that hammered Thiepval,
Like big breakers on the shore.
Then there spoke a dripping sergeant,
When the time was growing late,
"Would you please to bury this one,
'Cause e' used to be my mate? "
So we groped our way in darkness
To a body lying there,
Just a blacker lump of blackness,
With a red blotch on his hair.
Though we turned him gently over,
Yet I still can hear the thud,
As the body fell face forward,
And then settled in the mud.
We went down upon our faces,
And I said the service through,
From "I am the Resurrection"
To the last, the great "adieu."
We stood up to give the Blessing,
And commend him to the Lord,
When a sudden light shot soaring
Silver swift and like a sword.
At a stroke it slew the darkness,
Flashed its glory on the mud,
And I saw the sergeant staring
At a crimson clot of blood.
There are many kinds of sorrow
In this world of Love and Hate,
But there is no sterner sorrow
Than a soldier's for his mate.
As always on this day I think of all those who died in WW1, WW2 and all other wars and conflict.
I think of my two great Uncles who died in France in WW1 and wonder if they met Woodbine Willie, or at the very least had someone to comfort them at the end.


  1. A beautiful tribute, dear Sheila, in honour of all the men and women who have sacrificed so much just so that we could have our freedom. xoxo

  2. I'm a few days late Sheila but wanted to say that this is a wonderful post for Remembrance Day, the poem is so poignant. Woodbine Wille sounds a brave and interesting man.

  3. I always buy a poppy, then I lose it, then I buy another one, then I find the first one.... and I always remember those brave men and women who served, and some who gave their lives, and who are still serving and giving their lives. I was in the TA in UK, and marched in many Remembrance Day parades, cold and rainy and windy, shivering through the two minutes of silence, and feeling like crying. And we should alswys remember.

  4. Very interesting. My Scottish great-uncle John Alexander Munro won the Military Cross too, for rescuing wounded comrades.


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