Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy

(1883-1929 / Great Britain)

Biography of Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, MC (June 27, 1883 - March 8, 1929), was an Anglican priest and poet. He was nicknamed 'Woodbine Willie' during World War I for giving Woodbine cigarettes along with spiritual aid to injured and dying soldiers.

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.

He is mentioned in the Divine Comedy song "Absent Friends": "Woodbine Willie couldn't sleep until he'd/given every bloke a final smoke/before the killing."

Kennedy is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on March 8.

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy's Works:

* The Unutterable Beauty Diggory Press

PoemHunter.com Updates

Solomon In All His Glory

Still I see them coming, coming,
In their ragged broken line,
Walking wounded in the sunlight,
Clothed in majesty divine.
For the fairest of the lilies,
That God's summer ever sees,
Ne'er was clothed in royal beauty
Such as decks the least of these.
Tattered, torn, and bloody khaki,

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