*** DEBUG END ***

Woodbine Willie

22 March 2013

THERE was a time when the immediate panacea for anyone suffering shock or extreme stress was to thrust a lighted cigarette between their lips, if possible followed by a mug of well-sugared tea. Certainly cigarettes played a large part in helping both soldiers and civilians cope through two world wars, regardless of the (then unknown) long-term effects.

The Revd Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy was well aware of the comfort that soldiers found in lighting up, and he became so famous for offering Woodbines - the most popular cheap cigarettes of the day - to the troops in the trenches of the First World War that he was for ever after known as "Woodbine Willie" (Comment, 1 March).

He described his chaplain's ministry as taking "a box of fags in your haversack, and a great deal of love in your heart". He won the Military Cross in 1917, at Messines Ridge, in Flanders, after running into no man's land to help the wounded during an attack on the German front line - an act that was fully in character with his passionate care for his soldiers.

Born in Leeds, Studdert Kennedy had read divinity and classics at Trinity College, Dublin, before becoming an ordinand at Ripon Clergy College, then in the city of Ripon, next to the Diamond Jubilee clock-tower.

During the war, he became a Christian Socialist, and later worked for the Industrial Christian Fellowship. It was on one of his lecture tours to Liverpool, for the ICF, in 1929, that he was taken ill and died at the early age of 46. Now he is not only remembered in the Church of England Calendar on 8 March, but on a new plaque put up by the Ripon Civic Society, on the site of the original Ripon College. It was recently dedicated by the Bishop of Ripon & Leeds, the Rt Revd John Packer.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)