ON THE eve of the commemoration of the death of the Revd
Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, the military chaplain better known as
"Woodbine Willie", the Church of England's Liturgical Commission
has published resources to help churches mark the centenary of the
outbreak of the First World War.
Music, art, and literature, in addition to prayers and readings,
make up the package, which includes material for use in a requiem
eucharist, and an outline for a service beside a war memorial.
Among the novels and poetry suggested as sources for extracts
are Pat Barker's Regeneration triology, and works by D. H.
Lawrence, Sebastian Faulks, and Siegfried Sassoon.
"And did those feet in ancient time" and "I vow to thee my
country" are included in the list of suggested hymns and songs. The
Commission has also compiled a selection of music written during
the First World War or deemed evocative of that period. It
highlights poems from A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman,
set to music.
Artists listed include Paul Nash, Jacob Epstein, and Stanley
Spencer, whose creations for the Sandham Memorial Chapel were
recently exhibited at Somerset House (Reviews, 17 January).
Prayers remember "those whose stories were unspoken and untold .
. . those whose minds were darkened and disturbed by memories of
war . . . those who suffered in silence, and those bodies were
disfigured by injury and pain."
The chairman of the Commission, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt
Revd Stephen Platten, said that the package was "a mixture
that is potent in trying to help people reach to the heart of God
and, at the same time, reach to the heart of their humanity".
Bishop Platten suggested that the Church of England had an
"essential role" to play in commemorating the Great War: "Whether
people like it or not, certainly in the First World War, it was the
Church of England, still very much in an older sense the
Established Church, that was the holder of the national conscience
at that point. But we still retain a crucial role as the Church for
all English people. I don't mean in an exclusive way. We are very
happy to share that with other churches. But, ultimately, if people
aren't identifying with any other tradition then we are assuming
that they are within our care."
He spoke of the military chaplains that continue to serve in
places of conflict, including Afghanistan which was "as nasty as
anywhere that has been involved in a war". During the First World
War, chaplains had done "heroic work. . . People often thought it
was the posh dealing with the less posh, but quite often there was
great respect shown in both directions."
In addition to local events, national services are planned,
including a vigil service in Westminster Abbey on the evening of
Monday 4 August, marking the 100th anniversary of Germany's
declaration of war against Russia.
Woodbine Willie is remembered in the Anglican calendar on 8
March each year. He was an Anglican priest and poet who distributed
cigarettes and spiritual succour to injured and dying soldiers
during the First World War. In 1917, he was awarded the Military
Cross at after entering No Man's Land to help the wounded. His
citation noted: "His cheerfulness and endurance had a splendid
effect upon all ranks in the front-line trenches, which he
The resource pack is available at
Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Woodbine Willie's grandson,
is in conversation at the Church Times Bloxham Festival on 31 May.
Tickets and information: www.bloxhamfaithandliterature.co.uk