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Remembering Woodbine Willie

8th March 2019

Today we remember Woodbine Willie - Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy - who died on this day 90 years ago.

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was better known by his affectionate war-time nickname: ‘Woodbine Willie’, which captures his ability to connect with British soldiers as they faced the battlefield.

‘Woodbine Willie’ was moved by a profound empathy for the suffering of the human spirit, for those living in the impoverished streets of Leeds during his childhood, the Worcester people of his parish St. Paul’s, and the deprivation of the 1930s Depression.

But it is the role he played in the battlefields of France for which he is mostly known, tending to the suffering of men at the front and bringing his unique personal qualities to empathise with them.

Woodbine Willie was born in Leeds on 27 June 1883, the son of an Irish priest of the Church of England, who was the father of a large family and vicar of the impoverished parish of St. Mary’s.

Studdert Kennedy died on 8 March 1929. Thousands of people lined up to pay their respects both in Liverpool, where his body lay before being returned to Worcester, and in Worcester Cathedral, where it lay for the two days prior to the funeral.

On 12 March, after a service in the Cathedral, thousands more formed a long procession following the coffin through silent streets to St. John’s Cemetery.

Read more about Woodbine Willie's life and follow our Heritage Trail by downloading our leaflet here.