The Rev Geoffrey Studdert better known as “Woodbine Willie”, was the vicar at St Paul’s church in Worcester, and he is buried at St John’s cemetery, in the city.
At the outbreak of WW1 he volunteered as a chaplain, and won the Military Cross in 1917. His habit of handing out cigarettes to troops earned him his nickname, being a heavy smoker himself. Big crowds lined the streets of Worcester for his funeral in 1929.
St Paul’s hostel, first opened in the derelict vicarage of St Paul’s Church were Rev Studdert Kennedy used to be a priest. Our name derives from these humble but important early days.
Born in Leeds in 1883, he was the son of a vicar and after reading divinity and classics at Trinity College, Dublin, became a vicar, first in Rugby and then in Worcester.
As a chaplain in WW1 he was well-known for going into no-man’s-land in the thick of a battle, to comfort wounded soldiers.
He was never afraid to be close to the fighting – one celebrated story tells of him crawling out to a working party putting up wire in front of their trench.
A nervous soldier challenged him, asking who he was, and he said “The church.”
When the soldier asked what the church was doing out there, he replied “Its job.”
He was also a published poet and wrote Rhymes of a Padre (1918) and More Rough Rhymes (1919) about his war experiences. In 1929, on one of his lecture tours in Liverpool, he fell ill and died.