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The Legend of "Woodbine Willie"

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, Jun 20, 2018.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    Used to be a Scottish footballer player nicknamed "Willie Woodbine" (his real name was Woodburn) back in the Fifties.
    This is the original guy though.
    "Many a tale has been told of 'Woodbine Willie' - the legendary First World War British Army chaplain who risked his life tending to sick and dying soldiers on the frontline, while giving them cigarettes and spiritual guidance.
    But now, research claims he returned home penniless after spending his entire wartime wages on such cigarettes.
    'Woodbine Willie', the nickname of Reverend Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, spent the equivalent of more than £43,000 on nearly one million Woodbines for the Allied forces, according to a new book.
    Woodbines, which were strong and unfiltered, were not widely available on the Western Front and were considered as gold dust in the trenches.
    Historians have long known that Studdert Kennedy 'administered' his own cigarettes to men on the frontline to boost morale.
    Records also show that he regularly ventured - unarmed - into No Man's Land, often under heavy machine gun and artillery fire, to give dying troops one final 'gasper'.
    Clutching his Bible for protection, the 'Battlefield Saint' would whisper the Lord's Prayer and hold their hands until the end.
    His selfless bravery, particularly at the Battle of Messines, earned him a Military Cross from King George V and the affectionate, lasting nickname, 'Woodbine Willie'.
    But nobody has ever attempted to calculate the full extent of his generosity until now.
    Biographer Dr Linda Parker spent five years researching Studdert Kennedy's life and estimates he gave away a staggering 865,000 cigarettes at his own expense.
    Over the course of nearly three years, between December 1915 and September 1918, Studdert Kennedy spent £43,249 - every spare penny of his Ministry of Defence salary, she believes."
    JJWilson likes this.
  2. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Oct 1, 2017
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    Arizona U.S.A
    Tremendous sacrifices by Mr. Woodburn, another WW1 hidden gem of a story. I can't imagine what horror's he must've witnessed......
  3. Coder

    Coder Member

    Jan 15, 2009
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    One effect on Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy was to drive him to campaign against war.

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