A Seeker After Truths

The Life and Times of G. A. Studdert Kennedy ('Woodbine Willie') 1883-1929

Linda Parker

A new biography of the famous Anglican army chaplain and priest Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, ‘Woodbine Willie', providing a new examination of his remarkable career.
Date Published :
April 2018
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
8pp of b&w photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781912174041
Pages : 256
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy became one of the most famous army chaplains of the First World War, earning the nickname ‘Woodbine Willie’ because of his habit of giving out both cigarettes and bibles to the men at the front. During the war he also earned the reputation of an unconventional preacher, who kept men spellbound with his passionate oratory. He believed that the place of the army chaplain in battle was near the action, with his troops, and earned a Military Cross for bravery at the Battle of Messines. It was during the war that he began writing the prose and poetry that were to make him famous.

However, there was much more to the life of this talented and unusual priest than his war service. In his prewar parochial ministry he had a definite bias to the poor, working in parishes with a high proportion of slum areas and poverty-stricken populations. In these parishes he became known for his ability to relate to all kinds of people and provide material and pastoral help, often at the expense of his own material possessions. He also developed a reputation as an excellent preacher, both in churches and at outdoor pitches.

After the war, with a high standing amongst ex-service men and as a bestselling author, he took on preaching and speaking engagements in all parts of the country, becoming in 1921 a full time speaker for the Industrial Christian Fellowship, whilst continuing to write popular books which came honestly to grips with the postwar realities of life in Britain and the difficulties and rewards of the Christian faith in accessible terms.

This book accesses previously unused material to examine Studdert Kennedy’s life in all its aspects, looking at his significance as an army chaplain, priest, theologian, author and public figure and assessing his impact on church life, industry and society before his early death in 1929. His life and achievement are examined in the context of Britain in the first half of the 20th century, assessing his legacy to the church and to society.

About The Author

Linda Parker is an independent scholar and author. Her main writing focus is on army chaplaincy in both world wars, and her main historical interests lie in 20th century military, social and religious history but she also has a keen interest in the history of polar exploration. She enjoys travelling at home and abroad to present papers at conferences on a variety of topics related to her writing interests. Her hobbies include walking, preferably in cold places, and one of her ambitions is to travel to Antarctica. She is a member of the Royal Historical Society and the Western Front Association, the American Commission for Military History and the Society for Military History. She is a trustee of the Toc H movement. Nearer My God to Thee is her sixth book for Helion & Co.


“This is a brilliant and moving tribute to a man of the cloth who actually made a difference to people's lives both on and off the battlefield. Inspirational and interesting biography of a man who served his country, his King and his God well.”

- Books Monthly

“It's an excellent read, which describes a society and attitudes which seem much different to our own times...It also reminded me of the best Padre I ever served with, he too was at home speaking to both the high and mighty and the low and mean and was a boost to morale when he entered into any location, be it an office in BHQ or a FOB in Helmand. A well deserved five out of five mushroom heads from me.”

- Army Rumour Service

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