Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy was a chaplain to the forces in the First World War on the Western Front. He was nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie’ because of his habit of giving cigarettes to soldiers in distress. He won the Military Cross for bravery at Messines Ridge. He became famous for the poetry he wrote, which was unsparing in its description of the horror of war, combined with spiritual wrestling and insight about his experiences. After the war he became a pacifist and died at the age of 46.


Time has moved on, but we are still waging wars, and his poetry still speaks of the labour, hardship, bravery and comradeship of a soldier’s life on active duty.


Easy does it — bit o’ trench ‘ere,
Mind that blinkin’ bit o’ wire,
There’s a shell ‘ole on your left there,
Lift ‘im up a little ‘igher.
Stick it, lad, ye’ll soon be there now,
Want to rest ‘ere for a while?
Let ‘im dahn then — gently — gently,
There ye are, lad. That’s the style.
Want a drink, mate? ‘Ere’s my bottle,
Lift ‘is ‘ead up for ‘im, Jack,
Put my tunic underneath ‘im,
‘Ow’s that, chummy? That’s the tack!
Guess we’d better make a start now,
Ready for another spell?
Best be goin’, we won’t ‘urt ye,
But ‘e might just start to shell.
Are ye right, mate? Off we goes then.
That’s well over on the right,
Gawd Almighty, that’s a near ‘un!
‘Old your end up good and tight,
Never mind, lad, you’re for Blighty,
Mind this rotten bit o’ board.

We’ll soon ‘ave ye tucked in bed, lad,
‘Opes ye gets to my old ward.
No more war for you, my ‘earty,
This’ll get ye well away,
Twelve good months in dear old Blighty,
Twelve good months if you’re a day,
M.O.’s got a bit o’ something
What’ll stop that blarsted pain.
‘Ere’s a rotten bit o’ ground, mate,
Lift up ‘igher — up again,
Wish ‘e’d stop ‘is blarsted shellin’
Makes it rotten for the lad.
When a feller’s been and got it,
It affec’s ‘im twice as bad.
‘Ow’s it goin’ now then, sonny?
‘Ere’s that narrow bit o’ trench,
Careful, mate, there’s some dead Jerries,
Lawd Almighty, what a stench!
‘Ere we are now, stretcher-case, boys,
Bring him aht a cup o’ tea!
Inasmuch as ye have done it
Ye have done it unto Me.



  1. One of the best pieces of poetry I have read on the Great War, or on any war… no metaphors, no muslin round the form to muffle the impact of what was being done and how it was being done.


      1. You know GillyK, there is always appreciation of ‘them’, lots of it dressed up it cotton wool with big holes in it. Then there is the academic appreciation, comparative appreciations, metaphoric ones, and so on. I liked Kennedy’s poem as it was written in reachable, ordinary direct regional and vernacular language that connects with very many people all over, and not just with a select few. Herein is a special skill and talent that comes from;
        a) the character of the writer
        b) the experiences of the writer
        c) the empathy of the writer
        d) the background of the writer

        and yes… there is much, much more to agree about with this piece of work.


  2. Grim imagery there.:( Doesn’t bear thinking about, what those men endured. Makes me feel very sad……

    Good post though. War is so utterly terrible we need to keep it in our awareness, and that it isn’t to be overlooked.

    Woodbine Willie! :)) Not heard of him before! Thank you Gillyk!xx


  3. Forty six seems so very young today but so many died young in those days,amazing bunch of lads many still in there teens and it is dispicable that some show nothing but contempt for them in the things they do to there memory, but maybe we should be sorry for them and there wasted lives and lack of sense.xx


      1. But many in those days didnt want to join the army and they didnt seem to get into trouble like they do today work usually kept them fully occupied with money being short.xx


      2. It’s been suggested before. I guess the army don’t see themselves as rehabilitating bad boys. But something like compulsory military service might be a good idea, like they have in other countries.


      3. I dont see why there can not be a special training department for bad boys with a specially trained person to dicipline them and train them in the army, they need to be taught they cant do just whatever they please. There is no discipline at home and that is part of the trouble so it could teach them right from wrong.xx


      4. I think when we are young and cocky for want of a better word we think there will always be other opportunitys, if we have done it once we think we can do it again what we dont realise is that we change and circumstances change and there becomes less opportunity as we get older to have that amount of success again. I should know at seventeen i went for a job singing in a band i was the first one the band ever paid they had other girl singers, they snapped me up and paid me i had never done it before. My husband then sent a video to opportunity knocks that was then and i was sent for to do an audition but i didnt go i threw away much success so i am a fool too,or am i, maybe.xx


      5. When we are young we think we can win again if we did it once but things change and we get older. I was the first girl singer to be paid by a big band years ago, my husband then sent a video to what was then opportunity knocks they wanted me to go to audition for opportunity knocks i didnt go infact i gave up my singing carreer. Am i a fool maybe,maybe not, dont think i wanted to belong to anybody but myself maybe he is the same.xx


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