31st Jan 1919. “Woodbine Willie” Former Rugby Curate’s War Experiences

“ WOODBINE WILLIE.”
A FORCEFUL PERSONALITY.
FORMER RUGBY CURATE’S WAR EXPERIENCES.

“ The Bookworm,” writing the “ Weekly Dispatch ” says :—There is a man now in France who will soon be one of the great forces guiding England. His name is Kennedy, and he is a parson—the Rev G A Studdert-Kennedy, M.C., C.F. He is known the length of the British line as “ Woodbine Willie ” because while the fighting was on he was always in the front line trenches distributing encouragement and Woodbines. He is the man whom the authorities chose to hearten the men in the retreat of 1918. His fame is almost legendary in France. They say he should have won the V.C., and tell you the story of how he met the Hun face to face. He is a brave man, but he is more than that—he is a man who by sheer downright sincerity and earnest eloquence has captured the hearts of men—real men. His fame is spreading at home. He has written books, two small volumes of poetry, “ Rough Rhymes of a Padre,” one of “ Rough Talks,” and a third called “ The Hardest Part,” which, as the author says, is “ literally theology hammered out on the field of battle.” These books are not selling by the thousand, they are selling by the hundred thousand. The first printing of “ More Rough Rhymes ” was 30,000 copies, and they were sold out at once. A word as to the man himself. Before the war he was Vicar of St Paul’s, the poorest parish in Worcester. He is of Irish extraction and is the son a Leeds vicar. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Trinity College, Dublin. Taking holy orders he started first as curate at St Peter’s, Rugby. He first preached to soldiers in Worcester Cathedral. He was a power before the war. He will be a force after it. The war has set the fire in him ablaze. He has been through the hell of it. Religious books leave me cold, but I read “ The Hardest Part ” and “ Rough Talks ” at one sitting. They are the most powerful books their kind since Bunyan.

WAR CHARITIES’ ORGANISER.
PUBLIC PRESENTATION TO BE MADE MR J REGINALD BARKER.

With a view of showing the appreciation of Rugby and district of voluntary services that have resulted in the raising of some £14,000 locally for charitable purposes during the war, and services that have saved much more by providing free office accommodation and clerical assistance, it is proposed to make a public presentation to Mr J Reginald Barker. To that end, a subscription list has been opened, and Mr R P Mason, of the London Joint City and Midland Bank, is acting as hon Treasurer and secretary of the presentation fund.

Mr Barker’s activities have been especially pronounced in connection with his work as hon organiser of the Rugby and District Prisoners of War Fund, but as hon organiser and secretary of all the Rugby official Flag Days his name has also been constantly before the public throughout the war period, and his energy in raising, for charitable purposes, money in Rugby and district has been eminently creditable to all concerned—few towns of its size have, indeed, a better record in that respect than Rugby.

The end the war, and the resultant happy closing down of the operations of the Prisoners of War Fund, is deemed to be an especially appropriate occasion for giving Mr Barker some expression of the appreciation of the town and district of the services he has so ungrudgingly and at considerable self-sacrifice rendered, and Mr Mason’s invitation to the public to forward subscriptions to him for this purpose is signed by Mr J J McKinnell, J.P, C.C, Chairman of Rugby Urban District Council, and by Mr W Flint, C.C, Chairman of the Rugby Prisoners of War Fund.

LOCAL SOLDIERS HONOURED.—Farrier-Sergt G H Sumner, 26th Battery, 17th Brigade, R.F.A, and Sapper R H Read, R.E, both of Rugby, have been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in recognition of valuable services rendered with the armies in France and Belgium.

MR AND MRS CLEMENTS, 33 Winfield Street, Rugby, have received information that their second son, Corpl Fred Clements, aged 21, died in Zebest War Hospital, Germany, on October 24. He joined the army in 1914, and went to France in June, 1915. On June 22 he was wounded and taken prisoner. Prior to joining up he was employed in the export office, B.T.H. This is the second son Mr Clements has lost in the war, and a third is still with the Army in France.

ACCIDENT TO DEMOBILISED SOLDIER.—An accident happened last week to a fitter named Clarke, of 102 Grosvenor Road, who is employed at the Engine Sheds of the L & N.-W Railway. He was removing a heavy axle-box, when it slipped, and pinned his right hand against the wall the “ pit,” badly lacerating one of his fingers. Dr Hoskyn is hopeful of saving it. The strange thing about the accident is that it was only the fifth day of Mr Clarke’s return to civil employment, after fighting for four years and five months in the war, through which he passed unhurt.

BRINKLOW.

A meeting of the Parish Council was held in the Schools on the 21st inst, Mr F Gwinn presiding. The Clerk was instructed to put a notice on the Parish Board asking discharged soldiers who required land for small holdings to give in their names to the Council as early as possible. Mr A Pegg was appointed the Council’s representative on the School Management Board. A discussion followed upon a suitable War Memorial for the village.

BILTON WAR MEMORIAL.
A VARIETY OF SUGGESTIONS.
COMMITTEE TO DEVISE A SCHEME.

Several interesting suggestions as to the form of a proposed parish memorial to the Bilton men who have fallen in the war were put forward at a meeting called for the purpose and held in the Church House, Bilton, on Friday evening. Capt M E T Wratislaw (chairman of the parish council) presided, and there were also present Messrs J H Veasey, F M Burton, A J Askew, J Cripps, G H Frost, R Lovegrove, E J Smith, F Blick (parish councillors), Lady Rowena Paterson, Rev W O and Mrs Assheton, Mr. and Mrs W Barnett, Rev C C Chambers, Mr and Mrs R B Wright, and a number of parishioners.

The Chairman, in opening the proceedings, said if there was one lesson which they had learned by the war, it was the value of co-operation and comradeship, and therefore hoped that whatever form their memorial might take it would be a parish memorial. He did not wish to see one committee in Bilton collecting for one purpose and another in New Bilton collecting for another. If separate memorials were required in either ward they should be quite apart from what called the war memorial. Hitherto there had been a feeling that New Bilton should be put on one side ; but he wanted them, on this occasion, to unite and have one parish memorial. If they decided to have a memorial in each ward, he thought they should be identical in character, and that each should commemorate the men from both wards, and not only the names from the ward in which it was to be erected. The question as to what form the memorial should take had been considered by the Parish Council, and various suggestions, such as the provision of a recreation ground, parish room, reading room, and museum had been made ; but it was felt that none of these would be a proper war memorial. In his opinion a war memorial should be distinctive ; it should commemorate the names of fallen men, it should be inexpensive as regarded upkeep, and no portion of the expenses should fall upon the rates. For these reasons the parish council were unanimous that these suggestions were quite outside the scope of a war memorial. However, they were quite willing to receive suggestions.

It having been formally decided that steps be taken to raise a memorial to the men from both wards who have fallen, the following were elected to serve on the committee, a nucleus of which was formed by the members the parish council :—The Rural District councillors ; Mr and Mrs Barnett, Rev W O and Mrs Assheton, Miss Line, Mrs West, Mrs G H Frost, Mr M Watkiss, and Mr G Spencerley, with power to co-opt additional members, on the understanding that both wards shall be equally represented on the full committee.

Suggestions were then invited. The Chairman suggested that whatever memorial be erected it should contain only the names of men who have died in the war. In addition a volume could be prepared containing the names of all men who had served in the forces.

Mrs West, who was unable attend, wrote suggesting the names of all men who had served in the forces should be inscribed somewhere where all could see them. She also thought it would be a good idea to erect a water trough and drinking fountain on the green, or that a really good Celtic Cross should be erected, or the old village cross be restored by a first-class man.

Miss Watts wrote proposing that either a large room be erected over the Working Men’s Club in which parish meetings, etc, could be held, or a stained glass window should be placed in the church.

A Lady suggested that a fund should be raised to assist the widows and children of fallen soldiers.

Mr Barnett said he thought the most suitable place to erect any monument would be the Churchyard. All their men who had fallen in the war would naturally have found a resting-place there, and would add greatly to the beauty of their church and churchyard if a lych gate was erected as a memorial.

Lady Rowena Paterson asked if it would be possible to endow a bed at the Hospital of St Cross.—Mr Barnett : It would cost £1,000.

Mr Burton supported Lady Rowena Paterson’s suggestion. With regard to Mr Barnett’s proposal, he thought that gentleman would agree with him that if the idea was approved it should include a similar gate at the other place of worship, because they must take into consideration the fact that men of more than one denomination had fallen for their country.—Mrs Assheton : But the churchyard is the churchyard of the parish. It is not denominational, and a lych gate there could represent all.—The Chairman : Yes, every resident has the right to be buried there.—Mrs Assheton : Then it is necessary to have a gate at each place ?—Mr Burton agreed that every resident had the right of burial in the churchyard, but that was only owing to the force of circumstances over which some people had no control. One could not get away from the fact, however, that the churchyard was sectarian.

It was decided to refer the suggestions to the committee, who will report on them or any other idea which they may prefer at the annual parish meeting.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR.
RUGBY’S WAR MEMORIAL.

SIR,—It would appear that the reports in the local Press of the recent meeting of the Urban District Council to consider the form which the Rugby War Memorial should assume have conveyed to the minds of many of our townspeople a wrong conception of the suggestion I was privileged to make on behalf of a number of my fellow-workers.

The great war, with its horrors of cruelty, destruction, and death, is not at all likely to be forgotten by the present generation, as history will hand it down through the years that are yet to be, but we consider homage is certainly due to the brave men whose heroism and sense of duty have secured for humanity the Dawn of Liberty and Peace. It was with this object in view that we suggested a monument to our local lads erected at the Whitehall. Most of them we had worked with in factory, office, or shop, and whether they had sprung from “ the Villa ” or “ the slum,” had done their bit to give the world a speedy and lasting Peace. We asked for a memorial worthy of the town, worthy of the object it was intended it should commemorate, and which should record the name and protect from oblivion the individual identity of each soldier who enlisted from the Rugby Parish. Unfortunately, many of these brave lads are now taking their final rest beneath foreign soil, far beyond the reach of relatives or friends. Might not our suggested memorial provide an appropriate Shrine whereon each recurring Anniversary of Peace tokens of affection and remembrance could be placed ?

The present moment can hardly be considered opportune to embark upon a large and elaborate scheme of town improvement. That has to depend for its successful accomplishment upon public subscriptions, especially when our local charitable and benevolent institutions are appealing for increased financial assistance that they may efficiently carry on their work, and Disabled Soldiers and Sailors and their dependents, along with similar organisations, are all urgently pressing their claims to our townspeople’s support. Would it not be advisable, under existing circumstances, to promote a less pretentious scheme like ours, which would adequately meet all desires to commemorate an event of such world-wide importance and the honourable part taken therein by Rugby’s citizens ?—Yours etc, WILL F HARDMAN,
26 Murray Road, Rugby.

IN MEMORIAM.

McDOWELL.—In loving memory of my beloved husband, Corpl. WILLIAM McDOWELL, 1st Inniskilling Fusiliers, missing January 27, 1917, now reported killed.
“ I who love you sadly miss you,
As it dawns another year ;
In my lonely hours of thinking,
Thoughts of are ever near.”
—Sadly missed by his Wife.

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