Diocese of Canterbury

Saint Martin of Tours – Guston Parish Church


News from Guston

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News from Guston


As we approach Remembrance Sunday, especially as it is the hundredth anniversary of the armistice which finally ended World War I, it is hard to think of new things to say.


However, one of the less sung heroes of this conflict was Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, MC, otherwise known as Woodbine Willie.  He was born in 1883 and was an English Anglican priest and poet who volunteered in 1914 to go to the Western Front as an army chaplain.  The nickname 'Woodbine Willie' referred to the fact that he would give soldiers packets of cigarettes, together with a bible, in an effort to maintain their morale as they were going off to the front.  Before the war he encouraged men to fight for what they believed in.  After the war he became more concerned with peace, becoming a leading religious author and poet, before an early death at the age of 45, having been gassed on the front line, which no doubt hastened his death.


He wrote to his family and parishioners, after celebrating Christmas four days after he took up his post in northern France, in a freezing downpour:  “There were not many of them [communicants] but they meant it. No lights, no ritual, nothing to help but the rain and far-off roll of guns, and Christ was born in a cattle-shed on Christmas Day.” 


By using humour and salty language he was popular amongst the troops, using opening lines such as:  'I know what you're thinking:  here comes the bloody parson!'  Being in the thick of things was, in his eyes, the best way of serving the men.


He was awarded the Military Cross at Messines Ridge in 1917 after having risked his life in no man's land rescuing the wounded, of both sides, bringing them back to the dressing station so that they could receive medical treatment.


Perhaps the most difficult part of his job was when he gave Communion, saying the words:  'The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for you, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life'.   He knew that the soldiers' lives would very likely end within hours, days or weeks of his words.  This dilemma came home to him most vividly when having administered Communion in the trenches to a fit young corporal, only two days later he was tending to that same corporal, dying with half his chest missing, as a result of German shellfire.  For Woodbine Willie, the essence of Christianity was to be of service to one's fellow man.


301 Moved Permanently


'A different sort of war hero' - Woodbine Willie in 1918



Every Tuesday at 8am, Morning Prayer

Services for November:


Sunday 4 November 6pm Sung Evensong

Sunday 11 November 10-11am Sunday School, including Remembrance Service, 10.40am

Sunday 18 November 6pm Holy Communion (BCP)


Services for December:


Sunday 2 December 6pm Evensong - Advent Service of Light

Sunday 9 December 10-11am Sunday School

Sunday 16 December 6pm The Story of Christmas in readings and carols

Christmas Day - to be confirmed