musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: St Edmund King and Martyr

Connections: Woodbine Willie

Many years ago there was a programme on local TV called “Connections” and it dealt with how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It was fascinating watching it and I have often tried to link things like that in my own life. Yesterday I found a perfect example. The connection between a ship and an Anglican priest and poet.

It starts off like this:

In March 1986 I went to see the QE2 in Durban for the first time.

I did not see her again until 1991. At that time there was a small ship called Avalon in Durban harbour. Formerly the RMS St Helena, she was now seeking a new career doing cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands.

We managed to wangle a short trip across Durban Harbour on board her as she vacated the berth where QE2 would be the next day.  

Both QE2 and the former St Helena were Falklands veterans. In 1992 I sailed on the Canberra, also a Falklands veteran, and when we arrived in Cape Town the new RMS St Helena was alongside and I photographed her from the Canberra.

I mentally set a goal to see whether it was possible to get a trip on board the St Helena, and I wrote away for a brochure. As luck would have it there was a voyage to Tristan da Cunha coming up in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to book a cruise on this mini mailship

Many years passed, and the RMS St Helena ploughed her lonely furrow between Cape Town and St Helena while they constructed an airport on the island. Once it was completed the announcement was made of the St Helena’s last voyage in June 2016. Of interest to me was her visit to the Pool of London, where she would berth alongside HMS Belfast. I decided to head down to London and watch her arrive and say my goodbye to her.

Upon arrival in London I went to see the RMS arrive on the 7th of June, and it was quite an emotional moment for me. 

On the 8th I revisited Kensal Green Cemetery, and afterwards headed into London once again to see the ship. I first visited St Pauls Cathedral, before heading towards the Thames. In the maze of streets I somehow ended up in Lombard Street, and saw one of the many churches in London, it was now the home of the London Spirituality Centre, or, as it was formerly known: St Edmund, King and Martyr.

During my visit the person manning the front desk showed me a number of wall memorials in the church, and she was very proud of a memorial to somebody called “Woodbine Willie”.

 

I had to admit that I had never heard of him before, but the nickname stuck in my mind because Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was way too much for me to remember at once. Apparently he was the Rector of this particular church at one time. He got his nickname for his habit of handing out cigarettes to troops (Woodbines being a favoured brand).

I continued my walk down to the Thames to say my goodbyes to the RMS and the next day I returned to Tewkesbury to post my blog and recover from my short but exhausting London jaunt. 

Yesterday, I visited Worcester Cathedral, and after seeing the cathedral walked through Worcester, and while I was walking I discovered a number of small bronze statues in the area. I did not pay too much attention to them, just read the names and took the pic. At the one statue I did a double take because the one statue was of Woodbine Willie! 

I was even more amazed to discover that there is a memorial to him in Worcester Cathedral, 

as well as an engraved pane on the Window of the Millennium.

“Woodbine Willie takes the light of Christ to the Troops”

On the 13th of March I returned to Worcester to close the chapter a bit more, walking to St John’s Cemetery where I photographed his grave.

As strange as it seems, this sequence really revolves around how things connected to each other, from the QE2 in 1986 to a forgotten and reluctant war hero in 2017. The key to it is really the RMS St Helena, without seeing Avalon the chances are I would not have recognised the name on the statue. Had I taken a different route in London I would not have seen the church, had I not stopped to look at a statute I would not have read that it was Woodbine Willie. Come to think of it, it is all really the fault of the QE2.

 

There is a stained glass window dedicated to him in St Paul’s Church in Worcester, that will be the last step of this journey. 

Connections, they are all around us if we know how to tie them together.

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017, updated 13/03/2017 

Updated: 13/03/2017 — 18:27

St Edmund, King and Martyr, London

One of those chance discoveries I made while in London in 2016, the church is now known as the London  Spirituality  Centre.

Like so many other churches in the city St Edmund, King and Martyr, has become hemmed in by buildings, making  photography of it almost impossible. 

The real beauty of the  church is within, and I spent a few minutes enjoying a really beautiful relic from an age gone by. 

The interior of the building is magnificent, I have seen many beautiful churches but this one really stood out. Built to a design by Christopher Wren it has been around since 1679, having been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. 

They have two interesting wall memorials, one of which is dedicated to Charles Melville Hays who was president of the Grand Trunk Railway and who would lose his life in the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912.

The other is to a former Rector of the church: Rev. Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, nicknamed ‘Woodbine Willie’, a name he earned during World War 1 in the trenches.

There is a small bronze to Woodbine Willie in Worcester, I discovered it purely by accident in 2017. I eventually found more memorials to him in Worcester and traced the connections between him and the RMS St Helena.

The church also suffered damage during the Gotha raids in 1917 and a piece of the bomb is kept at the church underneath the altar.

The church is no longer an active parish church although it is still consecrated.

I did ask about the churchyard, and it does exist although it was levelled and is now an informal seating area, but some of the headstones still exist.

Apparently there is a crypt under the building but it has been sealed and the attendant was not too sure whether there were still coffins in it.

And then it was time to go and I left this small centre of peace in Lombard Street. It was a really beautiful building and  I was really glad I made that short detour. There are a lot of these churches in London, and we often miss seeing them as we head towards our destinations. I wonder how many Londoners have ever stopped and taken a look behind the doors? not too many I bet. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 17/07/2016

Updated: 13/03/2017 — 18:30
DR Walker © 2014 -2017. Frontier Theme