Click on the Subject

Waste – Woodbine Willie’s poem

My colleague Rev. Gordon Newton read this today at our remembrance Sunday service.  I hadn’t heard it read for a while, so I thought I’d post it.


Waste of Muscle, waste of Brain,
Waste of Patience, waste of Pain,
Waste of Manhood, waste of Health,
Waste of Beauty, waste of Wealth,
Waste of Blood, and waste of Tears,
Waste of Youth’s most precious years,
Waste of ways the Saints have trod,
Waste of Glory, waste of God,– War!

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy,  known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ – the soldiers friend.

He was an Anglican priest and poet  who won a Military Cross for bravery as a Padre in the trenches – under fire in one of the bloodiest battles in history.  The name, ‘Woodbine Wille’, was something that Kennedy was very proud of because it grew from his work on troop trains when he’d pass out Bibles and cigarettes. He was a chain-smoker himself.

Tony is a Superintendent Methodist Minister, broadcaster and author. He is a radio presenter with Premier Christian Radio and a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2's Pause for Thought (5.45 am). Tony is married with two children and four grandchildren.


  • Robert G. (Bob) Little

    June 20, 2011 at 12:53 am

    My Dad who served in World War I & II introduced me to “Woodbine Willy”. I had not heard thhis poem before but shall save it and read it at our Remnemberance Day Parade in November 2011.
    Many thanks.

    Bob Little

  • Roy George

    July 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    My mother was in France in 1917/18 in Waac ,she was a waitress in the officers mess ,in her words she said , he was full of life and always kept the officers in good humour . She read many of his poems he left laying about in the ante room .roy

  • cate

    November 10, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I was searching for this poem last week and couldn’t find it in a google search of his poems. So thank you very much for posting it. As tru now , if not truer than 100 years ago when the waste of wealth on war is in the billions , and the waste of health includes radiation and chemical damage , as well as untold harm to health of women and children civilians

  • K m peers

    August 19, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    I heard a poem attributed to woodbine willie I believe it is called “”And I’ll earn a soldiers rest”” It ain’t that I wants him to keep me safe while the other lads go down.It ain’t that I wants to leve this world or wear a Hero’s crown. That’s all I can remember so would be great full if any one can put me in the right place for it ,I have tried internet no joy

  • Tony

    August 31, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    Not sure I have a copy. I will look around and see if I can locate it. If not, it might be worth contacting the clergy of Worcester Cathedral, or perhaps the British Library. Hope you find it! God bless, Tony

  • Martyn Kelham

    November 13, 2018 at 12:35 am

    Vern Grifith read this at Brooklands Peace 14-18 War event on Sunday. He read it beautifully and caused a certain hush around the room of several hundred people.
    Of the 30 or so war poems read by him and Jenny Lockyer, I’m sure this is the one most attendees will remember

  • Paul

    June 7, 2020 at 5:14 am

    Our minster read this poem at a remembrance day service in my church in the early 80s….the poem and the name “woodbine willie” always stuck in my mind,so image my joy when i found his biography in mint condition in a charity shop a few years ago

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.