The first was Gloucestershire’s own voice of the period, known locally as the Laureate of Gloucestershire. Widely read and admired as a poet during the years following the Great War, Will Harvey had also written a less well known novel entitled Will Harvey: A Romance. This novel, partly autobiographical and partly fiction was adapted for the stage in Cheltenham by Director, Paul Milton and enjoyed by my husband and myself recently. It retold the story featuring the music of local composers Gustav Holst and Elgar amongst others, as well as singing, dancing and of course some of Harvey’s own poetry. It was a truly magical adaptation of his life and awakened my interest in the poet.
Another interesting poet of the same era is Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, affectionately known as ‘Woodbine Willie’. Chaplain to the troops in the second half of World War One, he was so named because he loved to talk about his faith to the men, attracting them to listen by handing out ‘Woodbine’ cigarettes – a contemporary product name.
A Yorkshire man born in Leeds in 1883, he was a down-to-earth plain-speaking man with a heart for the poor. Taking part in all the training and physical exercise of the company of the men he loved, he saw it as his duty to try and cheer their spirits, often whispering some inane remark to them when they were under fire in the trenches in order to raise a smile.
Some selected lines from one of his poems depicting the God he loved, are, I think, especially fine as they paint an extraordinarily vivid picture.