'If it weren't for the birds, what a hell it would be.'

On this page you will find events taking place at the Cathedral to commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.

Lawrence of Arabia's War - A Talk by Dr Neil Faulkner

Thursday 17 May


£4.00 ticket price

Drawing on ten years of field research to offer the first truly multidisciplinary history of the conflicts that raged in Sinai, Arabia, Palestine and Syria during the First World War.  Dr Neil Faulkner rewrites the history of T.E. Lawrence's legendary military campaigns in the context of the Arab Revolt.

For further information and tickets please visit here

Where Poppies Blow: The Natural History of the Western Front during the First World War - A Talk by John Lewis-Stempel

Thursday 28 June


FREE (registration required)

During the Great War, soldiers lived inside the ground, closer to nature than many humans had lived for centuries. Animals provided comfort and interest to fill the blank hours in the trenches - bird-watching, for instance, was probably the single most popular hobby among officers. Soldiers went fishing in flooded shell holes, shot hares in no-man's land for the pot, and planted gardens in their trenches and billets. Nature was also sometimes a curse - rats, spiders and lice abounded, and disease could be biblical.

But above all, nature healed, and, despite the bullets and blood, it inspired men to endure. Where Poppies Blow is the unique story of how nature gave the British soldiers of the Great War a reason to fight, and the will to go on.

For further information and to register please visit here

Visit to the Museum of Army Chaplaincy

£35.00 inc coach and private tour of the museum

Wednesday 13 June

9.30am - 6.00pm

As part of the Southwark Cathedral’s commemorations for the end of the First World War, The Friends of Southwark Cathedral have arranged a visit to the Museum of Army Chaplaincy.

Based in  Amport, Hampshire the museum tells the story of British Army Chaplaincy from earliest times to the present day with the help of archive material and historical relics from several centuries.  

A coach will leave the Cathedral about 9.30am and after a picnic at a local church will we be given a guided tour of the museum.  We will return to London at approximately 6.00pm. 

The cost is £35 and you will need to bring your own snacks and picnic lunch. 

Places are strictly limited so if you wish to join us please contact Kate Dean by email at kate.dean@southwark.anglican.org  or telephone 020 7367 6724 for information or to book your place.

Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War - A Talk by Elisabeth Shipton

Thursday 13 September


FREE (registration required)

The First World War saw one of the biggest ever changes in the demographics of warfare, as thousands of women donned uniforms and took an active part in conflict for the first time in history. Female Tommies looks at the military role of women worldwide during the Great War and reveals the extraordinary women who served on the frontline.

Through their diaries, letters and memoirs, meet the women who defied convention and followed their convictions to defend the less fortunate and fight for their country. Follow British Flora Sandes as she joins the Serbian Army and takes up a place in the rearguard of the Iron Regiment as they retreat from the Bulgarian advance. Stow away with Dorothy Lawrence as she smuggles herself to Paris, steals a uniform and heads to the front. Enlist in Russia’s all-female ‘Battalion of Death’ alongside peasant women and princesses alike.

The personal accounts of these women, who were members of organisations such as the US Army Signal Corps, the Canadian Army Medical Corps, the FANY, WRAF, WRNS, WAAC and many others, provide a valuable insight into what life was like for women in a male-dominated environment.

Elisabeth Shipton has worked as Archivist for New College, Oxford, the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, and the Royal Green Jackets Museum.

For further information and to register please visit here

Art of the First World War - A Day of Talks

Saturday 20 October

10.15am - 4.30pm


'I am no longer an artist. I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth and may it burn their lousy souls'.  Paul Nash

The First World War was the first conflict to spawn a wealth of artistic output from those who fought on its battlefields. 

To commemorate the Centenary of the end of the First World War, Southwark Cathedral is delighted to be joined by four experts on art and artists of the Great War.  Over the course of the day you will discover a small selection of the Imperial War Museum's exceptional art collection from this period, to the life and works of some of the most famous and not so famous artists who shaped the public view of the war.

10.30am - Rebecca Newell 

Highlights from the IWM First World War Art collection

The IWM’s art collection is one of the largest and most important representations of twentieth century British art in the world. It includes many great works of art from the British government war art schemes of the two World Wars. In its reflection of artists as eyewitnesses, participants, commentators and officially commissioned recorders of war, the First World War official War Art collection reveal to us all aspects of that conflict as seen and experienced by ordinary people, both civilians and service men and women. Framed in a time of unprecedented government patronage of the arts, during which the establishment and the public embraced the avant-garde, it reveals too how artists broke with tradition, creating a new visual language to communicate the truth, depth and horror of what they saw. 

Rebecca Newell joined the IWM as Head of Art in early September 2017. She is working on all aspects related to the care, display and interpretation of the IWM preeminent art collection – the critical framework for which is the museum’s foundation in 1917 to the present day - identifying new opportunities for collecting and working with artists and partners. Current research projects include work on LGBTQ experiences in conflict situations, ‘military masculinities’ and aspects relating to the war artists schemes of the World Wars. She has a background in art history (BA and MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art) and museology, and prior to joining IWM, worked as a curator for six years at the newly reopened National Army Museum during a critical time of redevelopment. Alongside wide-ranging collections development and research into contemporary art and conflict, female service experiences and LGBTQ and the army, she was part of the small team responsible for curating the new permanent galleries, working on all aspects and with stakeholders, audiences and partners to the point of delivery in April 2017. She also initiated collections outreach, co-curatorial and artist engagement activities, and started a rolling art commissioning project during her time at the museum.

11.45am - David Boyd Haycock

Paul Nash and CRW Nevinson

Paul Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson were two of the most significant artists to paint the soldiers and battlefields of World War One. Walter Sickert described Nevinson’s painting La Mitrailleuse (‘The Machine-Gun’, 1916, Tate Britain) as probably ‘the most authoritative and concentrated utterance on war in the history of painting’. Another contemporary wrote that Nash’s shattered landscapes seemed to have been ‘torn from the sulphurous rim of the inferno itself.’ This lecture explores the artistic development of both men and their distinct but related responses to representing an extraordinary, horrific and very modern war in paint.

Dr David Boyd Haycock has worked as an academic at the Universities of Oxford and London, and as a curator at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.  He is now a freelance writer, lecturer and curator specializing in British cultural history of the early twentieth century.

He is the author of a number of books, including Paul Nash (Tate Publishing, 2002); A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (Old Street Publishing, 2009), which was short-listed by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain as best work of non-fiction, 2009; and I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women who went to Fight Fascism (Old Steet Publishing, 2012). He curated the exhibition ‘Nash, Nevinson, Spencer, Gertler, Carrington, Bomberg: A Crisis of Brilliance, 1908 to 1922’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in the summer of 2013.

1.00pm - 2.00pm Lunch

2.00pm - Dr Jonathan Black

'Speed, grace and dodging the grim reaper': The Experiences of Lieutenant Sydney Carline (1888-1929) Fighter Pilot and War Artist in France, Italy and the Middle East, 1916-19.

'Sydney Carline (1888-1929) studied at the Slade School of Art, University College London between 1907 and 1911, winning several prizes. By the outbreak of the First World War he was emerging as a highly talented painter, etcher and medal-designer. Late in 1915 he volunteered to serve in the Royal Flying Corps. He was awarded his wings in July 1916 and a month later was flying missions over France. He was shot down and nearly killed after a flying a raid over the Somme battlefield. After a lengthy recuperation he returned to duty in 1918 as a fighter pilot flying the celebrated Sopwith Camel in the skies over north-eastern Italy. He shot down three enemy Austro-Hungarian aircraft before he was appointed in July 1918 an official war artist attached to the RAF section of the Ministry of information. My talk will explore the striking and evocative work Sydney produced first in Italy and then in the Middle East when he was sent there with his younger brother Richard early in 1919 to record the significant contribution the recently created RAF had made to the destruction of Ottoman Turkish military power in the region in 1918. Over several months (January-August 1919) Sydney and Richard made the journey of a lifetime, sketching and painting for the RAF in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, the Lebanon, Iraq and northern Persia - ending up by the shores of the Caspian Sea.'

Dr. Jonathan Black was awarded his PhD in History in Art by University College, London in 2003 for a thesis exploring the Image of the Ordinary British Soldier or 'Tommy' in the war art and memorial sculpture of: C.R.W. Nevinson (18891-1946), Eric Henri Kennington (1888-1960) and Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934) c. 1915-1925. His publications include monographs on Kennington as a sculptor (2002) and as a war artist in WWII (2011), a study of Nevinson as a printmaker (2014) and of the image of Winston Churchill in British Art c. 1900-2015 (2017). He has curated 10 exhibitions including one focussing on the prints of CRW Nevinson (2014); 'War in the Sunshine: The British In Italy, 1918' at the Estorick Collection, London (2017) and on the society portraitist Sir Oswald Birley (1880-1952) at the Philip Mould Gallery, London (2017). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow in History of Art at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.

3.15pm - Richard Slocombe

“An Unseemly Joke”: Wyndham Lewis and the First World War

As an avant-garde painter and radically experimental novelist, Wyndham Lewis was a potent force in early 20th century British modernism.  He also remains one of its most contentious figures; his outspoken views on art, culture and politics sharply dividing opinion to this day.

 This lecture focuses on Lewis’ experience of the First World War, covering his transition from pre-war radical to serving artillery officer to state-commissioned war artist, and finally concludes with his disillusionment post-war.  It will also consider Lewis’ characteristically complex attitude to war. “I neither hate it nor love it” he admitted in his 1937 autobiography Blasting and Bombardiering.  Accordingly, Lewis’ artistic response to the First World War avoided obvious outrage at its destruction or the promise of redemption for its protagonists.  Instead, the talk will show that Lewis’ art was informed by the belief that war merely exposed the inherent absurdity of humanity.

Richard Slocombe is a freelance curator and writer, based in Norfolk.  Prior to this he was for 14 years Curator and then Senior Curator of Art at Imperial War Museums in London. While there he was responsible for several critically-acclaimed art exhibitions, including Truth and Memory, a survey of British First World War art, which marked conflict’s centenary in July 2014. Other shows Richard has curated included the first retrospective of the political photomontage artist Peter Kennard, in 2015, and, most recently, Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War. The exhibition, staged last year at IWM North, was the first full retrospective of the artist in a UK national museum for over 60 years.

 Richard’s main research interests are British art during the World Wars and the Cold War era, the evolution ‘dazzle’ and marine camouflage and war and propaganda posters. He has written and lectured widely on these subjects besides making numerous related television and radio appearances for UK and overseas broadcasters.

Richard continues to lecture and write, as well as advise galleries and art dealerships.

Richard has researched and lectured widely on his specialist subjects. He has written articles for national newspapers and written and contributed to several publications. These include British Posters of the Second World War (IWM, 2010), Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist (IWM, 2015) and The Somme: A Visual History(IWM, 2016). Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War (IWM, 2017) was made with the acclaimed Lewis scholar, Paul Edwards.

Main Image: Over the Top by John Nash 

©Imperial War Museum (Art.IWM ART1656)

For further information and to purchase tickets please visit here

Poetry of the First World War - A Day of Talks

Saturday 3 November

10.15am - 4.30pm


“This book is not about heroes. English Poetry is not yet fit to speak of them. Nor is it about deeds, or lands, nor anything about glory, honour, might, majesty, dominion, or power, except War. Above all I am not concerned with Poetry. My subject is War, and the pity of War.” Wilfred Owen, 1918

To commemorate the Centenary of the end of the First World War, Southwark Cathedral in partnership with the Poetry Society is delighted to host this day of talks on First World War poetry.

Poetry of the First World War continues to have a powerful effect on readers and over the course of the day you will discover the poetry of the First World War which is some of Britain’s most well known and celebrated literature. It has also been the medium through which successive generations have best come to understand the human tragedy of the conflict.

These illustrated talks will take place in the elegant Cathedral Library.

David Roberts - “At the end of the First World War came "The peace to end peace" (Siegfried Sassoon) - what had been achieved? What are the lessons? -  The poetry, the politics, the facts. A talk and discussion

Britain declared war on Germany on 4th of August 2014 to save Belgium then under relentless attack by the German army. We declared war on Austria-Hungary and on Turkey shortly after this. The war was promoted as "a war to end war."

After ten million deaths and the declaration of victory the popular mood in Britain was a mixture of triumph, heartbreak and disillusionment.

Author, David Roberts, who has edited three very successful anthologies of First World War war poetry with historical background and is the editor of The War Poetry Website, explores with factual evidence and the words of poets and commentators of the time, the achievements and responses of the British people to the war's end. There was indeed peace, but what kind of peace was it? What can we learn from the experience of the First World War for the furthering of peace in the future?​

Tony Geraghty - Rendevouz with Death: Artists and Writers in the Thick of It 1914 - 1918

Rendevouz with Death is part of the title of a poem by Alan Seeger, an American who died fighting with the French Foreign Legion on the Western Front in 1916. “I have a rendezvous with death” reflected the importance among many creative artists of his generation, for whom the how of death as important as the fact of the matter.

The author, son of a survivor of the Somme, identifies an extraordinary paradox linking fifteen men.  The force that drove them in life imposed a semblance of order on the chaos of their existence.  To do so they used the disciplines of music, dance, poetry, plays and painting.  They then chose to march in the cannon's mouth and bloody anarchy of the battlefield.  For some, such as the poet Edward Thomas, the effect was therapeutic, for a time.

Tony Geraghty FRSA is the author of a number of best-selling books.  Educated at the London Oratory School in Chelsea and at Wandsworth Technical College, as a national service army sergeant he was on active service in Egypt with the 16th Independent Parachute Brigade.  He then had a thirty-year career as a journalist (including fourteen years as Chief Reporter and Defence Correspondent of the Sunday Times) covering conflicts in Europe, Ireland, Africa and the Middle East.  He was then recruited by the RAF Volunteer Reserve and served as am RAF Squadron Leader during the First Gulf War (1990-1991) flying on intelligance-gathering missions before an attachment to the US armed forces in the same theatre, for which he received a US military decoration.

Linda Parker - Woodbine Willie: A Seeker After Truths

Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, often known as ‘Woodbine Willie’ is arguably one of the most famous army chaplains of the Great War. He is commemorated in the calendar of Common Worship  on 8th March as  ‘priest’ and ‘poet’ and a large part of  his popularity as a chaplain and his  post war fame sprung from his publication of his ‘ rough rhymes ‘ as he modestly described them. His poetry written in the trenches was written in a ballad style, often in the dialect words of the soldiers as he experienced them. The poems, such as “What’s the Good”? and “Sinner and Saint –A Sermon in a Billet “were accessible to the soldiers, and dealt with the problems and doubts and trials that   that they were all experiencing .

Studdert Kennedy had his pre war ideas and faith severely tested by the conflict, but worked out his theology and political ideology during the course of   the war. He came to believe in suffering God who shared our grief and pain and tried out these ideas in his talks to soldiers and in his poetry in such poems as “The Suffering God “and “The Sorrows of God “.

Some of his poems prefigured his political and pacifist stances after the war and others described the comradeship of the trenches and the suffering of the women and families who were left behind .

Studdert Kennedy’s poetry was an essential expression of his pastoral and theological ministry during the war and much can be discovered  about this complex, eccentric and brave chaplain by examining his poetry.

Linda Parker is an independent researcher and author.  Her main writing focus is on army chaplaincy in both world wars, and her main historical interests lie in 20th century military, social and religious history.

Dr Santanu Das - South Asian Poetry and Song of the First World War

During 1914-18, hundreds of thousands of South Asians voyaged to the heart of whiteness and beyond – from Mesopotamia to East Africa – to take part in the First World War. Of all the colonial empires, undivided India contributed around 1.7 million men. Starting with archival material from across South Asia, Europe and Australia – trench objects, shell-cases, diaries, images, and original sound-recordings of Indian POWs done in 1915 - this talk will explore a substantial body of largely unknown poetry from across undivided India - in Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali and English, among others. Dr Das will use this poetry to question the colour of war literature and raise larger questions of what it may mean for our understanding of the term 'First World War poetry'. For to engage with such poetry, we need to get beyond the world of print into a rich oral culture: many of the participants were non-literate but robustly literary, reciting, quoting, singing or trading in verse; Dr Das will also engage with folksongs sung by the women when their men went to war.

Starting with verse - elite, street-side, written, spoken or sung - by both combatants and civilians, men and women, Dr Das will focus on a few selected 'war poems' of the three most famous South Asian poets of the time - Rabindranath Tagore, Muhammed Iqbal and Kazi Nazrul Islam - who were later adopted as the national poets of the future India, Pakistan and Bangladesh respectively; at the same time.

Educated in Kolkata and Cambridge, Dr Santanu Das is currently Reader in English at King’s College London. He is the author of the award-winning monograph Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature (Cambridge, 2006) and Indian Troops in Europe, 1914-1918 (Paris, 2014) and the editor of Race, Empire and First World War Writing (2016) and the Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War (2014). He has written for the Guardian and The Independent and presented the series 'Soldiers of the Empire' for BBC Radio 4. His next book South Asia and the First World War: Literature, Images and Songs is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press later this year.

The Poetry Society 

The day will also include a screening of two commissioned animations inspired by poems from and about the First World War, followed by a reading by members of the The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network.

The Young Poets Network members will read a selection of classic and contemporary First World War poems, illuminating today’s talks and lectures with verse.

The Poetry Society was founded in 1909 to promote “a more general recognition and appreciation of poetry”. Since then, it has grown into one of Britain’s most dynamic arts organisations, representing British poetry both nationally and internationally. Today it has more than 4000 members worldwide and publishes the leading poetry magazine, The Poetry Review.


For further information and to purchase tickets please visit here