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Noted for its strong unfiltered cigarettes, the brand was popular in the early 20th century, especially with army men during World War I and World War II. In the Great War, the British Army chaplain Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC was affectionately nicknamed "Woodbine Willie" by troops on the Western Front to whom he handed out cigarettes along with bibles and spiritual comfort.
In common parlance, the unfiltered high-tar Woodbine was one of the brands collectively known as "gaspers" until about 1950, because new smokers found their strong smoke difficult to inhale. A filtered version was launched in the United Kingdom in 1948, but was discontinued in 1988.
In popular culture
- Woodbines are mentioned several times in the play Dancing at Lughnasa.
- In the film Telstar: The Joe Meek Story, the drummer of The Tornados stashes his Woodbines in the kick drum.
- Woodbines are mentioned by Guy Garvey, lead singer of Elbow in their song "Fly Boy Blue/Lunette".
- Bert Baxter, a character in the famous Adrian Mole series, often smokes a Woodbine cigarette.
- Jennifer Paterson, celebrity chef of the "Two Fat Ladies", is seen smoking Woodbine in several episodes of the show.
- Alun Lewis's anthologized poem "All Day It Has Rained"
- Frank McCourt mentions Woodbine cigarettes as his mother's favourite in his autobiography Angela's Ashes.
- Van Morrison mentions buying five Woodbines at the shop on the corner on his lunch break in his song "Cleaning Windows".
- Singer/Songwriter Lucinda Williams sings of "choking on woodbine" in the song "Factory Girls" on Flogging Molly's 2004 album Within a Mile of Home.
- In James Herriot's books, his veterinary partner, Siegfried Farnon's brother, Tristan, smokes Woodbines.
- Legendary chef Marco Pierre White in his autobiography The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the making of a Great Chef is quoted as saying,“Oh, that’s lovely wrist action you’ve got there. Fancy coming into the larder with me and earning yourself five Woodbines?”
- Woodbines are mentioned in The Greasy Chip Butty Song sung by fans of Sheffield United
- Woodbines are mentioned in Ice, a novel by Polish writer Jacek Dukaj.
- Woodbines are mentioned often as being smoked by the main recurring characters in Robert Rankin stories.
- Woodbines are mentioned several times by the characters in the photo-novel I Could Read the Sky, by Timothy O'Grady and Steve Pyke.
- A Woodbine is mentioned in New Tricks, "Powerhouse" episode (season 4, episode 5).
- Legendary North East comedian Bobby Thompson always smoked Woodbines on stage and also mentioned them frequently in his act.
- In Regeneration 'Lizzie collected her Woodbines and matches' page 109 penguin addition 1991
- The 2005 ITV miniseries Colditz features Woodbine cigarettes, an oft-mentioned, common commodity (and bargaining currency) among the Allied prisoners of the Colditz prison.
- In "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon, Woodbine is the cigarette Jessica Swanlake smokes.
- Woodbines are mentioned in Howard's End by E.M. Forster and in the Merchant Ivory film of the same name. Leonard Bast explains that a packet of Woodbines were his only sustenance during an all-night walk.
- McCourt, Frank (1999). "V". Angela's ashes: a memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 138. ISBN 0684874350.
- In The Dark: The Little Waster