Monday, January 24, 2011

Facts about Wilfred Owen

  • Wilfred Owen (18 March 1893 – 4 November 1918) is best known as one of the most powerful war poets, who depicted the reality and horrors of the First World War.
  • He was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, England - where there is now a memorial to him.
  • Owen was influenced by the great romantic poets of Keats, Byron, Shelly, Coleridge and Wordsworth.
  • When war broke out, Owen was teaching in France. He even considered joining the French army but joined the British army in 1915.
  • Owen's first experience of the war was in hospitals treating the wounded soldiers - often without anaesthetic.
  • Wilfred Owen was invalided out of the army in 1916 suffering from shell shock.
  • Recuperating in an Edinburgh hospital, Wilfred Owen became close friends with poet Siegfried Sassoon. Sassoon played a key role in encouraging the young war poet.
  • When Owen returned to the front in 1918, he hid the fact from his friend Siegfried Sassoon, who didn't want him to return.
  • His poem 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' is one of the best-known war poems of all time.
  • What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
    Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
    Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
    Can patter out their hasty orisons.
  • In his preface to his collection of war poetry, Owen writes this fitting analogy:
'My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.'
  • His famous poem "Dulce et Decorum est" takes its first line from a poem of Horace.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori  translates at: "It is sweet and right to die for your country."

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped  Five-Nines  that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,

To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
  • Owen's poetry was influenced by his friend Siegfried Sasson, in particular, the use of satire and sarcasm in his poetry. For example, "The ecstasy of fumbling' for gas masks is turning the use of the word ecstasy on its head.
  • Wilfred Owen was killed in battle during the last month of the war - November 1918. He died exactly one week (almost to the hour) before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war.
  • His parents received a telegram on Armistice day 1918, as the bells were ringing in celebration at the end of the war.
  • After his death, he was awarded the Military Cross. Owen wanted this medal to make his anti-war poetry appear even stronger.
  • Wilfred Owen is buried between two privates in the corner of a village cemetery at Ors. His grave is marked with a simple cross and gravestone. 
  • His life and relationship with Siegfried Sassoon is the subject of Pat Barker's 1991 historical novel Regeneration
  • More on Wilfred Owen at Biography of Wilfred Owen
photo: by huwowenthomas - Flickr cc


Ramathi Bandaranayake said...

I am a final year student at the Colombo International School, Colombo, Sri Lanka. I am a student of A Level Literature and I have been a fan of First World War poetry and novels from a very young age.

I have just published a book titled "Fighters and Dreamers:The Friendship of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen 1917-1919 and Beyond".

This work is an exploration of one of the most famous and most important literary friendships, for although tragically brief, their friendship left behind writing that is at once thought-provoking, shocking, compassionate and very relevant. The printed book is being distributed free of charge.

The book will be appreciated by fans of the two poets and anyone interested in war poetry.
The book is posted in its entirety on the website and the PDF version can be downloaded, free of charge.

Thank you

Ramathi Bandaranayake
Sri Lanka

Anonymous said...

I am making a fact file on Owen and this really helped thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

I am in the stage of doing GCSES and this was great for my fact file on wilfied Owen ��������

Anonymous said...

English homework for gcses on Wilfred owen, this really helped

TheTWriter said...

I am doing some homework on Wilfred Owen, so this really helped. Thanks!
P.S. I might download the book that you have written.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

doing gcse poetry so thanks a lot