Here are 25 facts about Wilfred Owen:
#1 He was born in a house in Weston Lane, near Oswestry in Shropshire, on March 18, 1893. He was the eldest of four children.
#2 In 1903, he discovered his poetic gifts when he was ten years old when holidaying in Cheshire. He was raised as an Anglican of the evangelical school and was a sincere believer during his youth.
#3 When he was very small, the family moved to Birkenhead, where he went to school. Later, he attended Shrewsbury Technical School and graduated at the age of 18 (1911).
#4 After graduating from Shrewsbury Technical School, he was accepted to London University, however, his family could not afford the tuition, therefore, he took a job as a lay assistant to the Reverend Herbert Wigan in Dunsden.
#5 There he lived for 18 months and worked with the destitute and the illiterate, the elderly and the sick, developing a true compassion which would strongly influence his later work as both a poet and a soldier.
#6 He returned home in 1913, seriously ill with a respiratory infection due to his living in a damp, unheated room at the Reverend Herbert Wigan.
#7 After 8 months of convalescence at home, he moved to Bordeaux in France in 1913 where he worked as a tutor at the Berlitz School of Languages.
World War I
#8 At the start of World War I, he began to feel a sense of guilt that he was not fighting alongside the British soldiers. In 1915, he returned to England to enlist in the army and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. He became a 2nd lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment in June 1916.
#9 In January 1917, he experimented his 1st battle when he and his men had to hold out for about 40 hours in a flooded dugout near Serre Number 2 Cemetery while being heavily bombarded by German artillery.
#10 After only a few days in the front line, he wrote to his mother: “I can see no excuse for deceiving you about these 4 days. I have suffered the seventh hell. I have not been at the front. I have been in front of it.”
#11 During his 1st period in the trenches, he was blown into the air by a trench mortar and later spent a few days trapped in an old German dugout. He suffered shell-shock (posttraumatic stress disorder) and was sent to the War Hospital in Edinburgh in summer 1917.
Craiglockhart War Hospital
#12 At the Craiglockhart War Hospital, he met another patient, poet Siegfried Sassoon (best remembered for his compassionate and angry poems of the First World War), who served as a mentor and introduced him to well-known literary figures such as H. G. Wells and Robert Graves.
#13 Reading Siegfried Sassoon’s poems and discussing his work with Sassoon revolutionized his style and his conception of poetry.
#14 During his time at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, he was also supported by Arthur J. Brock, his doctor, who arranged for two of his poems to be published in The Hydra – the hospital’s literary journal.
#15 In 1918, he was sent back to the front.
#16 While back with the Manchester Regiment in Yorkshire, during the spring of 1918, he revised and wrote numerous of his most famous poems, including ”Exposure,” ”Strange Meeting,” and ”Futility.”
#17 He won the Military Cross by capturing a German machine-gun and using it to kill a number of enemies in October 1918.
#18 During the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal (it forms a connection between the river Sambre at Landrecies and the Oise at Tergnier), on November 4, 1918, he was killed in action, exactly seven days before the signing of the Armistice which ended the WW1.
#19 News of his death did not reach his home at Shrewsbury until November 11, the day which marked the end of the World War I.
#20 The bells of Shrewsbury Abbey were ringing to celebrate the end of the Great War when his parents received the telegram saying Wilfred Owen had died.
#21 A promise made by Siegfried Sassoon while at the Craiglockhart War Hospital – Edinburgh was fulfilled as an edited collection of his poignant war poems was published in 1920, hence, establishing him among the country’s greatest poets.
#22 Only 5 of his poems have been published during his lifetime.
#23 His best-known works include – “Insensibility,” “Dulce et Decorum est,” “Futility,” “Anthem for Doomed Youth,” “Strange Meeting,” and “Exposure.”
#24 His poems published by itself were with no explanation and no commentary given for its presence, therefore, the reader was left to make up her or his own mind.
#25 All the poems for which Wilfred is now remembered were written in a creative burst between August 1917 and September 1918.