Biography of Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen was a twentieth century poet known for his work about the First World War.

When and Where was he Born?

18th March 1893, Plas Wilmot, Oswestry, Shropshire, England.

Family Background:

Wilfred Owen was the son of a railway worker.

Education:

Birkenhead Institute. Shrewsbury Technical School. Pupil-Teacher at the Wyle Cop School. (Failed to win scholarship to) University of London.

Timeline of Wilfred Owen:

1897: The Owen family moves to Birkenhead.

1906: The family moves to Shrewsbury.

1911: Owen becomes a lay-assistant to the Vicar of Dumsden, near Reading.

1913: He goes to Bordeaux in France in September to teach English at the Berlitz school.

1914: Wilfred Owen tutors a family at Bagneres de Biorre, in the Pyrenees in June. Meets the French poet Laurent Tailhade.

1915: He makes a brief visit to England to see his family. May. Back in France. October. Goes back to England to enlist (despite his pacifist sympathies) in the 3/28th London Regiment, which later becomes the 2nd Artist’s Rifles Officer’s Training Corps.

1916: Owen is commissioned into the Manchester Regiment in June. Reports to the 5th (Reserve Battalion) at Milford Camp, near Witley. Helps devise improvements to the standard gas mask with his friend 2nd Lieutenant Gregg (who was later to be killed in action). He arrives at Talavera Barracks, Aldershot on 7th July and is attached to the 25th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment under the Commander in Chief, Lieutenant Colonel John Ward M.P. Takes a musketry course at Mychett Camp Farnborough from which he qualifies as a First Class Shot. Returns to Witley. November. Goes to Southport and lodges in rooms at 168a Lord Street Goes to Fleetwood to take command of a firing range party. Lodges at 111 Bold Street, Fleetwood. December. Returns to Southport to take charge of a musketry party on the range at Crossend. Allowed Christmas embarkation leave. 29th December. Goes to Folkestone to join the 2nd Manchester’s.

1917: On 1st January Wilfred Owen goes to the infantry base depot at Etaples, France. 12th Jan. In the front line in charge of A Company at Serre. On 4th February he goes on a transport course at Abbeville. He moves back into the line near Le Quesnoy en Santerre on 1st March. He suffers concussion during a fall on 14th March and arrives at No.13 Casualty Clearing Station at Gailly on 17th. He rejoins his battalion on 4th April and again is concussed due to a shell exploding nearby. On 2nd May he is evacuated on orders of Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Luxmoore, with shell shock. He is moved to Netley Hospital in Hampshire on 16th June. on 25th June Owen arrives in Craiglockhart Hospital, Edinburgh. He meets the poet Robert Graves there during August. In November after a short Leave he is posted back to 5th Battalion (Reserve) Manchester’s at Scarborough where he becomes the Mess secretary at the Clarence Gardens Hotel. (now Clifton Hotel).

1918: Owen attends Robert Grave’s wedding on 31st January. In March he is posted to Northern Command, Ripon where he takes lodgings in Borrage Lane. He is passed fit for service in June and rejoins the 5th Manchester’s in Scarborough. He sees the poet Siegfried Sassoon wounded in hospital during August and then returns to France. In September he arrives as an Officer re-enforcement with the 2nd Manchester’s. 1st-3rd October. Takes part in the attack on the Beaurevoir Fonsomme Line at Joncourt. Is recommended for a Military Cross for bravery. On 30th-31st the 2nd Manchester’s take over the line west of the Sambre-Oise canal, near Ors. He manages to write one last letter to his mother from the cellar of the Forester’s House at Pommereuil.

When and Where did he Die?

4th November 1918, Killed in France whilst leading a raiding party on the banks of the Sambre-Oise canal. The war was to end seven days later.

Age at Death:

25.

Wilfred Owen memorial
Memorial to Wilfred Owen in the grounds of Shrewsbury Abbey (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Written Works:

1917: “The Sentry. “Dulce et Decorum Est. “The Hydra” (Editor of the hospital magazine).
(1919): Seven poems are published in “Wheels”.
(1920): “Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen” (edited by Siegfried Sassoon).
(1931): Edmund Blunden edited edition of “Poems”.

Marriage:

Never married.

Site of Grave:

Communal Cemetery, Ors, France.

Places of Interest:

LONDON:

Imperial War Museum.

GREATER MANCHESTER:

Museum of the Manchester’s Regiment, Ashton-under-Lyme.

SHROPSHIRE:

Memorial to Owen outside Shrewsbury Abbey.

Symmetry sculpture commemorating Wilfred Owen (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Further Information:

The Wilfred Owen Association, Michael Granger, 192 York Road, Shrewsbury, SY1 3QH.