WILFRED OWEN—DULCE ET DECORUM EST
Wilfred Owen was born on the 18th March 1893 in Oswestry Shropshire. He lived there for a short period of time before the sale of the family home forced them to move into lodgings in Birkenhead where his father worked on the railway. After spending a short time there they moved back to the West country to Shrewsbury. It was here that Owen attended school and by his late teens he was a pupil/teacher in Wyle Cap before graduating to the University of London. At a young age Owen developed a great love of the Bible and he carried this devotion throughout his short life.
In October of 1915 Owen enlisted in the Artistic Rifles Training Corps and by the following year-in June-he received the commission of Second Lieutenant into the Manchester Regiment. Within a short period of being on the front line Owen was blown out of the trench in a mortar attack. He lay for a long period outside the trench before rescue and was suffering badly with shell shock. He was transferred from France to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh and it was here he first met his friend and mentor Siegfried Sassoon. When he was deemed to be fit for duties once more Owen was transferred to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon in Yorkshire. He spent the summer of 1918 here and at nearby Scarborough before once more moving back to the War in France and the front line, in August. During his time here Owen took part in a great deal of action and on one occasion led an attack that overpowered a German machine gun post-earning him the Military Cross. However the award wasn’t processed until 1919.
Wilfred Owen was killed in action on the 4th November 1918 exactly one week before the Armistice. His death took place while trying to cross the Sambre Oise Canal. He was promoted to Lieutenant the following day and his mother received news of his death on the 11th November when the church bells in Shrewsbury were ringing out in celebration of the ending of the War.
Wifred Owen was buried in Ors Community Cemetery.
Owen was the author of many fine war poems. Where poets like Rupert Brooke captured the patriotism of War, Owen was seen as an anti-war poet and the poem below—perhaps his best known relates the futility of War and the notion that it is a glorious thing to serve and die for one’s country.
Dulce et Decorum Est
By Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.