Wilfred Owen Biography
Died At Age: 25
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Wilfred Edward Salter Owen
Born in: Oswestry
Famous as: Poet
father: Harold Owen
mother: Susan Owen
siblings: Colin, Harold, Mary Millard Owen
place of death: Sambre–Oise Canal
education: University of London, University of Reading,
Wilfred Owen was an English poet and solider. His family shuffled between Birkenhead and Shrewsbury during his childhood, and he was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School. Raised as an Anglican, he was a devout believer in his youth. However, he lost faith in the church because of its ceremony and failure to help those in need. He enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corps when war broke out. He trained at Hare Hall Camp in Essex, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment. With a trench mortar hitting him, he was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. There he met poet Siegfried Sassoon whose realism, and the romanticism of Keats and Shelly influenced his poetry a great deal. Historians regard Owen as a leading poet of the First World War. He is famous for his war poetry on the horrors of trench and gas warfare. His best-known works are “Dulce et Decorum Est”, “Insensibility”, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Futility” and “Strange Meeting”. While attempting to cross the Sambre canal, he was shot and killed. The news of his death arrived at his parents’ house in Shrewsbury on Armistice Day.
- Wilfred Owen was born Wilfred Edward Salter Owen on March 18, 1893 to Thomas Owen and Harriet Susan Shaw Owen at Oswestry, Shropshire, England. The eldest of four children, his siblings were Harold, Colin and Mary Millard Owen.
- The family lived in a comfortable house owned by his grandfather, Edward Shaw. The house was sold after his death. The family then stayed in Birkenhead while Thomas Owen worked with a railway company.
- His father was transferred to Shrewsbury, during which time the family lived with Thomas’ parents in Canon Street. In 1898, Thomas was transferred back to Birkenhead when he became stationmaster at Woodside station.
- His family moved homes three successive times in the Tranmere district. They moved back to Shrewsbury in 1907. Wilfred was educated at the Birkenhead Institute and at Shrewsbury Technical School.
- He discovered his poetic talents in 1903 when he was 10 years old when holidaying in Cheshire. Raised as an Anglican of the evangelical school, he was a devout believer during his youth.
- Owen was a pupil-teacher at the Wyle Cop School in Shrewsbury. In 1911, he passed the matriculation exam for the University of London, but did not qualify for scholarship.
- He worked as an assistant to the Vicar of Dunsden near Reading in return for free lodging, and some tuition for the entrance exam. He also attended botany classes at University College, Reading.
- He took free lessons in Old English at the behest of the English Department’s head. He was disillusioned with the Church in Dunsden parish for its ceremony and failure to help those in need.
- From 1913, he worked as a private tutor of English and French at the Berlitz School of Languages in Bordeaux, France, and later with a family. There he met the French poet Laurent Tailhade.
- When war broke out, he enlisted in the Artists’ Rifles Officers’ Training Corps. He trained at Hare Hall Camp in Essex. In 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment.
- After a trench mortar hit him, he was diagnosed as suffering from neurasthenia or shell shock, and was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh for treatment. There he met poet Siegfried Sassoon.
- Dr. Arthur Brock, at Craiglockhart, advised him to put his war experiences into poetry. He composed poems, including “Futility” and “Strange Meeting”. He made friends with intellectuals, and taught at the Tynecastle High School.
- Owen’s early writing and poetry were initially influenced by the Romantic poets Keats and Shelley. Later, Siegfried Sassoon’s impact can be seen in his poems, “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.
- He wrote a “Preface” for the verses he planned to write. However, the only poems he saw published were those published in The Hydra, the magazine he edited, and “Miners” published in The Nation.
- In 1918, he was posted to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon. He led units of the Second Manchesters to storm a number of enemy strong points near the village of Joncourt.
- Five poems published before Owen’s death were also his best known ones including “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, “Futility”, “Dulce Et Decorum Est”, “The Parable of the Old Men and the Young” and “Strange Meeting”.
- Owen was awarded the Military Cross for his courage and leadership in the Joncourt action. The award was gazetted on 15 February 1919, followed by a citation.
- Owen’s friends, Robert Graves and Sacheverell Sitwell, have stated that he was homosexual. It has been debated whether Owen had an affair with Scottish writer C. K. Scott-Moncrieff in May 1918.
- The forester’s house in Ors, Maison forestière de l’Ermitage, where Owen spent his last night, has been transformed by Simon Patterson into an art installation and permanent memorial to Owen and his poetry.
- A week before the war ended, while attempting to cross the Sambre canal, he was shot and killed on November 4, 1918. The news of his death arrived at his parents’ house in Shrewsbury on Armistice Day.
- In 1975, Mrs. Harold Owen, sister-in-law, donated his manuscripts, photographs and letters to the University of Oxford’s English Faculty Library. The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Texas, holds a collection of his family correspondence.
- This poet has been the subject matter of the Pat Barker’s novel “Regeneration”, Stephen MacDonald’s play “Not About Heroes”, and Dean Johnson’s musical play, “Bullets and Daffodils” starring Christopher Timothy as the narrator.
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