War poet Wilfred Owen served in Dunsden Green before the Great War
Wilfred Owen is one of our most famous war poets – and he has a local connection. ahead of the Great War commemorations.
One of the First World War’s most important poets has a local connection and, in this centenary year, his life is being honoured with an exciting new project.
Wilfred Owen wrote a range of verse that gave valuable insight into life on the frontline.
One of his most famous is Dulce Et Decorum Est, which contains vivid images of a gas attack and the nightmares it brings on.
He also wrote Anthem For Doomed Youth, which conjures up the sounds and smells of the battlefield: rifles, shells and bugles.
The evocative work has left a mark on society and reflecting on both the poet and his poetry is one of the ways in which many of us will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The anniversary of Britain declaring war on Germany falls on Monday, August 4 and a series of special events to commemorate the date will be taking place across the country. But a more local act of remembrance will shine a spotlight on Wilfred Owen and his local connections.
Born in Shropshire in 1887, William Owen came to the parish of Dunsden in 1911 when he was just 18. He arrived to become an assistant to the vicar of All Saints Church, a role he held until February 1913.
His time in Dunsden was to prove vital and turbulent, a time of questioning and reassessing, and for loosening the rigid social and religious beliefs of his family, and of his world.
His experience in Dunsden set him against a religious vocation and he left determined to follow his calling as a poet. This took him ultimately to the battlefields of the First World War, where he was killed one week before the Armistice, in November 1918.
His parents received the telegram announcing his death as the Victory bells were ringing.
They are buried in the churchyard at Dunsden, alongside his sister, Mary. Owen’s grave is in Ors, France.
Now, The Dunsden Owen Association has created a special Wilfred Owen Trail to enable people to learn more about his life and work. It draws on letters that he had written and leads people on a tour of the village.
The project, run in conjunction with arts company Outrider Anthems, has been awarded a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £22,800 to make it a reality.
Jennifer Leach, joint Chair of the Dunsden Owen Association and Director of Outrider Anthems, says of the award: “The generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enables us to celebrate this unique connection with one of England’s greatest war poets.
“We are developing the Wilfred Owen Trail as a Smartphone app and an online trail which will be launched on Sunday, November 9.
“The trail will be based on the compelling letters Owen wrote to his home in Shropshire, and will take people around the local sites of his time in Dunsden. There will be alternative formats for non-technically minded visitors.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East, said: “Through his poetry and letters, Wilfred Owen painted a vivid picture of the atrocities of the First World War.
“He put pen to paper to express his feelings of anger at the cruelty he’d witnessed, giving us a rare glimpse at the changing conditions for local people in the run-up to the conflict. We are proud to be supporting this project.”
To mark the trail’s launch and to highlight the anniversary of the First World War, All Saints in Dunsden and the Dunsden Owen Association are organising a range of special events, starting with a flower festival this month, culminating in a series of events around Armistice Day in November.
To learn more about the Association visit www.owenindunsden.org