Owen, Wilfred, 1893-1918

Alternative names
Birth 1893-03-18
Death 1918-11-04

Biographical notes:

Epithet: poet

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000566.0x0000b5

Wilfred Edward Salter Owen was born to Tom and Susan Owen at Oswestry, Shropshire, on 18 March 1893, the eldest of four children. In 1897, the family left Oswestry for Birkenhead and eventually Shrewsbury as Tom Owen held successive supervisory positions with the railway. Between 1901 and 1910, Wilfred was educated at Birkenhead Institute and Shrewsbury Technical School, but in his 1911 matriculation exam for the University of London he failed to achieve first-class honors. Without the honors a scholarship became an impossibility, and family support was insufficient otherwise.

Owen spent the years between 1911 and 1915 in a variety of educational and vocational pursuits: he served as a lay assistant to an Anglican vicar; studied privately and at the University College, Reading; taught English at the Berlitz school in Bordeaux; and tutored the sons of a French family. This period also marks the beginning of his first systematic efforts to write poetry.

In September 1915, thirteen months into the Great War, Wilfred Owen returned to England and enlisted in the army. After military training he was in June 1916 commissioned a second lieutenant in the Manchester Regiment. Further postings and additional training followed and in early 1917 he was sent to France, where he was wounded in March and again in April.

Diagnosed with shell-shock, Owen was sent to the Craiglockhart War Hospital outside Edinburgh, arriving in June 1917. The hospital was, during the war years, a facility specializing in the treatment of officers suffering from combat-related psychiatric disorders. Not long after arriving Wilfred Owen was made editor of The Hydra, the patients' magazine at the hospital. His poem Song of songs, appearing in the September 1917 issue, was Owen's first published work.

In August, Siegfried Sassoon, a war poet known to Owen by reputation, arrived at Craiglockhart. Owen quickly introduced himself to Sassoon and with the encouragement and assistance of the older man soon began writing starker and less derivative poetry based on his war experiences. In late 1917 and into 1918, Sassoon introduced Owen to writers and artists in his circle.

Light duty in the fall of 1917 and in the early months of 1918 allowed Owen a measure of leisure time to produce the majority of the poems on which his reputation is based. Anthem for doomed youth,   Dulce et decorum est,   Strange meeting,   Parable, and Futility were all written in the months between the fall of 1917 and late spring 1918.

After Sassoon left the front with a near-fatal head wound, Wilfred Owen returned to active duty in France in July 1918 with the Second Manchesters. On October 2, at Joncourt, Owen replaced his wounded company commander under fire and helped repel a German attack. For this he was ultimately rewarded with the Military Cross.

On 4 November 1918--one week before the Armistice--as he was leading his platoon in crossing the Sambre Canal near the village of Ors, Owen was killed on the canal bank. As the church bells rang in Shrewsbury on Armistice Day the War Department telegram announcing his death was delivered to his parents.

From the guide to the Wilfred Owen Collection, 1898-1982, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center)


British World War I poet Wilfred Owen was killed on the battlefield in France. His POEMS were posthumously edited and published by his friend Siegfried Sassoon.

From the description of Papers, 1917-1965. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122530044


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  • English poetry--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918--Great Britain--Literature and the war
  • War poetry, English
  • Families
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives
  • Poets, English--20th century


  • Poets, English


  • England (as recorded)
  • France (as recorded)