Owen, Wilfred, 1893-1918

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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

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Cohen, Joseph, 1926-. Papers of Joseph Cohen, 1950-1980. University of South Carolina, University Libraries
creatorOf Ramsey, Joanne DuBois. Anthem for doomed youth / music by Joanne DuBois Ramsey ; text by Wilford Owen. Bowling Green State University, BGSU Libraries
creatorOf Underwood, James, 1951-. Arms and the boy : for flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, 2 violins, viola, soprano, narrator, piano, and [2] percussion / [music,] James Underwood ; text, Wilfred Owen. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn New Directions Publishing Corp. records, ca. 1933-1997. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Ficklen, Julian Brooking, 1928-. Correspondence of Julian Brooking Ficklen [manuscript] 1857-67 & 1959. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf Domek, Richard Charles, 1945-. Two songs : for tenor and piano / Richard Domek ; [text by] Wilfred Owen. Bowling Green State University, BGSU Libraries
referencedIn Watkins, Vera. The poetry of Wilfred Owen : autograph manuscript, [n.d.]. Pierpont Morgan Library.
creatorOf Wilfred Owen Collection, 1898-1982 Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
creatorOf Knopf, Michael,. The turning point : cantata for multicultural choir [music] / by Michael Knopf. Libraries Australia
referencedIn Manuscripts and proofs of New Directions books, 1937-1997. Houghton Library.
referencedIn POEMS OF WILFRED OWEN. Vol. II (ff. 183). Versions of all but four of the remaining poems edited by Blunden, op. cit., arranged for the most part in the order of his edition, together with versions of some further poems which were published neither b... British Library
referencedIn Stewart, Allegra. The notebooks of Dr. Allegra Stewart : notes about Ben Jonson, W. Owen, modern drama and linguistics, primary and secondary sources / written and collected by Stewart in conjunction with her teaching and research. Butler University Libraries
creatorOf Owen, Wilfred, 1893-1918. Papers, 1917-1965. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn MacDonald, Stephen. Not about heroes: typescript, 1982. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn MacDonald, Stephen. Not about heroes: typescript, 1983. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Józef Wittlin correspondence and compositions, 1940-1976. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Wilcher, Phillip. Anthem for doomed youth : 'cello, voice and piano [music] / music by Phillip Wilcher ; text by Wilfred Owen. Libraries Australia
referencedIn MacDonald, Stephen. Not about heroes: typescript, 1985. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Underwood, James. The orchestral noises of October nights : 1981 / James Underwood. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Owen, Wilfred. Letter, 1957, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn POEMS OF WILFRED OWEN. Vol. I (ff. 53). Contents:-(1) Owen's 'Preface', printed by Sassoon, op. cit., p. vii, and Blunden, op. cit., pp. 40-41. f. 1;-(2) Owen's table of contents, printed by Blunden, op. cit., P. 41. f. 2;-(3) Versions of the twenty... British Library
creatorOf Leek, Stephen. The old lie : for SATB a cappella choir [music] / by Stephen Leek ; text by Wilfred Owen. Libraries Australia
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bell, John. person
associatedWith Blunden, Edmund, 1896-1974 person
associatedWith Chatto & Windus (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Cohen, Joseph, 1926- person
associatedWith Craiglockhart War Hospital. corporateBody
associatedWith Domek, Richard Charles, 1945- person
associatedWith Ficklen, Julian Brooking, 1928- person
associatedWith Gunston, Leslie. person
associatedWith Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986 person
associatedWith Knopf, Michael, person
associatedWith Leek, Stephen. person
associatedWith MacDonald, Stephen. person
associatedWith New Directions Publishing Corp. corporateBody
associatedWith Owen, Harold. person
associatedWith Owen, Susan. person
associatedWith Oxford University Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Ramsey, Joanne DuBois. person
associatedWith Sassoon, Siegfried, 1886-1967 person
associatedWith Stewart, Allegra. person
associatedWith Underwood, James. person
associatedWith Underwood, James, 1951- person
associatedWith Watkins, Vera. person
associatedWith Welland, Denis S. R. person
associatedWith Wilcher, Phillip. person
associatedWith Wittlin, Józef, 1896- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
English poetry--20th century
World War, 1914-1918--Great Britain--Literature and the war
War poetry, English
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives
Poets, English--20th century
Poets, English


Birth 1893-03-18

Death 1918-11-04




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