Wilfred Owen

Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen with his fellow officers Officers of the 5th (Reserve) Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen is in the front row, second from the right

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Wilfred was 21 when war broke out and was working as a teacher in France. He saw many injured soldiers at a hospital near the school he worked in. He started to write poems about what he saw.

Wilfred paid close attention to detail and this helped him to write very accurate descriptions of the things he saw. However some people thought he was nosy because he spent so much time studying how things looked.

He started to realise how dangerous war was. Wilfred felt sorry for injured soldiers and did not like how the war was hurting them. He chose to return to England and join the army to help in the war effort.

Artists' Rifles

Wilfred was keen not to lose his love for poetry out at war.

Illustration of Wilfred as a soldier

In 1915 he enlisted in the Artists' Rifles, a special regiment of the army which many actors, artists and writers had joined.

At first, he did not like the men who were fighting with him. He thought they were rough and did not understand the beauty of art and poetry. However, Wilfred was very good at shooting rifles and machine guns and the other men started to respect him for it.

'Sad land'

In January 1917, Wilfred had to stand for 50 hours in a flooded dugout trench in no man's land as the German's bombarded the land around him. No Man's Land was the area between the British and German trenches. It was called No Man's Land because it was very dangerous and men could not freely cross it. Wilfred called No Man's Land "Sad Land".

Shell shock

In May 1917, Wilfred was hit by a shell explosion at Savy Wood. The same explosion killed his best friend, 'Cock Robin'. Wilfred was devastated. He was rescued but began behaving very strangely. He was suffering from shell shock. This was when soldiers who kept hearing bombs or shells explode next to them started to act strangely because of the noise, fear and danger.

At the start of the war, lots of soldiers who suffered from shell shock had been called cowards and some were executed (killed). Wilfred was lucky that people now understood shell shock better. He was sent to hospital in Edinburgh to recover.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas for Wilfred Owen.

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