World War One Poets
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John McCrae (1872-1918)
In Flanders Fields, probably the best-known poem of the First World War, was written in 1915 during the second Battle of Ypres. John McRae was a Canadian doctor who was appointed surgeon with the First Canadian Brigade. The death of one of his closest friends the day before caused him to write this timeless poem, which reflected his growing disillusion with the war and its unimaginable human cost. It is in part due to this poem that the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance. John Mcrae fell ill during the summer of 1917, and died of pneumonia and meningitis in January 1918.
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
Wilfred Owen, born in Oswestry. He enlisted in the Artists' Rifles and having completed military training, sailed for France December 1916. Nothing fully prepared him for the shock and suffering of front line experience. Within twelve days of arriving in France the easy-going chatter of his letters home turned to a cry of anguish. Most of his poetry was written while recovering in hospital from shell shock. Owen returned to the front in September 1918, won the Military Cross for gallantry in October, and was killed leading his men on 4 November, one week before the Armistice, at the age of 25.
Philip Johnstone 1895-1968
Lieutenant John Purvis, under the pseudonym of Philip Johnstone, wrote this poem in February 1918, 8 months before the Armistice. Remarkably he foresees tourists visiting the killing fields after the conflict's end. High Wood, referred to in this bizarre poem, was fought over during the Battle of the Somme and finally captured by the British in September 1916 after 3 months of heavy fighting. In fact, Purvis' inspired prediction became reality sooner than he might have envisaged: soon after the war, High Wood became one of the first places to be visited by tourists. This macabre place has never been totally cleared of bodies and the debris of war. Estimates suggest that the ground contains...