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Wilfred Owen: Events continue to mark 100 years since death of Shropshire war poet

By Jonny Drury | Oswestry | News | Published:

Shropshire war poet Wilfred Owen died 100 years ago – and the impact of his death is as profound as ever.

A bugle that belonged to Wilfred Owen was played at the site of his grave in France

The centenary of Owen’s death has been marked both in his home county and further afield.

Most poignantly, a ceremony took place at his graveside in France, where the bugle he took from the battlefield was played.

Elizabeth Owen, widow of his nephew Peter, attended the ceremony in Ors communal cemetery following a dawn visit to the site of the soldier’s death along the Sambre-Oise canal.

French locals and members of the Wilfred Owen Association gathered to hear The Last Post played on a bugle Owen took from a dead German soldier during the First World War.

'Loot'

Oswestry-born Owen was killed on November 4 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors, just seven days before peace was declared.

He wrote about the bugle, referring to having got some “loot”, in a letter to his brother in 1917.

His final letter home was read at a ceremony exactly 100 years after his death and wreaths were laid in his memory in a service Fiona MacDonald of the Wilfred Owen Association, described as moving.

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She said: “There is just something really special about being here and hearing Owen’s bugle played for the first time in public.”

Scott Knowles with a statue commemorating the works of Owen was in Birkenhead

Elsewhere, a statue commemorating the works of Owen was unveiled at Hamilton Square in Birkenhead, where he lived for a while.

Named after one of Owen’s many war poems, ‘Futility’ has been cast in bronze at a Liverpool Foundry by sculptor, Jim Whelan. The statue represents an exhausted World War One solider.

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And in his town of birth, a festival to remember the life of Owen continued over the weekend on the anniversary of his death.

An On The Front Line event involving street theatre, music, poetry and re-enactments took place in Oswestry

At the memorial hall, people from the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, and the Western Front from Wolverhampton attended as part of an exhibition showing what life was like on the front line.

Wilfred Owen

It is running throughout the week, and is one of a string of events still planned.

Chris Woods, one of the organisers of the festival said: “This event has been well supported, as has the whole thing. The people of Oswestry have taken really well to it, it has been fantastic.

"Obviously the statue was well received, and it has been financially well supported too. One thing we do need is for the evening events to be supported a bit better in terms of ticket numbers. But all in all it has been great, and we have had plenty of people coming along to this exhibition.”

Also at the event was former SAS veteran Simon Jarman, who was serving hundreds of portions of corn beef hash rations, similar to what the troops were fed in the war.

More events take place this week, including ‘The Unknown Soldier, an Edinburgh Fringe Award winning show at Moreton Hall on Monday, followed by a lecture from David Johnson, called Executed at Dawn on Tuesday at Bellan House.

The next Saturday an award winning film on the final year of Wilfred Owen’s life, The Burying Party, will be shown at the Wynnstay Hotel.

It has already won a host of awards in the US, and is being released this week in the UK.

Mr Woods added: “That event will be really good, an exclusive screening.

“It has been a big event this year, we will evaluate things after and then see what happens.

“It would be nice to put something on again next year, maybe on a smaller scale.

Art inspired by Wilfred Owen goes on show in Shrewsbury

Wilfred Owen, captured in a bust, inspired the exhibition at the Museum and Art Gallery

Works of art inspired by Wilfred Owen have gone on display in Shrewsbury Museum.

There are three new exhibitions at the gallery in Market Street to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Shropshire artists, including Martin Eldridge, Andrew Sylvester and Jenny Tyler, have created pieces in response to Owen’s poetry.

Acrylic work by Andrew Sylvester

Members of the public are encouraged to vote for their favourite artist to win the People’s Prize, sponsored by the Friends of Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “This year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War and the death of the great Shropshire poet, Wilfred Owen.

“This exhibition, which is part of the countywide Wilfred Owen 100, is a wonderful commemoration of the Great War and one of Shropshire’s most loved sons.

The exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery

“Visitors can also choose their favourite work of art in the People’s Prize. It will be a tough decision as the quality is so high – it took me some time to decide my favourite.”

Also on display are visual interpretations from 14 of Owen’s poems, produced by Denis May.

Over the course of 2018, these prints have been on display in 14 locations across the county, including Shrewsbury Castle and Qube in Oswestry.

The Fracture exhibition, which has also been at Qube, celebrates the story of Sir Robert Jones and Dame Agnes Hunt, and their pioneering innovative practices which they used to save the lives of thousands during the First World War.

The exhibitions are open until January 2019.

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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