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Wilfred Owen's Places: Serre

Owen's Letter to Susan Owen

In January 1917, Wilfred Owen wrote to his mother

"I have suffered seventh hell. I have not been at the front. I have been in front of it. I held an advanced post, that is, a dugout in the middle of No Man's Land…"

The Dug-out Entrance

The entrance to the dugout revealed

Click here for Owen's Letter to his mother.

Subsequently his terrible experiences there, during which a dugout sentry on duty was blinded, resulted in his well-known poem "The Sentry".

Click here for manuscript of his poem.

We are in debt to the BBC, who in the late summer of 2003 investigated the field at Serre, where a member of the Wilfred Owen Association had in the early 1990's, in the course of his research into Owen's military service with the 2nd Manchesters, located the site of the dugouts and trenches which Owen had described in his letter to his mother.

Soldier's Grave

The diggings were carried out with great care and expertise. During the few days the fieldwork took place, the bodies of three German soldiers and a British soldier from the King's Own were found and taken over for later burial by the appropriate authorities. (The windsock seen in the picture was put in place to indicate a route to safety in the event of gas from a shell being accidentally released during the digging).

Serre Diggings (1) Serre Diggings (2) Serre Diggings (3)

Owen's trench is in the last image above (note duckboards).

As the site was returned to its original condition a "time capsule" was placed in the ground in order that future archaeologists could learn of the significance of this tiny bit of France and its connection with the Great War and English poetry.

BBC Shropshire - Peter Owen interview (RealAudio file).

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