“Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us…"

Posted: 21/01/2017 23:07 | News Home

January 1917


14-21, Owen had a week’s rest at Courcelles, during which he had to ‘go up’ with a party one night, got lost in the snow and was caught by a whiff of Gas.

21-25, Owen and his company marched, via Beaussart and Beaumont Hamel to the Redan Ridge, to occupy shallow trenches facing Munich Trench between 'White City’ and B. Hamel, lying ‘in the snow under the deadly wind’; ‘one of my party actually froze to death’; ‘we were marooned on a frozen desert’.

26-28 in 'Support' in a ‘vast Bosche dug-out' at B. Hamel, then back through reserve lines to rest at Bertrancourt; but led working party five miles up the ridge to dig frozen ground on the 29th.

This tour of duty later inspired the poem “Exposure”…

"Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us . . .
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent . . .
Low drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient . . .
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
       But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
       What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow . . .
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of grey,
       But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deadly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew,
We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
       But nothing happens.

Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces—
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses.
       —Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed,—
       We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Now ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
       For love of God seems dying.

Tonight, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands, and puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
       But nothing happens."

Category: General

Wilfred Owen in action at Serre 100 years ago

Posted: 12/01/2017 09:10 | News Home

12th January 1917 - Wilfred Owen went into action for the first time, leading two sections of his platoon of the 2nd Manchesters, at Serre (France). He occupied a captured German dug-out in the middle of No Man’s Land for 48 hours, during which he had to crawl across to check on another platoon. One of his sentries was blown down the stairs by a German shell, and blinded. This event is related in a letter to his mother and vividly reproduced in his poem, “The Sentry”:


“…….. There we herded from the blast

Of whizz-bangs; but one found our door at last, -

Buffeting eyes and breath, snuffing the candles, 

And thud! flump! thud! down the steep steps came thumping

And sploshing in the flood, deluging muck,

The sentry’s body; then his rifle, handles

Of old Boche bombs, and mud in ruck on ruck.

We dredged it up for dead, until he whined, 

‘O sir - my eyes, - I’m blind, - I’m blind, - I’m blind.’ 


Click here for more information about Owen's action at Serre.

Category: General

Wilfred Owen Association Bursary at The Hurst: The John Osborne Arvon Centre

Posted: 07/12/2016 19:08 | News Home

The Wilfred Owen Association will award, in alternate years, a bursary or bursaries amounting  to the total cost of residence (£760) at one of the poetry courses offered by Arvon at The Hurst: The John Osborne Arvon Centre, in Wilfred Owen’s county of Shropshire. (The cost of travel is not included.)

For this coming year, the course of choice is “From Ideas to Fruition”, which runs from 17th-22nd April 2017, and is tutored by Jo Shapcott and Ian Duhig. The course description says:

"This is a week in which we will explore the many ways
poetry can bring ideas, stories and emotions to fruition
Come prepared to write, to be open to techniques and
approaches old and new, to be ready to stretch yourself
but above all to revel in the language. All are welcome,
beginner poets and experienced writers alike".

The Bursary is intended to benefit those who would find it difficult or impossible to pay for attendance on the course out of their own resources. This can cover a multitude of situations, so it is not a necessary requirement that the applicant be a student, unemployed or receiving welfare benefits. Applicants will be asked to give some details of their financial situation - but the award is, in the end, based on the merit of the work submitted.

There is a lower age limit of eighteen: this is set by Arvon, not by the Association. There is no upper age limit, and no requirement to be resident in Shropshire, but in the event of a dead heat in the judging, preference will ultimately be given to candidates living in the Marches.

The Award is intended for those who have not yet had a major collection published (pamphlets or privately-printed collections do not count for these purposes). Applicants are asked to send four poems, together with a letter, in which they tell us something about themselves, their writing, and why they feel that they are eligible for the Bursary. It is not in any way necessary for these to be "war poems"; but poems for children, “found” poems, or purelydidactic poems, are not appropriate for this particular award.

The winner of the Bursary will be decided by members of the Wilfred Owen Association Committee. Please send your submissions as an e-mail attachment, to The closing date for submissions is 31st January 2017: late entries cannot be accepted.

For more details about Arvon and The Hurst, go to For more details about the Wilfred Owen Association, go to We look forward to your applications.

Click here for a flyer.

Category: General

Carol Ann Duffy awarded the Wilfred Owen Association Poetry Award

Posted: 02/12/2016 16:40 | News Home

Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy has been awarded the Wilfred Owen Association Poetry Award 2016. (Shropshire Star, November 28th 2016)

Below is the presentation plate, engraved with lines from Wilfred Owen's “Strange Meeting” and Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “The Christmas Truce”.


Category: General

Book Review Competition

Posted: 06/11/2016 20:44 | News Home


Book Review Competition

You are invited to submit a review of any book (in or out of print) which deals in some way with the theme of the Great War. This may be fiction or non-fiction. Reviews should be between 500 and 1500 words long, and should be submitted by March 1st 2017. There will be a prize of £150; the winning review(s) will be published in the Wilfred Owen Association Journal or in Siegfried’s Journal, and one or more of the winners will be invited to review for the Journal on other occasions.

The competition will be judged by Merryn Williams, Literary Adviser to the WOA Committee; Mhairi Pooler Hellbrandt, the present Editor of the Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship Journal; Meg Crane, the Editor of the Wilfred Owen Association Journal and former Editor of Siegfried’s Journal; and Lucy Elder, the Assistant Editor and Membership Secretary of the Wilfred Owen Association.

Reviews should be sent in the first place to Meg Crane at the address below - as an e-mail attachment wherever possible, though typed submissions will be accepted if necessary. There will be an entry and administration fee of £5 for each submission from a member of either of the two societies, and £10 for each submission from non-members. Payment should be sent at the same time, and should normally be made by cheque or bank transfer to the Treasurer of the WOA, Sam Gray, using the following details:

UK entrants:  Account Number:  00454221
Sort Code:  30-97-62

Overseas entrants: one or other of the following, depending on your country’s arrangements:

IBAN:  GB31 LOYD 3092 6200 4542 21

Reviews should be sent in the first place to Meg, at or at 21 Culverden Avenue, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 9RE, UK, attaching the following details:

  • Author and title of the book
  • Publisher, year and place of publication
  • Number of pages
  • Price if still in print
  • Number of words in review
  • Name, address and e-mail address (where relevant) of reviewer
  • Member or non-member of WOA/SSF

This competition is open only to new reviewers, for whom we are always looking – here is your chance!

Category: General

<< Previous | News RSS | Archive | Next >>