A Soldier’s Voice

Vimy Ridge

Anthem for Doomed Youth

By Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?

Only the monstrous anger of the guns.

Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle

Can patter out their hasty orisons.

No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,

Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—

The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;

And bugles calling for them from sad shires.


What candles may be held to speed them all?

Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.

The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.


Wilfred Owen is considered to be one of the greatest of all the First World War soldier-poets. His poetry does not romanticize conflict; rather, he spoke the truth.  War is not glorious.  He wrote about the hardships endured by the soldiers – trudging in cold, wet weather carrying enormous weights on their shoulder, struggling through trenches filled with water.

Wilfred Owen was killed in a machine gun fire one week before the Armistice, November 1918. His legacy has come down in the form of poetry, mostly written over a course of one year from August 1917 to September 1918.

J.R.R. Tolkien, who also served in WWI and suffered the loss of his closest friends, wrote,

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”


A Toast to the Professor

The Pathway

Every year on January 3rd, Tolkien fans from around the world are invited to raise a glass and toast the birthday of this beloved author at 21:00 (9 pm) local time.

The toast is “The Professor.”

Home is behind, the world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread
Through shadows to the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
We’ll wander back and home to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

A Writer Lives On…

 “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

Gandalf, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring


Every November 11th, I am drawn to my most-beloved author, J.R.R. Tolkien, who gave us “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”  My books are well worn from use over the years.

In his teens (1911), J.R.R. Tolkien formed an unofficial, semi-secret reading club named the Tea Club and Barrovian Society (T.C.B.S.) along with three friends: Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith and Christopher Wiseman.  With the onset of WWI, all four joined the army, serving in separate units.  In the forward to “The Lord of the Rings” J.R.R. Tolkien wrote:

“One has personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by it seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939 and the following years.  By 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead.”

December 1916, when J.R.R. Tolkien was in the Le Touquet hospital recovering from a severe trench fever, he received a letter from one of his T.C.B.S. reading club companions, Geoffrey Smith.

“My dear John Ronald,

My chief consolation is that if I am scuppered tonight – I am off on duty in a few minutes – there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon.  For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the T.C.B.S. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four!  A discovery I am going to communicate to Rob before I go off tonight.  And do you write it also to Christopher.  May God bless you my dear John Ronald, and may you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them, if such be my lot.

Yours ever,

Geoffrey B. Smith

Geoffrey Smith and Rob Gilson did not survive the war. Christopher Wiseman, who served in the navy, survived and remained a lifelong close friend.  J.R.R. Tolkien fulfilled his friend’s request to “say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them.”

Today, as we remember those who have served in armed conflicts, may we live our lives to honour their legacy and live in a way that commemorates their sacrifice…