Visit to Wilfred Owen ceremony at Ors, France
Second Lieutenant Wilfred Owen died aged 25 on November 4, 1918 after leading his men in an attempt to cross the Sambre-Oise canal near to the Belgian border. His body lies with 58 of his men in the communal cemetery in the village of Ors.
Each year the village holds a ceremony to mark his death, and the event will have a special poignancy in 2018, the centenary of his death. A group from Dunsden is travelling to France to be part of the event, and you would be most welcome to join us. Members of the Shiplake and Dunsden Royal British Legion will be amongst their group, including their standard bearer. Local attractions include the Maison-Forestière, a remarkable memorial to Owen and his men in the place where they spent their last night together.
For further information contact John Bodman, Chairman of the Dunsden Owen Association.
Crossties and Lines: October 1918
Shrewsbury, Hadnall, Yorton, Clive, Wem,
Prees, Whitchurch, Wrenbury, Nantwich, Crewe
Backed against the oaks, the cattle gather
Minding the din of the clattering train –
Milking is late tonight as the farm lights flicker
And loco smoke and steam meet soaking rain.
On the line, the gangers slack and chatter
And twist a wad twixt palm and thumb
As clanging trucks rough couplings batter
And drive wheels rumble on to kingdom come.
‘Wer’rup’ the cowman calls – the black dog sets –
The sullen charges bunt and frisk in show,
Mocking the winter’s edge, the day’s regrets
They trudge through sleet that threatens snow.
The foreman mutters and bites his lip
‘Hey up Will – shift back young mon –
The ballast can slip and the rails can trip –
Tamping is done ‘til the tender’s gone’.
But the boy is slow with his limping gait
And what he hears is artillery fire
Back from the Somme in a broken state
He left the best of his wits at the wire.
Buttercup, rush, sedge, thistle and nettle
The year’s-end grassland thin between –
Muddy hocks and hooves at gate halt settle
Awaiting the latch to lift and keen.
But those who wager still in careless gift
As the yawping steel grinds hard
Won’t stand in the cess as the bogies shift,
And the wheel of fortune deals its card.
On the Western Marches lines are broken
Iron has taken its mass and press to heart,
And clag and blemish and blood give token
Where switch and point new journeys start.
Bellinglise, Magny-la-Fosse, Riqueval,
La Baraque, Ramicourt, Joncourt, Oors
AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR
Over at last, that most bitter harvest task
The gathering of the cut down by the sack –
The fields quietened from the bringing back
Of canvas slings, the stumbling to the track.
And those who were cut down at the last
Received the same token as those cut first
All being brought to judgment as they must
Worthy of their hire and the vintner’s trust.
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day
The labourers ceased their bloodstain harvest
Wanting only rest, indifferent to pay
Ending the carrying to the wine press:
That those who picked and chose the skins of men
Might take their pay in life and try to live again.
[Centenary of the End of World War I on Armistice Day 11th November 2018].