Tweets Posted

An Introduction


TWEET: For the WW1 Centenary, we’ll be charting the last two weeks of Wilfred Owen’s life, up to his death on Nov 4 1918, just one week before Armistice. We'll also be sharing archive and teaching resources from the University of Oxford. Follow along from Oct 22 with #OwenLastDays

THREAD: See our Facebook page for more details:

THREAD: Here’s something from our archive to get you started: Owen’s manuscript contents page for his proposed book “Disabled and Other Poems”. Note his rankings of this poems’ tones and “motives”:


TWEET: As part of #OwenLastDays, we’ll also be running a nationwide competition for secondary-school students, asking for poster and/or performance responses to Owen’s poetry, its historical context, and its continuing legacy. More details to follow!

THREAD: Here’s a concise Owen biography from the University of Oxford as an introductory read:


October 22nd


TWEET: Today we begin tracing the last two weeks of Wilfred Owen’s life, as part of the Armistice Centenary. We’ll be tracking Owen and the 2ndManchester regiment’s final movements, and sharing resources for teachers, for students – and for everyone who’s interested! 

THREAD: Listen to noted #Owen biographer Professor Jon Stallworthy’s @UniofOxford lecture introducing Owen’s life:

THREAD: Try our @UniofOxford seminar by @StuartDLee, “Introduction to WW1 Poetry”: 


TWEET: Owen and the 2ndManchesters battalion move6 km north on foot, from Bohain to Busigny. #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Here’s a manuscript draft of one of Owen’s most famous “marching” poems, “Dulce et Decorum Est”, from the @UniofOxford archives:

THREAD: Interested in the Owen manuscripts? Why not try this @UniofOxford manuscript exercise – try to order the surviving Dulce manuscripts, and create your own edition:


TWEET: Owen tells his mother he doesn't expect to see combat: “Though my letters cease for a week or more you must not conclude I am in the fighting zone. It is unlikely for a considerable time, time even for the British Government & its accomplices to save their Nations.” #OwenLastDays

THREAD: @natlibscot records the trench maps in the 2ndManchesters’ region in late 1918:

THREAD: Listen to historian Dr Margaret MacMillan’s @UniofOxford lecture, “Accident or Choice?: The Outbreak of the First World War”,


TWEET: Owen writes to his mother about her recovery from illness and his anticipated return: “About Christmas you will start the hardening process. You will lengthen your walks and your paces. You will grow keen with the keenness of frost and cold, blue sunlight. So you will be ready, early in February, for my Leave. We will walk to Haughmond, and while you are resting on the top, I will run round the Wrekin and back, to warm my feet.” #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Listen to British NCO and officer R. Thorpe-Tracey discuss the civilian awareness of #WW1 conditions in France:

THREAD: As Owen look to the future, so too does @Vincent_Trott, reflecting here on the literary, commercial and educational forces that saw #WilfredOwen gradually become one of the pre-eminent #WW1 poet-soldiers:


October 23rd


TWEET: Stationed at Busigny, the 2ndManchesters clean their equipment and new billets. The officers reconnoitre the route to Le Souplet, their next objective. #OwenLastDays

THREAD: This video of the Artists Rifles (with whom Owen trained before joining the 2ndManchesters) demonstrates WW1 officer training, from the @IWM archives: @artistsrifles

THREAD: We’re using the British Army War Diary to track Owen’s movements in the last two weeks of his life. See how you can contribute to @OpWarDiary here:


TWEET: It is becoming increasingly clear that the German Offensive is failing, and that the tide of the war is turning in favour of the Allies. #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Owen’s mood seems to match the optimism of the war’s final days. Earlier in Oct, he reported to his mother that his “nerves are in perfect order, and that he recently “fought like an angel” and has been recommended for the Military Cross:

THREAD: Composer Tim Watts has recently composed new music based on this letter by Owen, as well as some of his poetry – read his account here: @Wattscomposer 


October 24th


TWEET: Still stationed at Busigny, #Owen and the 2ndManchesters train in the morning, and bathe in the afternoon. 85 reinforcements join them. #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Professor Harry Ricketts argues that we should read Wilfred Owen as a 1960s poet: #WilfredOwen

THREAD: Listen to Peter Bunyan and Chris Cuff’s lecture on “The Life and Times of Wilfred Owen”:

THREAD: Free teaching packs of historically accurate WW1 newspaper reproductions, with a particular focus on teaching contemporary response, propaganda, and language use:


TWEET: Owen had only returned to active service France in July 1918, having been previously diagnosed with “neurasthenia” or “shell shock” and sent to #Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh – where he would meet Siegfried Sassoon #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read the proceedings of Owen’s Medical Board in July 1917, which cite his significant injuries and subsequent “neurasthenia”, and his alleged “highly strung temperament”: 

THREAD: Read military historian Christopher Harvie’s explanation of the #WW1 terms “neurasthenia”, “shell shock” and “basket case”, and their translation today as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”:

#OwenLastDays @ifyebreakfaith

THREAD: Watch this BBC dramatization of the first meeting between Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and performance of “Dulce et Decorum Est”:


October 25th


TWEET: Owen writes to Leslie Gunston of Siegfried Sassoon’s acerbic refusal of a War Office propaganda job: "S.S. wrote to Beaver’s Pte. Sec. saying that he had no qualification for War Propaganda except that he had been wounded in the head: that repartee deserves eternal fame." #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read some of the letters in which #Owen describes Siegfried Sassoon from the @UniofOxford archives: 

His first meeting with Sassoon:

His admiration for Sassoon:

THREAD: Read Dr Nina Kruglikova’s “Weapons of Mass Persuasion: The First World War in Posters” for a description of propaganda tactics with visual examples:

THREAD: This short BBC recording, “Siegfried Sassoon and Shell Shock”, presented by Jeremy Paxman, describes the WW1 treatment of shellshock. CW: contains some distressing images:


TWEET: Owen alludes to his sexuality in a letter to Gunston: “There are two French girls in my billet [...] who (I suppose because of my French) single me for their joyful gratitude for La Déliverance [...], so much so that the jealousy of other officers resulted in a Subalterns’ Court Martial being held on me! The dramatic irony was too killing, considering certain other things, not possible to tell in a letter. Until last night [...], I had begun to forget what a kiss was.” #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Professor Santanu Das’s @UniofOxford article, “The Dying Kiss: Gender and Intimacy in the Trenches of World War I”, 


TWEET: Owen mentions to Leslie Gunston that he has been “reading Swinburne” to pass the time while stationed in Busigny #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Just as Owen drew inspirations from older poets, so too later poets have drawn inspiration from Owen. Poet and academic Michael Sarnowski explores Owen’s influence on WW2 poet Louis Simpson:

THREAD: Check out the “Exposure” manuscript drafts from the @UniofOxford archives:


October 26


TWEET: Still stationed at Busigny, the 2ndManchesters continue training.

THREAD: Watch videos of battalion training from the @IWM archives (note the officers leaving the trenches last): and and


THREAD: Owen and the 2ndManchesters are still training, but British Private Walter Ernest Clarke talks here about the inadequacies of pre-battle WW1 training, from the @IWM archives: 

THREAD: While at recovering from “shell shock” at Craiglockhart, Owen penned an angry editorial for the hospital Hydra magazine. See it in manuscript and printed form in the @UniofOxford archives:


October 27


TWEET: The 2ndManchesters go on church parade in the morning, and in the afternoon they resettle in new billets in Busigny recently vacated by the 15thLancashire Fusiliers #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Listen to Gemma Arterton’s performance of “Arms and the Boy”, 

THREAD: Here are Owen’s “Arms and the Boy” manuscript drafts from the @UniofOxford archives:

THREAD: Listen to British officer John Malcolm Lawrence Grover interviewed about troop camaraderie in difficult WW1 conditions from the @IWM archives:


October 28


TWEET: Owen and the 2ndManchesters continue training while stationed in Busigny, and receive their pay. #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Watch Dr Matthew Leonard’s @UniofOxford lecture “Conflict Lecture”, in which he discusses how much we know about the lives of the individual WW1 soldier’s life: 

THREAD: Lesson planning for next week? Try “An Introduction to Teaching Wilfred Owen”, put together by Lucy Freeland by @LancingCollege for @UniofOxford:

THREAD: Enjoyed our Dulce manuscript exercise? Try the @UniofOxford’s close reading exercise using Isaac Rosenberg’s poem “Break of Day in the Trenches”:


Oct 29 Tweet 1

TWEET: #Owen and the 2ndManchesters move by foot 6 km north-east from Busigny to St Souplet, bringing them up to the Allies’ furthest line of advance in the drive to take France back from the German occupiers #OwenLastDays #WW1 #WilfredOwen

THREAD: Read or listen to poet Ian McMillan’s discussion of whether our focus on anti-war poems like #Owen’s have “distorted” our perspective on #WWI: #WW1 #WWIpoetry #warpoetry

THREAD: Listen to @StuartDLee’s @UniofOxford lecture “Poetry and History” discussing the changing status of #warpoetry in #WW1’s aftermath, and poetry’s influence on the public’s opinion of World War I: #WW1poetry #warpoetry


October 29

TWEET: Owen complains to his mother of Allied tactics in France: “Did I tell you that five healthy girls died of fright in one night at the last village. The people of England and France who thwarted a peaceable retirement of the enemy from these areas are therefore now sacrificing aged French peasants and charming French children to our guns. Shells made by women in Birmingham are at this moment burying little children alive not very far from here.” #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Professor Douglas Kerr’s “Smile, Smile, Smile: Wilfred Owen and the Politicians”, which analyses Owen’s bitter political invective in the Sept 1918 poem:

THREAD: Watch this WW1 1917 propaganda video, “Stand By the Men who Have Stood By You”, from the IWM archives:


TWEET: Owen writes to his mother Susan to requests supplies: "1 small bottle Tatcho, 1 small bottle Oatine, 1 pair coral boot-socks, size 6, 20 Players, chocolate." #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: The Craiglockhart patient magazine #Hydra carried an advertisement supplement full of “useful presents for soldiers and sailors”. Here’s an example from January 1918 from the @UniofOxford archives:

THREAD: The @UniofOxford “Lest We Forget” project collects items, stories and memories related to WW1 – explore the collection and find out how you can submit here:


October 30

TWEET: Owen and the 2ndManchesters move 13 km north-east on foot from Saint Souplet to Ors via Le Cateau, in preparation for another push against the German forces.

THREAD: Watch Sean Bean perform #Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth”:

THREAD: Here are two manuscript drafts of #Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth” with annotations by Siegfried Sassoon:, the change in title from “Dead Youth” to “Doomed Youth”) #OwenLastDays


TWEET: #Owen and the 2ndManchesters begin preparations for another push against the German forces at Sambre canal. The rest of the day is spent patrolling the new area and detailing the planned campaign to all battalion ranks #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Professor Elizabeth Vandiver’s exploration of how Wilfred Owen came to use Horace’s Latin tag “Dulce et Decorum”, and how this has changed public response to classical – and other – war poetry:


TWEET: Ors is practically emptied of all civilians. Many had died during the Spanish Flu pandemic in September and October 1918, and the occupying German forces had ordered an evacuation of the city on 13th October, following the Allied bombardments #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Listen to Michael Palin and Professor John Oxford discuss the outbreak and spread of Spanish influenza across wartime Europe and America:

THREAD: The National Museum of Health and Medicine archives chart the shocking rise in Spanish flu deaths in 1918 and 1919:

THREAD: Dr Kenneth Kahn has built a @UniofOxford computer model demonstrating the spread of Spanish Flu across wartime Europe and America, suitable for classroom use:


October 31

TWEET: Owen writes his last letter to his mother while sheltering in a “Forester’s House” in Ors: “It is a great life. I am more oblivious than alas! yourself, dear Mother, of the ghastly glimmering of the guns outside, & the hollow crashing of the shells. There is no danger down here, or if any, it will be well over before you read these lines. I hope you are as warm as I am; as serene in your room as I am here [...] [Y]ou could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here." #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read the letter in #Owen’s own hand in the @UniofOxford archives:

And here’s an image of the Forester cottage from the @UniofOxford archives, photographed by @StuartDLee: 

THREAD: Dr Brigitte Friant-Kessler reflects on a visual art project based on student responses to Owen's experiences at the "Forester's House" in Ors:


TWEET: The regiment’s next aim is to cross from the Allied-held west bank of the Sambre canal over to the German-held east bank, and push north towards Landrécies to recover German-occupied ground. This was to be the 2ndManchester regiment’s last active engagement in the war #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Listen to Max Egremont’s @IWM lecture “The Last Phase”, which describes the Allies’ position in the last stages of #WW1:


TWEET: The plan is for the five-minute Allied artillery barrage to fall on the east bank of the canal, wiping out the German resistance. The Royal Engineers can then build a bridge across the canal, allowing the battalions to cross and engage directly with the German army #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here are images of the Sambre canal today (north- and south-facing views) from the @UniofOxford archives, taken by @KTDigital:


TWEET: Lt. Col. Marshall, 16thLancashire Fusiliers, is sent out to reconnoitre the land of the planned attack, criticises the battle plans as impossibly dangerous. He is told that the opening barrage will open the attack and will eliminate all opposition.This is an ominous echo of the promises made before the Battle of the #Somme in July 1916, when heavy barrage failed to eliminate enemy defences as planned, leading to massive loss of life. #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Listen to British NCO Charles Robert Quinell interviewed about troop moral after the Battle of the Somme, from the @IWM archives: 

THREAD: Watch @ProfGSheffields’s @UniofOxford lecture “Victorious Donkeys? British Generals Reconsidered”, discussing “this paradox of apparent incompetence leading an army to victory”:


November 1 

TWEET: Owen and the 2ndManchesters move 4 km north-east on foot to Pommereuil. Pommereuil had been re-captured from the Germans a week earlier by the 20th and 21st battalions of the 2nd Manchesters regiment. #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Read @EleanorBoudreau on how Wilfred Owen used and abused the sonnet form to discomforting effect in “Dulce et Decorum”:

THREAD: Listen to Mark Rawlinson’s @UniofOxford lecture on the relation between “war” and “poetry”:


November 2

TWEET: Owen and the 2ndManchesters work throughout the night of 1 November through 2 November to clear the west bank of the Sambre canal. They raid and exterminate all enemy alarm posts, and by 5 pm only four Germans are left alive, having been taken prisoner #OwenLastDays

Thread: Listen to WW1 British NCO and officer R. Thorpe-Tracey describe the process of clearing German dug-outs from the @IWM archives:

THREAD: Watch this BBC dramatization of Owen’s poem “Strange Meeting”:

THREAD: Here are a selection of manuscript drafts of #Owen’s poem “Strange Meeting” from the @UniofOxford archives: 


TWEET: Allied attack dress for the November 4 attack is full battle order, including with steel helmet, leather jerkin, waterproof sheet, a day's rations, filled water bottle, and 170 rounds of ammunition #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Listen to Christopher Ecclestone perform “Dulce et Decorum Est”:

THREAD: Listen to Edmund Blunden reading his own poem “Report on Experience”:


November 3

TWEET: Preparations for the Sambre canal attack tomorrow continue. Preparations include special instruction on the new method of using flares to communicate with the Allied aircraft which will be protecting the infantry soldiers #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Try our @UniofOxford “Comparing Literature” tutorial, and try to match the WW1 poem to the poet’s nationality:


TWEET: The Italian Armistice is signed, ending hostilities in Italy #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Vera Brittain’s poem “To My Brother” from the @UniofOxford archives, dedicated to her brother Edward, killed on the Italian Front in June 1918:


TWEET: Rain falls all through the day as the battalions prepare for their attack tomorrow, flooding the already irregular battle terrain. When it finally stops at midnight, a thick mist settles over the canal #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Professor Santanu Das’s article “Slimescapes”, which explores the depiction of battlefield mud in #WW1 poetry 


TWEET: Zero Hour for the Allied attack on the Sambre canal is set for 0545. We’ll be tweeting in live time tomorrow to mark the last day of #OwenLastDays – follow us from 0530 BST, or catch up with our hashtag later.

THREAD: Here’s the 2ndManchesters official report on the Sambre battle from the @UniofOxford archives:


November 4


0530 TWEET: Just before Zero Hour, Owen and the Allied assault troops move into position some 400 yards in front of the Sambre canal. The 2ndManchesters are on the southernmost flank, hidden in an orchard; Owen’s D company is one of the two companies in the lead. #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Here’s Owen’s “Preface” manuscript, drafted in his own hand, from the @UniofOxford archives:


0545 TWEET: At 0545, the five-minute barrage begins, shooting at the German-held east bank of the Sambre canal, and #Owen leads his troops forward to the edge of the water #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here’s an online version of #WilfredOwen’s “Collected Poems”, made available by @UniofOxford:


0550 TWEET: At 0550, the barrage stops, but German fire from the other side of the canal continues, and the first men begin to fall #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Read @StuartDLee’s analysis of #Owen’s poem “Disabled”:

THREAD: Here are manuscript drafts of #Owen’s poem “Disabled” from the @UniofOxford archives: 


0600 TWEET: As Allied troops give covering fire, the 206th and 218th Field Companies of the Royal Engineers begin to construct the bridge to cross the canal, which is repeatedly cut down by shell and machine-gun fire. #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Interested in finding out more about someone who served in WWI? Try the @UniofOxford’s guide to tracing soldiers’ records, created by Alun Edwards: @hurricaneally

THREAD: Or, use the @UniofOxford guide to deciphering war photographs, created by Alun Edwards: @hurricaneally 


0610 TWEET: The Battle Report records "most terrific Machine Gun fire, heavy Trench Mortar fire, and spasmodic artillery fire" which "decimated" the "troops” despite their “magnificently gallant” attempts #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Dr Emma Suret’s “Wilfred Owen and the Modern Elegy”, which explores Owen’s scepticism of the genre’s consolatory power:


0620 TWEET: Despite poor weather conditions and heavy enemy fire, the bridge is successfully constructed in 30 minutes, and two platoons of 2nd Manchesters make it across the canal. All but two of the engineers have been wounded or killed during the construction #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read this conversation chaired by Michael Portillo about the practical victories of #WW1: “Thing We Forget to Remember: Beyond the Slaughter and Loss of WW1”, @portilloandhen


0625 TWEET: Moments later, a shell destroys the bridge beyond repair, cutting off the companies #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here’s a video of #WW1 shell fire from the @IWM archives:

THREAD: Read Marcy Tanter on Wilfred Owen’s influence on Carol Ann Duffy:


0635 TWEET: Owen has not managed to cross the bridge, and is overseeing the rebuilding attempts under heavy German fire. Two survivors later described how he had patted them and said ‘Well done’ and ‘You are doing well my boy’, as they struggled with equipment on the bank #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read Professor Gerald Dawe’s “At the Water’s Edge”, reflecting the connection between water imagery in Wilfred Owen’s war poety and Owen’s childhood experiences: 


0645 TWEET: While the Allies struggle to repair the bridge again, Owen is hit and killed. There is no eye-witness account of his death; survivor reports suggest that he had boarded a raft in the attempt to cross the canal, and was hit while out on the water #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here’s Wilfred Owen’s memorial at the Sambre canal, photographed by @KTDigital: 

THREAD: Listen to @drjanepotter and Kate McLoughlin discuss commemorative culture and the interrelation between language and memory in this @UniofOxford podcast:


0735 TWEET: The Allies are withdrawn from their position on the western bank of the Sambre canal, as it becomes obvious that a crossing here is not possible, given the continued German fire #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read or listen to @gregjames’s investigation into underage Soldiers in WWI 


0800 TWEET: The 206th Field Company of the Royal Engineers have managed to establish a crossing to the south at Ors church, under the protection of the 1st Dorsets, and the rest of the army, including the 2ndManchesters, are directed to cross the canal there #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Read Dr Eva Zettelman’s “Wilfred Owen and the Culture of Commemoration”, which discusses #Owen’s surprising – or perhaps not so surprising – absence from many Armistice commemoration ceremonies:


1200 TWEET: All surviving troops have managed to cross the canal by noon, and move northwards, engaging with heavy enemy fire at De La Motte Farm. An Allied victory is won by 0645 the next morning #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Try the @UniofOxford online tutorial on “Remembrance”: 


1230 TWEET: By the end of the Sambre battle, the total number of recorded Allied casualties are: 3 officers killed, 5 officers wounded, 22 “other ranks” killed, 81 “other ranks” wounded, and 18 “other ranks” missing #OwenLastDays 

THREAD: Read Alex Nordlund’s “4-11 November 1918: Armistice Day in Memory and History”, which explores the complexity of veteran responses to the #Armistice and 


1300 TWEET: 80 German prisoners, at least 50 machine guns, one battery 77mm field gun, and one 5.9 gun have been captured #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Read C.R.L. Fletcher’s 1920 book “The Great War 1914-18”, available online from the @UniofOxford, for a historical perspective on #WW1: 


1400 TWEET: On November 5th, the London Gazette announces #Owen's promotion from second lieutenant to full lieutenant. On November 8th,he is formally awarded the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme Line on 1st/2nd October 1918". Both announcements came too late for Owen to know of either honour #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here’s Owen’s Military Cross citation from the @UniofOxford archives:


1500 TWEET: One week after the Battle of the Sambre canal, the Armistice is signed, and the war is over #OwenLastDays

THREAD: Here’s the original ceasefire command, carried by Sjt Jim Cross, from the @UniofOxford archives:

THREAD: Here’s Wilfred Owen’s grave in Ors, France, photographed by @KTDigital:

THREAD: We’ll leave you with this footage of the Sambre canal as it looks today, filmed by @StuartDLee, the site where Wilfred Owen died:


November 10


TWEET: 100 years on, Dr Guy Cuthbertson traces the build-up to the armistice announcement, and the various regional responses. (Our favourite detail? The bull driven into the Cambridge college…) @guywjc


November 11


TWEET: As the village bells in Shrewsbury ring to celebrate news of the armistice, Susan Owen receives a telegram informing her of her son Wilfred Owen’s death #OwenLastDays