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December 29, 2003

The Great War


"Frodo and the Marshes of the Great War" reports Priscilla Tolkien's contention that much of her father's writing was in response to his experiences in the trenches of the Somme. This is the first time I have read in detail just what Tolkien survived and just how many of his close friends did not. This is harrowing stuff and concludes with a moving comment on the character of Samwise Gamgee.

Tolkiens first experience on the front came on Friday 14th July with an unsuccesful attack on the village of Ovillers. British gunfire should have destroyed the barbed wire defences in front of the German trenches, but it had not, as the men found out when they crawled and runned towards the German lines. Many of his battalion were killed by machine gun fire. After 48 hours of carnage, followed by 24 hours in a dug-out, Tolkien's unit was relieved. When he returned to his hut in Bouzincourt he found a letter telling him that Rob Gilson, one of his dearest friends, had been hit by a shell.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at December 29, 2003 09:08 AM


Yes, it is a superb article. It gave me shiverings.

Posted by: Hannie at June 11, 2004 11:16 AM