W is for World War I (A to Z on Tolkien and the Inklings)

W is for World War I.

The 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme is this summer.

While at King Edward's School in Birmingham, Tolkien and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith, and Christopher Wiseman, formed an unofficial and semi-secret society called the TCBS (The Tea Club and Barrovian Society name alluded to their meeting spots -- tea in the library (which was not permitted) and Barrow's Stores near the school).

They kept in touch after leaving school and, following a "council" of the TCBS in 1914, Tolkien began devoting more energy to writing poetry, thanks to the shared ideals and mutual encouragement of the Society.

Tolkien, Gilson, and Smith were at the Battle of the Somme. On leaving, as he crossed the English channel with his battalion, Tolkien wrote a poem called "The Lonely Isle", a haunting verse subtitled "For England".

Gilson was killed in action almost on the first day of the battle. Smith was killed in 1916.

Christopher Wiseman and Tolkien survived, and Tolkien named his third son after Wiseman.

(Other interesting stories in and around Tolkien's war time experiences are in Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth, and on Garth's website.)

This is the reason for the line in the introduction to The Lord of the Rings refuting the suggestion that the story is an allegory of World War II: "To be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than in 1939... by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

Another intriguing character from this time is H. B. K. "Rex" Allpass, who witnessed a friend's suicide, and then was lost on a battlefield in World War II. There are so many story possibilities hidden in these very brief details...

Tolkien, in a letter to his son during World War II, had this to say on refugees and the general misery and destruction:

It all seems just as relevant now, sadly.

I've got a new ROW80 goal!

Since my goal for the last little while had been to try to read all the books we already own, before I got to attend the Library in English book sale, and since the sale happened last week (more to come in tomorrow's post!), I needed something more concrete as a goal, to at least make me feel less guilty about not editing.

With that in mind, I volunteered as a sponsor for the current ROW80 round!

I've got to write a -- hopefully -- inspiring post for the official site. My last sponsor post was way back in 2011!

Don't forget to keep commenting on posts, for your chance to win in my 1000 posts contest!

Have you reshuffled your goals lately?
What projects are most important right now?

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