Centenary of war poet Wilfred Owen's death marked by graveside ceremony

The centenary of war poet Wilfred Owen's death has been marked at his graveside in France by the sounding of a bugle he took from the battlefield.

Grace Freeman, from the Wilfred Owen Association, holds the bugle the war poet took from a dead German soldier. Picture: PA
Grace Freeman, from the Wilfred Owen Association, holds the bugle the war poet took from a dead German soldier. Picture: PA

Elizabeth Owen, widow of his nephew Peter, attended the “moving” ceremony in Ors communal cemetery yesterday, following a dawn visit to the site of the soldier’s death along the Sambre-Oise canal.

French locals and members of the Wilfred Owen Association gathered to hear The Last Post played on a bugle Owen took from a dead German soldier during the First World War.

Musician Heather Madeira Ni said she was grateful to have the opportunity to play the instrument, which had never been sounded in public before, on such a historic occasion.

She said: “The bugle is such a piece of history and a great chance for me to get to know Owen and his poetry. It’s such an important part of British history.

“The more I learn about Wilfred Owen, the more grateful I am to have this opportunity.”

Owen was killed on 4 November 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors, just seven days before peace was declared.

He wrote about the bugle, referring to having got some “loot”, in a letter to his brother in 1917.

Some of Owen’s poetry, focused on the brutal reality of war, was also recited.

His final letter home was read and wreaths were laid in his memory.

A series of events this week marking 100 years since the end of the First World War will culminate in a national service of remembrance on Sunday.

At the Tower of London last night, about 10,000 flames were lit in remembrance of those who fought and died. The light display installation, called Beyond the Deepening Shadow, will run each evening up to and including on Armistice Day.

The Duke of Cambridge paid tribute to fallen submariners joined by hundreds of current and former submariners who also attended a wreath laying ceremony in central London yesterday. A roll call of lost submarines was read out while the wreaths were laid.

On Friday, Prime Minister Theresa May will join Emmanuel Macron in France to commemorate the fallen.

Downing Street said she would meet the French president for a ceremony on the Somme, where tens of thousands of British and French soldiers were killed in the bloody conflict.

Mrs May said yesterday: “Next week will mark one of the most significant moments in our nation’s history.

“One hundred years after the guns fell silent on the Western Front, each and every one of us can pause to reflect on the immense sacrifices that were made by so many.

“The killing fields of France and Belgium are scarred by the horrors of war, but the strength and closeness of our relationship today is a testament to the journey our countries have travelled together.

“I’m proud to represent the immense gratitude of our nation at these commemorations and share these moments of reflection with our friends and partners in Europe.”

The wreath she and Mr Macron shall lay will comprise poppies, the British remembrance symbol, and their French equivalent le bleuet.