Garden of peace to mark where war poet Owen suffered with shell shock
Now, a century on from his stay at Edinburgh’s pioneering Craiglockhart War Hospital, a garden of remembrance is to be created in honour of the poet Wilfred Owen.
The brainchild of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), the Wilfred Owen Association, and Glen Art, a veterans’ charity based in East Dunbartonshire, the garden will be unveiled this week.
Featuring a specially commissioned bust of Owen, created by the award-winning sculptor Anthony Padgett, the One Hundred Years of Remembrance garden has been described as a fitting way of marking the poet’s time in Edinburgh.
He was diagnosed with shell shock after serving with the 2nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment, and was sent for treatment at Craiglockhart, now part of Edinburgh Napier University’s Craiglockhart campus.
During his time in the city, he met fellow war poet, Siegfried Sassoon, who would play a pivotal role in encouraging the young Owen to document his experiences.
Over the course of just four months in Edinburgh, he became the editor of the hospital magazine, The Hydra, and wrote dozens of poems. They included Dulce Et Decorum Est and Anthem For Doomed Youth, two of his most enduring works which addressed, in Owen’s words, the “pity of war”.
The garden, which will also commemorate the centenary of the CWGC, is being created by veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
A spokesman for the Wilfred Owen Association said: “The association is delighted to have an opportunity to commemorate Owen’s time in Edinburgh, where he was sent to recover from shell shock in 1917.
“It’s particularly apt that the garden is being created by current veterans who are also coping with shell shock, known today as post traumatic stress disorder.”
After his time in Edinburgh, Owen returned to France, but he was killed while crossing the Sambre-Oise canal on 4 November 1918, exactly a year to the day from his departure from the capital, and a week before the signing of the Armistice. He was just 25.
The garden will be unveiled this Friday at the Gardening Scotland event, taking place at the Royal Highland Centre.
It was designed by Robert Ross from the CWGC, who is also a member of the Royal Scottish Horticultural Association.
Ross explained that the garden brought together different styles, from the large flowering plants popularised by Gertrude Jekyll to the more regimented planting of modern cemeteries.
He said: “When I was asked to design this garden, my thoughts immediately turned to the rich gardening heritage of the Commission and the way our planting has evolved.
“I sought to bring together these two eras that speak of the formal structure of our cemeteries abroad, with the Luytens-designed bench providing a place for rest and contemplation.
“The sculpture of the unnamed serviceman and the bust of Wilfred Owen represent both those many thousands who lie with their names unknown to us, and those whose stories continue to be told to this day.”
Fiona MacDonald, director of Glen Art, said the project was “particularly important” as it allowed veterans to pay tribute to the fallen of the First World War.