Wilfred Owen was killed on the 4th of November 1918, a week before the end of the Great War. It was a tragedy made all the more poignant by the fact that his mother was informed a week later, at the same time as the local church bells were being rung to signify the end of the War on the 11th, the day the Armistice was signed.
Owen was regarded as perhaps the greatest of the First War poets, writing mainly about the awful conditions in the trenches where he served as a platoon commander. Like many others shattered by the War, he spent time at Craiglockhart War Hospital where the lead doctor was able to save many from their horrors of what they had seen and experienced.
Owen joined the 2nd Bn Manchester Regt. and was killed when leading his lads during an opposed crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal. Reports of his death are confused. Some say he was killed while still on the home-bank as he organised the men boarding the rafts; others that he was killed on a raft. 2000 British soldiers lost their lives in that operation.
Owen’s death has attracted publicity as he was a known poet. However, it should not be forgotten that tens of thousands were killed in the last days of the War. On the very last day, it is reckoned that 11,000 were killed, wounded or missing. The Americans experienced heavy losses as they mounted attacks and threw more men into the action right up to the very last minutes of the War. Generals like Pershing had stated clearly that they did not believe in the Armistice and wanted to continue the fighting to destroy Germany, and possibly to gain more political power for the States in the process.
On that last day, in the few hours leading up to 11-o’clock on the 11th November, it is estimated that 863 British and Commonwealth troops lost their lives. Just to give an idea of the scale of losses on the last day, they amounted to more than all the graves in the Noyelles-Sur-Mer Cemetery shown below.