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Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon war poets

It’s Armistice Day in Britain today, a day when we mark the end of hostilities on the Western Front in World War I.

Edinburgh had a very particular role to play in the literature of the Great War as Craiglockhart Hospital on the south side of the city was where two of the greatest war poets, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon met and worked together. They were both being treated in the hospital for the effects of shell shock although Sassoon was probably sent there because of his anti-war views. Owen had only just begun writing when he arrived at Craiglockhart but with the support of his doctor, Captain A. J. Brock and the guidance of Sassoon, Owen produced some of his most famous verse, including ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’. If you look at this manuscript of ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’, you can see how Sassoon influenced and edited Owen’s work.

Sassoon and Owen returned to the Front after their treatment but their time at Craiglockhart was crucial to their development as war poets. You can still visit Craiglockhart Hospital, now part of Napier University and it is one of many literary landmarks in Edinburgh. Next summer my course Edinburgh: City of Literature will be exploring some of those landmarks and some of the writers associated with this great literary city.

Author: Dr Anya Clayworth