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← Tolkien's Great War

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Showing Revision 13 created 03/23/2015 by Elliander.

  1. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien,
  2. was born on the 3rd January, 1892.
  3. He and his brother Hilary, experienced
  4. a difficult childhood; when Tolkien was
  5. just four, they lost their father, Arthur,
  6. to rheumatic fever.
  7. As a widow with low income, his mother
  8. Mabel, home school the brothers and played
  9. a vital role in their early education and
  10. development.
  11. Tolkien was a smart young boy, with a
  12. fascination and thirst for languages.
  13. Tolkien sat the entrance exam for King
  14. Edward's School, Birmingham and passed.
  15. From the Autumn of 1900, for a fee of
  16. 12 pounds a year, Tolkien would be
  17. educated in an environment that would help
  18. fulfil his academic potential.
  19. [John Garth] Going to King Edward's was vitally
  20. important to Tolkien; he was an
  21. exceptionally talented boy. King Edward's
  22. offered him a vast amount of scope and also
  23. the company of other boys who were
  24. similarly talented.
  25. Which was probably quite hard for Tolkien
  26. to find.
  27. [Simon Stacey] Not only did he play rugby but
  28. he was a leading light in the debating society
  29. and the literary society; he was the life and
  30. soul really and he missed the school a
  31. great deal, I think, when he finally had
  32. to leave.
  33. [VO] At the age of just 11, Tolkien and his
  34. brother Hilary, lose their mother, Mabel,
  35. to diabetes. Grief stricken, he plunges
  36. himself into school life more energetically
  37. than before. Academically he excels, but
  38. in 1905, meets his intellectual rival,
  39. Christopher Wiseman.
  40. [John Garth] Tolkien met his greatest friend
  41. at King Edward's, Christopher Wiseman on
  42. the rugby pitch. A musician, a mathematician;
  43. quite different from Tolkien.
  44. They developed such a strong bond on the rugby
  45. field that they called themselves;
  46. "The Great Twin Brethren", which was a phrase
  47. from "Lays of Ancient Rome" by Lord
  48. Macauley.
  49. [Simon Stacey] They also were friendly rivals
  50. in the school, both being very academic
  51. boys. Wiseman had a formidable intellect
  52. and he was interested in a lot of the things
  53. that Tolkien was getting interested in;
  54. languages, I think he was looking at
  55. Egyptian and was looking at hieroglyphics.
  56. [John Garth] Tolkien and Wiseman must have
  57. helped define each other through their
  58. teenage years because they would argue;
  59. they would argue strongly about all their
  60. beliefs in life.
  61. [Simon Stacey] Wiseman was a very talented
  62. musician; Tolkien was supposed to be tone
  63. deaf but that didn't stop them getting on!
  64. [VO] Tolkien also befriends, son of the
  65. headmaster, Rob Gilson. Tolkien, Wiseman
  66. and Gilson, form a strong bond which will
  67. last throughout their school years and beyond.
  68. Outside of King Edward's, Tolkien's life is
  69. about to change, yet again.
  70. [John Garth] Tolkien was living in lodgings
  71. with his brother, Hilary, and when he was 16
  72. he met fellow lodger, Edith Bratt, who was 19
  73. at the time. And she was a beautiful young
  74. girl; talented pianist and also an orphan.
  75. And the two of them bonded on their shared
  76. sadnesses but also on their hopes and dreams.
  77. The difficulty for Ronald, as she called him,
  78. and Edith, was that he was a Roman Catholic
  79. and she was an Anglican.
  80. [VO] Tolkien's Guardian, Father Francis Morgan,
  81. a Catholic Priest, feels this is major
  82. divide; and also believes that Edith will
  83. distract Tolkien from his attempts to get
  84. into Oxford University.
  85. [John Garth] Father Francis Morgan, forbade
  86. them from seeing each other, or even from
  87. communicating. He was thrown back upon his
  88. friendships at King Edward's and it was
  89. this final phase of his time here, that he
  90. began to flourish and make the place his
  91. own; he and his friends ruled the roost.
  92. [VO] Making the most of his final year at
  93. King Edward's and the friendships he has
  94. formed, Tolkien and his peers create an
  95. informal society.
  96. These young intellectuals gather in the school
  97. library and do what they are forbidden to do:
  98. brew tea. Outside of school hours, they meet
  99. in a cafe at Barrow's Stores in Birmingham
  100. and so, self-mockingly, they call themselves
  101. the "Tea Club and Barrovean Society"
  102. or the TCBS for short.
  103. (nostalgic music)
  104. [John Garth] The core of the TCBS was probably
  105. Tolkien and Wiseman and the others
  106. gravitated around them. There was Robert
  107. Quilter Gilson, the son of the headmaster
  108. here; Rob was a cultured and sociable chap,
  109. he was perhaps the social glue of the group;
  110. he would welcome anyone and find common
  111. cause with them. A gentle artistic fellow
  112. who loved to sketch.
  113. [Simon Stacey] He was a gifted artist and
  114. had ambitions to be an architect.
  115. There was a late arrival, Geoffrey Bache Smith,
  116. who was fascinated by mythology, Celtic
  117. mythology; so this gave him common ground
  118. with Tolkien; it was another of Tolkien's
  119. passions.
  120. [Simon Stacey] Smith was quite an accomplished
  121. and advanced poet who recommended contemporary
  122. poetry to Tolkien. When he started writing
  123. poetry, Tolkien was to a certain extent,
  124. inspired by Smith and the wider group.
  125. And that was really the beginnings of
  126. Tolkien as a writer.
  127. [John Garth] From the beginnings which were
  128. mostly about fun, later on, during the war years,
  129. this developed into a fellowship from which
  130. each of them drew tremendous strength and
  131. comfort.
  132. [VO] Later that year, Tolkien's time at
  133. King Edward's comes to an end and he begins
  134. his first term at Oxford, having successfully
  135. gained entrance.
  136. On the eve of his 21st birthday, and his
  137. independence from Father Francis Morgan,
  138. Tolkien writes to Edith and less than a
  139. week later, they are re-united.
  140. Edith is engaged to marry another man,
  141. but despite almost certain ridicule,
  142. she agrees to break the engagement to be
  143. with her Ronald.
  144. Over the next few months, a growing sense of
  145. trouble brews across Europe and on the 28th
  146. of June, 1914, everything changes.
  147. (gun shot sound)
  148. (solemn music)
  149. Gavrillo Princip is arrested for the
  150. assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
  151. A diplomatic crisis ensues and within weeks,
  152. Europe's major powers are at war.
  153. Germany invades Belgium and Britain declares
  154. war on Germany. Parliament issues a call
  155. to arms from the British public.
  156. [Paul Golightly] There isn't a rush to the
  157. colours straight away. It becomes much more
  158. obvious that people are willing to join
  159. up when atrocity stories start to emerge,
  160. then you get a much more concerted rush
  161. to join.
  162. [John Garth] There was an air of excitement
  163. about the war, there was a naive sense that
  164. this would allow young men to fulfil their
  165. potential in a way that wasn't possible in
  166. peace time. There was a tremendous sense
  167. of patriotism and a sense of duty towards
  168. whatever England, or Britain, stood for.
  169. [Paul Golightly] They are attracted to the
  170. idea of a settling of accounts with the Germans,
  171. or at least some of them will be. On the
  172. whole, they thought they were going to give
  173. the Germans a bloody nose.
  174. [John Garth] "The Germans has been dastardly"
  175. and needed to dealt with and shown their place.
  176. [Paul Golightly] Men join up out of economic
  177. necessity and you'll find that in any war.
  178. Life is not very exciting and the romance
  179. and colour of joining the army and being
  180. part of something very big indeed, I'm sure
  181. has some allure.
  182. (solemn music) And they see things
  183. in rather romantic ways, which of course is
  184. doomed to fail; we all know what the First
  185. World War turns into. It's not a war of
  186. movement, of dash and élan; it's not cavalry
  187. charges and distant trumpets; I'm afraid
  188. it's the pitter-patter of machine gun fire
  189. and the crump of artillery that's going to
  190. dominate.
  191. So they, I think, have expectations about what
  192. the war will be like, and I think their main
  193. emotion was, will it be over before I can
  194. get to France.
  195. [John Garth] Tolkien, who's reading covered
  196. ancient heroic literature, that is surprisingly
  197. frank about what happens in war, went into
  198. the war much more open-eyed. He described
  199. himself as a "young man with too much
  200. imagination" and so he did not relish battle
  201. in any sense.
  202. [Paul Golightly] And I think that applies
  203. to, not just men like Tolkien who fought in it,
  204. but also the politicians and generals who
  205. directed it; I think a lot of people
  206. understood that this war could be terrible.
  207. [Simon Stacey] What you get in the letters
  208. between Gilson, Tolkien and Wiseman and
  209. then in Smith's poetry, is a serious
  210. determination to do their duty and that they
  211. should be prepared to give their lives.
  212. A realistic appreciation that this is a dark time
  213. and that they've got to come through it.
  214. [VO] G.B. Smith and Rob Gilson both join
  215. the army in 1914, Tolkien's brother, Hilary,
  216. signs up as a bugler and Christopher Wiseman
  217. joins the navy. Tolkien however, faces a
  218. dilemma.
  219. [Simon Stacey] Tolkien was in a difficult
  220. position when war broke out; he had a year
  221. of his degree at Oxford to run and Tolkien
  222. needed a degree badly because he wanted to
  223. pursue an academic career; he didn't have
  224. any money in his family unlike Gilson and
  225. therefore, having committed three years to
  226. the degree it was very important that he
  227. completed it. So he discovered a scheme
  228. whereby he could undergo some training
  229. in the Officer Training Core whilst
  230. completing his degree, which he did triumphantly
  231. with a first at Oxford.
  232. [VO] He follows good friend, G.B.Smith, into
  233. the Lancashire Fusiliers in the hope of being
  234. posted to the same battalion.
  235. [John Garth] Tolkien was looking for something
  236. in the army through which he could use his
  237. particular talents, and his particular talents
  238. were languages and writing systems; he was
  239. fascinated by codes and so forth. So it was
  240. only natural that he would train up as a
  241. signaller.
  242. [Paul Golightly] It would have meant that
  243. Tolkien was exposed to the technology
  244. available at the time and it must have
  245. interested him; so the use of the radio, the
  246. use of signals, of semaphore.
  247. [Simon Stacey] He learnt morse code,
  248. he learnt how to use signalling lamps, field
  249. telephones; which of course went on largely
  250. to be ineffective or not to work.
  251. [John Garth] He became Battalion Signalling
  252. Officer for his Battalion. Tolkien had to
  253. oversee the communications of a Battalion
  254. of between 600 and 1,000 men depending on
  255. manpower at the time.
  256. [Paul Golightly] His basic job of course
  257. was to act as a link between the various
  258. layers of command, and that he would be
  259. responsible for incoming orders and making sure
  260. that the right people got those and of course
  261. he'd be responsible for telling command further
  262. up the line about the situation on his sector.
  263. [John Garth] So he was an absolute lynch pin
  264. in a war which depended absolutely on how
  265. much information you had about your enemies
  266. position.
  267. [VO] In March of 1916 as his training nears
  268. its completion, both Tolkien and Edith
  269. become aware that he will soon be sent to
  270. the Front. They marry and just over two
  271. months later, Tolkien is shipped off to France.
  272. The two of them part, not knowing if they
  273. will ever see each other again.
  274. (Loud battle sounds, Guns Firing, Shouting)
  275. (ominous music)
  276. [VO] When Tolkien arrives at the Front, the
  277. War has been raging for almost two years.
  278. The cost of the War is clear;
  279. the countryside is scarred and the casualties
  280. high.
  281. After a virtual stalemate of trench warfare
  282. throughout 1915, and with a new wave of
  283. thousands of freshly trained recruits, it is
  284. clear the Big Push is imminent.
  285. (marching feet)
  286. Tolkien's Battalion remains in reserve, but
  287. he fears for the lives of his old school
  288. friends who are at the Front.
  289. Within a month of his arrival in France
  290. the Allies launch the Somme Offensive.
  291. At 7.30am, on Saturday 1st of July,
  292. the troops in the British Frontline,
  293. go over the top.
  294. (whistle sound echoes)
  295. On the first day of the Offensive alone,
  296. 20,000 men are killed, 35,000 are wounded
  297. and over 2,000 are reported missing.
  298. [Paul Golightly] The first casualty was
  299. the plan. It started to fall apart very
  300. rapidly. Tragically for the men caught out
  301. in the open, it was a death sentence. 1 in 5
  302. men who went into combat on the 1st of July
  303. was killed.
  304. [John Garth] It was the most disastrous day
  305. in the history of the British Army, and
  306. a tragedy for the entire country. There were
  307. villages that had lost all their young men.
  308. [Paul Golightly] It's marked as a loss of
  309. innocence, that the 20,000 that were killed
  310. represent a turning point in British
  311. consciousness and the relationship perhaps
  312. between those who make decisions and those
  313. who are forced to carry them out.
  314. (soft piano music)
  315. [VO] Among the many men that are lost on that
  316. day, is dear friend and TCBS member,
  317. Robert Gilson.
  318. [John Garth] He led his Platoon over the top
  319. took charge of his Company, but was shot
  320. in the middle of No Man's Land.
  321. [Paul Golightly] He was in the fourth wave.
  322. He saw the first wave go in and fail,
  323. the second wave go in and fail,
  324. the third wave go in and fail.
  325. And he, as a part of the fourth wave, had
  326. to go in; and they still went. And that
  327. I think is the most poignant and probably
  328. the most tragic thing about the 1st of July
  329. 1916. That this generation, had so much faith
  330. in their superiors, probably had so much
  331. commitment to their fellows that they were
  332. prepared to go, even though it meant certain
  333. death.
  334. [John Garth] Tolkien heard about this
  335. after his first action on the Somme a couple
  336. of weeks later; and he was devastated.
  337. It shook him to the foundations of his
  338. beliefs. He had, as all of the members of
  339. the TCBS had, built up their group as a
  340. fellowship, with ideas and a spirit that had
  341. something to give to the World. In which
  342. all four of them were vital parts, and now
  343. one of them was dead. So what did that mean
  344. about their overall purpose? And also his
  345. purpose.
  346. [Simon Stacey] Geoffrey Smith wrote him a
  347. letter in which, clearly Smith experiences
  348. feelings of devastation and a sense that the
  349. fellowship had been broken. Rob would never
  350. become an architect, he would never fulfil
  351. his part in whatever they dreamed of.
  352. [John Garth] And I think it took him quite
  353. some time to recover from that. The other
  354. two members, Wiseman and Smith, were
  355. determined to persuade him that, no, the TCBS
  356. purpose continued and I think eventually
  357. Tolkien took heart from that.
  358. [VO] Tolkien writes to Rob's father, Headmaster
  359. at King Edward's school to offer his
  360. condolences. The TCBS lost a bright young
  361. man, a talented artist and most painfully
  362. of all; a dear friend.
  363. Tolkien's war has well and truly started and
  364. over the coming months he is subject to the
  365. many hardships of trench warfare.
  366. [John Garth] He spent his time in and out
  367. of the trenches. Battalions would be rotated
  368. from the Frontline to the reserve trenches
  369. to rest, as they laughably called it, but
  370. it wasn't really rest, it was training.
  371. Tolkien talked about the universal weariness
  372. of all this war. But during this period he
  373. was involved in three attacks, he was
  374. very fortunate not to have to go through the
  375. first day of the Somme; he was a few miles
  376. back from the Frontline at that time.
  377. His Battalion moved forward for a second
  378. wave of attacks, they were launched against a
  379. village called Ovier; which had been the
  380. German Frontline. One of the first things that
  381. he encountered was, complete chaos in the
  382. battlefield communications system. It was very
  383. primitive. It was only partly built; damaged
  384. by the fortunes of battle. He had signallers
  385. going across No Man's Land carrying flares
  386. to say, we have arrived. Further flares -
  387. "we have taken prisoners", they carried
  388. pigeons; pigeons were about the most reliable
  389. method of communication. One of Tolkien's
  390. signallers won a military medal for managing
  391. to get his pigeons across No Man's Land and
  392. do the job correctly.
  393. [VO] The attack is a success and many
  394. prisoners are captured. Of all the combat
  395. Tolkien encounters, one of the most significant
  396. battles is also one of his last; an attack
  397. on Regina Trench.
  398. [John Garth] This was in October, by which
  399. time the battlefield had been reduced to mud.
  400. The attack had been delayed by heavy rain
  401. but on October 21st there was a cold snap
  402. so the ground was frozen hard and the
  403. attack was able to go ahead.
  404. (Deep boom. Loud Artillery Fire)
  405. (Gunfire, bullets zipping by)
  406. (solemn music)
  407. [John Garth] He saw violent death, he also
  408. saw and felt extreme terror.
  409. He never, as far as we know, described at
  410. length what trench warfare was like but he
  411. summed it up in two words, in one of his
  412. letters, and this was; "animal horror".
  413. It would reduce you from humanity and
  414. turn you into a retched beast desperate only
  415. to cower and survive. And it's very
  416. interesting if you look in The Lord of The Rings
  417. whenever the characters are in situations of
  418. extreme fear, they're always described as
  419. stooping and stupefied, un-manned by terror.
  420. [Paul Golightly] A lot of British trenches
  421. were deliberately uncomfortable because
  422. the Generals wanted the men to believe
  423. that they were only temporary, that they
  424. would be advancing beyond this, that this
  425. wasn't their home.
  426. [VO] Out on the Western Front, Tolkien feels
  427. isolated from home and letters to, and from,
  428. Edith are a lifeline. For reasons of
  429. strategic importance Tolkien is forbidden
  430. from sharing his location in his letters, so
  431. he devises a code of dots to keep Edith
  432. informed of where he is.
  433. [John Garth] He simply found the letters
  434. of the alphabet within what he wrote to her
  435. and put a dot above the relevant ones to
  436. spell out the name of the place where he was
  437. currently located. And Edith kept a map
  438. on her wall and pins to show where he was
  439. at that time.
  440. [VO] After the successful attack on Regina
  441. Trench, the Battalion is withdrawn from the
  442. front and paraded in front of the top brass.
  443. Tolkien however, falls ill.
  444. [John Garth] It was trench fever. And this
  445. was a louse born disease due to the unhygienic
  446. conditions in the trenches.
  447. [Paul Golightly] It spread through contact
  448. with lice and it symptoms aren't very pleasant
  449. It gives you a headache, you can have stomach
  450. cramps, you can have pain in you joints
  451. and in your bones, you can get lesions on
  452. your skin; it's not fatal but it can become
  453. very debilitating. So debilitating you can't
  454. be an effective soldier. Tolkien got a very
  455. bad case, so bad that he had to be invalided
  456. "back to Blighty" as they put it.
  457. And in fact it was the end of his war.
  458. [John Garth] It saved Tolkien's life, it took
  459. him out of the battlefield and back to Britain.
  460. He was shipped home to Birmingham, to
  461. The First Southern General Hospital as it
  462. was called at the time, which was actually set
  463. up in the grounds of Birmingham University.
  464. And it was there that Tolkien was re-united
  465. with his wife, Edith and where he began
  466. writing the first stories of Middle-Earth.
  467. His re-union with Edith was deeply emotional
  468. and was an inspiration for various pieces of
  469. writing in his mythology, notably the
  470. story of Luthien and Beren; which features
  471. in the Silmarillion and is mentioned in
  472. The Lord of The Rings. A love story between
  473. a mortal man and an immortal elf.
  474. (Gentle Piano Music)
  475. [VO] However, Tolkien's respite is short lived.
  476. Shortly after returning to Birmingham, Tolkien
  477. learns from Christopher Wiseman, that
  478. good friend G.B.Smith has been killed.
  479. [John Garth] The Battle of the Somme was
  480. over, and Smith had been organising a
  481. football match for his men about four miles
  482. behind the Frontline, when a stray shell
  483. exploded near him.
  484. He was hit by shrapnel and developed what
  485. they called Gas Gangrene, which killed
  486. him within a few days. Early in 1916, while
  487. Tolkien was still in training, he had a letter
  488. G.B.Smith, who by that time was in the trenches
  489. in France.
  490. [VO] Smith was about to go out on Night Patrol.
  491. The officer who had led the patrol the night before
  492. had been captured and most likely killed.
  493. [John Garth] It was about the most dangerous
  494. activity that you could do on the Western Front
  495. and Smith was about to go into it and he took
  496. the opportunity to write to Tolkien, and
  497. tell him; "I'm about to go out on Night Patrol,
  498. I am a wild and wholehearted admirer of
  499. what you've written and what you will write"
  500. He told Tolkien, "you I'm sure are chosen,
  501. and you must publish."
  502. Smith was essentially the first Middle-Earth
  503. fan.
  504. [Simon Stacey] Smith says in the letter that
  505. death couldn't put an end to the TCBS, to
  506. the "immortal four" as he put it, that Tolkien
  507. may say the things that he had wanted to
  508. say, long after he is there to say them.
  509. That's very moving because Tolkien, although
  510. very much his own individual artistic self,
  511. I think did see his later career as an
  512. attempt to fulfil the artistic dreams that
  513. they'd shared.
  514. [John Garth] He was able to gather his strength
  515. and perhaps see Smith as an ideal to be lived up to.
  516. [VO] In the summer of 1918, Tolkien and
  517. Wiseman gather some of Smith's poems and
  518. have them published in a small volume,
  519. entitled; "A Spring Harvest".
  520. Tolkien's war is over, but the impact of his
  521. experiences will stay with him forever, and
  522. will even feature in his future writings.
  523. [John Garth] The whole experience of the War
  524. had an ongoing affect on much of Tolkien's
  525. mythology. As soon as Tolkien returned from
  526. the Somme he started writing a story called,
  527. "The Fall of Gondolin" which was the first
  528. element of his mythology that dealt with battle.
  529. And the fascinating thing about it is that the
  530. attacking forces use things that are termed
  531. by Tolkien, "dragons" or "beasts" or "monsters"
  532. but they're described as metallic and rolling
  533. and they spout fire and some of them have
  534. troops inside them, and it's pretty clear that
  535. this is a kind of mythologising of the Tank.
  536. Which was Britains secret weapon, which
  537. had just been launched on the Somme while
  538. Tolkien was there.
  539. The Lord of The Rings focusses on a fellowship,
  540. they're separated on different battlefronts,
  541. much like the TCBS were.
  542. [Simon Stacey] It's almost unimaginable that,
  543. in writing of the breaking of the fellowship,
  544. in The Lord of The Rings, that Tolkien wouldn't
  545. have been influenced by his own loss during
  546. the First World War and the breaking of the
  547. TCBS fellowship.
  548. There is a late letter in which he mentions
  549. that the dead marshes, through which Frodo,
  550. Sam and Gollum travel, owe something to
  551. northern France, in the area of the Somme
  552. where he fought.
  553. [John Garth] Frodo and Sam are very much
  554. the equivalent of an officer and his batman; his
  555. servant. And Tolkien actually said that, "my
  556. Sam Gamgee is inspired by the Privates and
  557. Batmen I knew in the First World War".
  558. Frodo represents really, the feelings of a young
  559. man like Tolkien himself, thrown into a war
  560. unwillingly and having to shoulder a terrible
  561. burden; a burden of duty. You can see that
  562. Frodo develops symptoms of what we would now
  563. call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or
  564. War Trauma, or what they called then,
  565. Shell Shock. He becomes withdrawn from
  566. the World, increasingly enclosed within himself
  567. he says he can't remember what grass was like,
  568. what sunlight was like.
  569. When the war is over in The Lord of The Rings,
  570. Frodo does not strut his stuff as a hero,
  571. he is visibly traumatised by the whole
  572. experience. This was very true of many of the
  573. soldiers who returned from the Western
  574. Front, unable to talk about the experiences
  575. that had affected them so deeply.
  576. (retrospective piano music)
  577. [Paul Golightly] The generation that fights
  578. the First World War, should be called courageous.
  579. [Simon Stacey] The sacrifice of that generation
  580. was extraordinary.
  581. [John Garth] It was a tragic loss not only for
  582. families, for friends, but for civilisation as
  583. a whole. It shook long-held beliefs and
  584. assumptions in honour and glory.
  585. [Simon Stacey] It is the first thorough
  586. going war of the machines. So many
  587. thousands and ultimately millions of men
  588. could be wiped out, could be destroyed without
  589. necessarily facing their individual enemy.
  590. [Paul Golightly] These men don't have
  591. the privilege of dying one at a time, they die
  592. on mass; and it's those numbers that I think
  593. traumatise us so much. That's why we have
  594. the memorials at Thiepval and Menin Gate;
  595. where it's just one long list of names.
  596. These bodies have simply disappeared, and
  597. they're all separate lives but they've all
  598. vanished at once.
  599. [John Garth] When you read the King Edward's
  600. School Chronicle, as I have to research
  601. Tolkien's life here, you get to know the boys
  602. with whom he grew up and you see their
  603. achievements, you see what they were learning,
  604. you see how wonderfully intelligent, potentially
  605. creative and brilliant they were. And then
  606. the First World War; and you see that they're
  607. heading for this.
  608. [Paul Golightly] These young men, with their
  609. whole lives in front of them, have, yes it's
  610. a phrase that we all know, have been cut off
  611. in their prime. They were full of potential,
  612. full of life, full of vigour, full of plans,
  613. full of ambition; wanting to do all kinds of
  614. things with their professional lives and
  615. their personal lives, and denied that opportunity.
  616. [John Garth] When you look at the fortunes
  617. of war, it's quite astonishing that Tolkien
  618. survived and went on to produce the great
  619. works of literature that he did; works that
  620. have shaped our culture. And one does
  621. wonder how many others didn't survive,
  622. what potential was locked inside them that
  623. they never had time to bring out of themselves.
  624. So there is an uncountable loss there.
  625. [Simon Stacey] G.B.Smith gives a brief glimpse
  626. of a young life snuffed out and only very
  627. incompletely communicating its dreams.
  628. [Paul Golightly] This is a generation that did
  629. not talk about the way it felt. So in that
  630. sense I think the psychological affect was
  631. long lasting. A number of veterans surived
  632. the war only to find that they couldn't survive
  633. the peace.
  634. [VO] In the chapel at King Edward's School,
  635. eight brass plaques hold the names of
  636. 245 Old Edwardians who lost their lives during
  637. the First World War. Tolkien and his TCBS
  638. friends, are just four of almost
  639. fifteen hundred Old Edwardians who answered
  640. their country's call and fought in The Great War,
  641. and each of their stories is worth telling.
  642. [Paul Golightly] The graveyards that you can
  643. walk around in northern France now have become
  644. almost 21st century cathedrals; where some
  645. really important questions need to be ask about
  646. the nature of war and the nature of
  647. sacrifice, and in the First World War's case,
  648. the scale of that sacrifice. Whether any war
  649. could be worth that.