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Tolkien's Great War

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    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien,
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    was born on the 3rd January, 1892.
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    He and his brother Hilary, experienced
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    a difficult childhood; when Tolkien was
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    just four, they lost their father, Arthur,
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    to rheumatic fever.
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    As a widow with low income, his mother
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    Mabel, home school the brothers and played
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    a vital role in their early education and
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    development.
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    Tolkien was a smart young boy, with a
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    fascination and thirst for languages.
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    Tolkien sat the entrance exam for King
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    Edward's School, Birmingham and passed.
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    From the Autumn of 1900, for a fee of
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    12 pounds a year, Tolkien would be
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    educated in an environment that would help
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    fulfil his academic potential.
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    [John Garth] Going to King Edward's was vitally
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    important to Tolkien; he was an
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    exceptionally talented boy. King Edward's
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    offered him a vast amount of scope and also
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    the company of other boys who were
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    similarly talented.
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    Which was probably quite hard for Tolkien
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    to find.
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    [Simon Stacey] Not only did he play rugby but
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    he was a leading light in the debating society
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    and the literary society; he was the life and
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    soul really and he missed the school a
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    great deal, I think, when he finally had
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    to leave.
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    [VO] At the age of just 11, Tolkien and his
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    brother Hilary, lose their mother, Mabel,
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    to diabetes. Grief stricken, he plunges
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    himself into school life more energetically
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    than before. Academically he excels, but
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    in 1905, meets his intellectual rival,
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    Christopher Wiseman.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien met his greatest friend
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    at King Edward's, Christopher Wiseman on
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    the rugby pitch. A musician, a mathematician;
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    quite different from Tolkien.
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    They developed such a strong bond on the rugby
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    field that they called themselves;
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    "The Great Twin Brethren", which was a phrase
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    from "Lays of Ancient Rome" by Lord
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    Macauley.
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    [Simon Stacey] They also were friendly rivals
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    in the school, both being very academic
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    boys. Wiseman had a formidable intellect
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    and he was interested in a lot of the things
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    that Tolkien was getting interested in;
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    languages, I think he was looking at
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    Egyptian and was looking at hieroglyphics.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien and Wiseman must have
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    helped define each other through their
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    teenage years because they would argue;
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    they would argue strongly about all their
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    beliefs in life.
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    [Simon Stacey] Wiseman was a very talented
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    musician; Tolkien was supposed to be tone
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    deaf but that didn't stop them getting on!
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    [VO] Tolkien also befriends, son of the
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    headmaster, Rob Gilson. Tolkien, Wiseman
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    and Gilson, form a strong bond which will
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    last throughout their school years and beyond.
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    Outside of King Edward's, Tolkien's life is
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    about to change, yet again.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien was living in lodgings
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    with his brother, Hilary, and when he was 16
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    he met fellow lodger, Edith Bratt, who was 19
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    at the time. And she was a beautiful young
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    girl; talented pianist and also an orphan.
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    And the two of them bonded on their shared
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    sadnesses but also on their hopes and dreams.
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    The difficulty for Ronald, as she called him,
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    and Edith, was that he was a Roman Catholic
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    and she was an Anglican.
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    [VO] Tolkien's Guardian, Father Francis Morgan,
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    a Catholic Priest, feels this is major
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    divide; and also believes that Edith will
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    distract Tolkien from his attempts to get
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    into Oxford University.
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    [John Garth] Father Francis Morgan, forbade
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    them from seeing each other, or even from
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    communicating. He was thrown back upon his
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    friendships at King Edward's and it was
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    this final phase of his time here, that he
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    began to flourish and make the place his
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    own; he and his friends ruled the roost.
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    [VO] Making the most of his final year at
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    King Edward's and the friendships he has
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    formed, Tolkien and his peers create an
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    informal society.
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    These young intellectuals gather in the school
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    library and do what they are forbidden to do:
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    brew tea. Outside of school hours, they meet
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    in a cafe at Barrow's Stores in Birmingham
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    and so, self-mockingly, they call themselves
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    the "Tea Club and Barrovean Society"
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    or the TCBS for short.
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    (nostalgic music)
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    [John Garth] The core of the TCBS was probably
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    Tolkien and Wiseman and the others
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    gravitated around them. There was Robert
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    Quilter Gilson, the son of the headmaster
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    here; Rob was a cultured and sociable chap,
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    he was perhaps the social glue of the group;
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    he would welcome anyone and find common
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    cause with them. A gentle artistic fellow
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    who loved to sketch.
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    [Simon Stacey] He was a gifted artist and
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    had ambitions to be an architect.
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    There was a late arrival, Geoffrey Bache Smith,
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    who was fascinated by mythology, Celtic
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    mythology; so this gave him common ground
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    with Tolkien; it was another of Tolkien's
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    passions.
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    [Simon Stacey] Smith was quite an accomplished
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    and advanced poet who recommended contemporary
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    poetry to Tolkien. When he started writing
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    poetry, Tolkien was to a certain extent,
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    inspired by Smith and the wider group.
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    And that was really the beginnings of
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    Tolkien as a writer.
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    [John Garth] From the beginnings which were
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    mostly about fun, later on, during the war years,
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    this developed into a fellowship from which
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    each of them drew tremendous strength and
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    comfort.
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    [VO] Later that year, Tolkien's time at
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    King Edward's comes to an end and he begins
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    his first term at Oxford, having successfully
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    gained entrance.
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    On the eve of his 21st birthday, and his
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    independence from Father Francis Morgan,
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    Tolkien writes to Edith and less than a
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    week later, they are re-united.
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    Edith is engaged to marry another man,
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    but despite almost certain ridicule,
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    she agrees to break the engagement to be
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    with her Ronald.
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    Over the next few months, a growing sense of
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    trouble brews across Europe and on the 28th
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    of June, 1914, everything changes.
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    (gun shot sound)
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    (solemn music)
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    Gavrillo Princip is arrested for the
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    assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
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    A diplomatic crisis ensues and within weeks,
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    Europe's major powers are at war.
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    Germany invades Belgium and Britain declares
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    war on Germany. Parliament issues a call
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    to arms from the British public.
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    [Paul Golightly] There isn't a rush to the
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    colours straight away. It becomes much more
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    obvious that people are willing to join
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    up when atrocity stories start to emerge,
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    then you get a much more concerted rush
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    to join.
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    [John Garth] There was an air of excitement
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    about the war, there was a naive sense that
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    this would allow young men to fulfil their
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    potential in a way that wasn't possible in
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    peace time. There was a tremendous sense
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    of patriotism and a sense of duty towards
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    whatever England, or Britain, stood for.
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    [Paul Golightly] They are attracted to the
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    idea of a settling of accounts with the Germans,
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    or at least some of them will be. On the
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    whole, they thought they were going to give
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    the Germans a bloody nose.
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    [John Garth] "The Germans has been dastardly"
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    and needed to dealt with and shown their place.
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    [Paul Golightly] Men join up out of economic
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    necessity and you'll find that in any war.
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    Life is not very exciting and the romance
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    and colour of joining the army and being
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    part of something very big indeed, I'm sure
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    has some allure.
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    (solemn music) And they see things
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    in rather romantic ways, which of course is
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    doomed to fail; we all know what the First
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    World War turns into. It's not a war of
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    movement, of dash and élan; it's not cavalry
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    charges and distant trumpets; I'm afraid
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    it's the pitter-patter of machine gun fire
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    and the crump of artillery that's going to
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    dominate.
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    So they, I think, have expectations about what
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    the war will be like, and I think their main
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    emotion was, will it be over before I can
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    get to France.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien, who's reading covered
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    ancient heroic literature, that is surprisingly
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    frank about what happens in war, went into
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    the war much more open-eyed. He described
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    himself as a "young man with too much
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    imagination" and so he did not relish battle
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    in any sense.
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    [Paul Golightly] And I think that applies
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    to, not just men like Tolkien who fought in it,
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    but also the politicians and generals who
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    directed it; I think a lot of people
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    understood that this war could be terrible.
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    [Simon Stacey] What you get in the letters
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    between Gilson, Tolkien and Wiseman and
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    then in Smith's poetry, is a serious
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    determination to do their duty and that they
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    should be prepared to give their lives.
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    A realistic appreciation that this is a dark time
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    and that they've got to come through it.
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    [VO] G.B. Smith and Rob Gilson both join
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    the army in 1914, Tolkien's brother, Hilary,
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    signs up as a bugler and Christopher Wiseman
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    joins the navy. Tolkien however, faces a
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    dilemma.
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    [Simon Stacey] Tolkien was in a difficult
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    position when war broke out; he had a year
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    of his degree at Oxford to run and Tolkien
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    needed a degree badly because he wanted to
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    pursue an academic career; he didn't have
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    any money in his family unlike Gilson and
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    therefore, having committed three years to
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    the degree it was very important that he
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    completed it. So he discovered a scheme
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    whereby he could undergo some training
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    in the Officer Training Core whilst
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    completing his degree, which he did triumphantly
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    with a first at Oxford.
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    [VO] He follows good friend, G.B.Smith, into
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    the Lancashire Fusiliers in the hope of being
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    posted to the same battalion.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien was looking for something
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    in the army through which he could use his
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    particular talents, and his particular talents
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    were languages and writing systems; he was
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    fascinated by codes and so forth. So it was
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    only natural that he would train up as a
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    signaller.
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    [Paul Golightly] It would have meant that
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    Tolkien was exposed to the technology
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    available at the time and it must have
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    interested him; so the use of the radio, the
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    use of signals, of semaphore.
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    [Simon Stacey] He learnt morse code,
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    he learnt how to use signalling lamps, field
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    telephones; which of course went on largely
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    to be ineffective or not to work.
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    [John Garth] He became Battalion Signalling
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    Officer for his Battalion. Tolkien had to
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    oversee the communications of a Battalion
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    of between 600 and 1,000 men depending on
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    manpower at the time.
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    [Paul Golightly] His basic job of course
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    was to act as a link between the various
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    layers of command, and that he would be
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    responsible for incoming orders and making sure
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    that the right people got those and of course
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    he'd be responsible for telling command further
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    up the line about the situation on his sector.
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    [John Garth] So he was an absolute lynch pin
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    in a war which depended absolutely on how
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    much information you had about your enemies
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    position.
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    [VO] In March of 1916 as his training nears
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    its completion, both Tolkien and Edith
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    become aware that he will soon be sent to
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    the Front. They marry and just over two
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    months later, Tolkien is shipped off to France.
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    The two of them part, not knowing if they
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    will ever see each other again.
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    (Loud battle sounds, Guns Firing, Shouting)
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    (ominous music)
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    [VO] When Tolkien arrives at the Front, the
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    War has been raging for almost two years.
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    The cost of the War is clear;
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    the countryside is scarred and the casualties
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    high.
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    After a virtual stalemate of trench warfare
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    throughout 1915, and with a new wave of
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    thousands of freshly trained recruits, it is
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    clear the Big Push is imminent.
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    (marching feet)
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    Tolkien's Battalion remains in reserve, but
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    he fears for the lives of his old school
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    friends who are at the Front.
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    Within a month of his arrival in France
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    the Allies launch the Somme Offensive.
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    At 7.30am, on Saturday 1st of July,
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    the troops in the British Frontline,
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    go over the top.
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    (whistle sound echoes)
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    On the first day of the Offensive alone,
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    20,000 men are killed, 35,000 are wounded
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    and over 2,000 are reported missing.
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    [Paul Golightly] The first casualty was
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    the plan. It started to fall apart very
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    rapidly. Tragically for the men caught out
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    in the open, it was a death sentence. 1 in 5
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    men who went into combat on the 1st of July
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    was killed.
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    [John Garth] It was the most disastrous day
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    in the history of the British Army, and
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    a tragedy for the entire country. There were
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    villages that had lost all their young men.
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    [Paul Golightly] It's marked as a loss of
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    innocence, that the 20,000 that were killed
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    represent a turning point in British
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    consciousness and the relationship perhaps
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    between those who make decisions and those
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    who are forced to carry them out.
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    (soft piano music)
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    [VO] Among the many men that are lost on that
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    day, is dear friend and TCBS member,
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    Robert Gilson.
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    [John Garth] He led his Platoon over the top
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    took charge of his Company, but was shot
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    in the middle of No Man's Land.
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    [Paul Golightly] He was in the fourth wave.
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    He saw the first wave go in and fail,
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    the second wave go in and fail,
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    the third wave go in and fail.
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    And he, as a part of the fourth wave, had
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    to go in; and they still went. And that
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    I think is the most poignant and probably
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    the most tragic thing about the 1st of July
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    1916. That this generation, had so much faith
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    in their superiors, probably had so much
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    commitment to their fellows that they were
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    prepared to go, even though it meant certain
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    death.
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    [John Garth] Tolkien heard about this
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    after his first action on the Somme a couple
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    of weeks later; and he was devastated.
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    It shook him to the foundations of his
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    beliefs. He had, as all of the members of
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    the TCBS had, built up their group as a
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    fellowship, with ideas and a spirit that had
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    something to give to the World. In which
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    all four of them were vital parts, and now
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    one of them was dead. So what did that mean
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    about their overall purpose? And also his
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    purpose.
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    [Simon Stacey] Geoffrey Smith wrote him a
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    letter in which, clearly Smith experiences
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    feelings of devastation and a sense that the
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    fellowship had been broken. Rob would never
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    become an architect, he would never fulfil
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    his part in whatever they dreamed of.
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    [John Garth] And I think it took him quite
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    some time to recover from that. The other
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    two members, Wiseman and Smith, were
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    determined to persuade him that, no, the TCBS
  • 17:08 - 17:10
    purpose continued and I think eventually
  • 17:11 - 17:12
    Tolkien took heart from that.
  • 17:14 - 17:16
    [VO] Tolkien writes to Rob's father, Headmaster
  • 17:16 - 17:20
    at King Edward's school to offer his
  • 17:20 - 17:23
    condolences. The TCBS lost a bright young
  • 17:23 - 17:26
    man, a talented artist and most painfully
  • 17:26 - 17:29
    of all; a dear friend.
  • 17:34 - 17:37
    Tolkien's war has well and truly started and
  • 17:37 - 17:39
    over the coming months he is subject to the
  • 17:39 - 17:41
    many hardships of trench warfare.
  • 17:42 - 17:44
    [John Garth] He spent his time in and out
  • 17:44 - 17:47
    of the trenches. Battalions would be rotated
  • 17:47 - 17:50
    from the Frontline to the reserve trenches
  • 17:51 - 17:54
    to rest, as they laughably called it, but
  • 17:54 - 17:56
    it wasn't really rest, it was training.
  • 17:57 - 17:58
    Tolkien talked about the universal weariness
  • 17:59 - 18:02
    of all this war. But during this period he
  • 18:02 - 18:05
    was involved in three attacks, he was
  • 18:05 - 18:07
    very fortunate not to have to go through the
  • 18:07 - 18:10
    first day of the Somme; he was a few miles
  • 18:10 - 18:12
    back from the Frontline at that time.
  • 18:13 - 18:14
    His Battalion moved forward for a second
  • 18:14 - 18:16
    wave of attacks, they were launched against a
  • 18:16 - 18:19
    village called Ovier; which had been the
  • 18:19 - 18:22
    German Frontline. One of the first things that
  • 18:22 - 18:25
    he encountered was, complete chaos in the
  • 18:25 - 18:28
    battlefield communications system. It was very
  • 18:28 - 18:31
    primitive. It was only partly built; damaged
  • 18:31 - 18:34
    by the fortunes of battle. He had signallers
  • 18:34 - 18:39
    going across No Man's Land carrying flares
  • 18:39 - 18:42
    to say, we have arrived. Further flares -
  • 18:42 - 18:44
    "we have taken prisoners", they carried
  • 18:44 - 18:46
    pigeons; pigeons were about the most reliable
  • 18:47 - 18:49
    method of communication. One of Tolkien's
  • 18:50 - 18:53
    signallers won a military medal for managing
  • 18:53 - 18:56
    to get his pigeons across No Man's Land and
  • 18:56 - 18:57
    do the job correctly.
  • 18:58 - 19:00
    [VO] The attack is a success and many
  • 19:00 - 19:02
    prisoners are captured. Of all the combat
  • 19:02 - 19:05
    Tolkien encounters, one of the most significant
  • 19:05 - 19:08
    battles is also one of his last; an attack
  • 19:08 - 19:11
    on Regina Trench.
  • 19:11 - 19:13
    [John Garth] This was in October, by which
  • 19:13 - 19:15
    time the battlefield had been reduced to mud.
  • 19:15 - 19:19
    The attack had been delayed by heavy rain
  • 19:19 - 19:22
    but on October 21st there was a cold snap
  • 19:22 - 19:25
    so the ground was frozen hard and the
  • 19:26 - 19:27
    attack was able to go ahead.
  • 19:28 - 19:34
    (Deep boom. Loud Artillery Fire)
  • 19:34 - 19:42
    (Gunfire, bullets zipping by)
  • 19:42 - 19:47
    (solemn music)
  • 19:48 - 19:52
    [John Garth] He saw violent death, he also
  • 19:52 - 19:54
    saw and felt extreme terror.
  • 19:57 - 20:00
    He never, as far as we know, described at
  • 20:00 - 20:04
    length what trench warfare was like but he
  • 20:04 - 20:06
    summed it up in two words, in one of his
  • 20:06 - 20:08
    letters, and this was; "animal horror".
  • 20:10 - 20:13
    It would reduce you from humanity and
  • 20:14 - 20:17
    turn you into a retched beast desperate only
  • 20:17 - 20:20
    to cower and survive. And it's very
  • 20:20 - 20:22
    interesting if you look in The Lord of The Rings
  • 20:22 - 20:25
    whenever the characters are in situations of
  • 20:25 - 20:27
    extreme fear, they're always described as
  • 20:28 - 20:35
    stooping and stupefied, un-manned by terror.
  • 20:36 - 20:37
    [Paul Golightly] A lot of British trenches
  • 20:37 - 20:39
    were deliberately uncomfortable because
  • 20:39 - 20:41
    the Generals wanted the men to believe
  • 20:41 - 20:43
    that they were only temporary, that they
  • 20:43 - 20:45
    would be advancing beyond this, that this
  • 20:45 - 20:46
    wasn't their home.
  • 20:48 - 20:50
    [VO] Out on the Western Front, Tolkien feels
  • 20:50 - 20:53
    isolated from home and letters to, and from,
  • 20:53 - 20:56
    Edith are a lifeline. For reasons of
  • 20:56 - 20:59
    strategic importance Tolkien is forbidden
  • 20:59 - 21:02
    from sharing his location in his letters, so
  • 21:02 - 21:05
    he devises a code of dots to keep Edith
  • 21:05 - 21:06
    informed of where he is.
  • 21:07 - 21:09
    [John Garth] He simply found the letters
  • 21:09 - 21:12
    of the alphabet within what he wrote to her
  • 21:12 - 21:14
    and put a dot above the relevant ones to
  • 21:15 - 21:17
    spell out the name of the place where he was
  • 21:17 - 21:21
    currently located. And Edith kept a map
  • 21:21 - 21:24
    on her wall and pins to show where he was
  • 21:24 - 21:26
    at that time.
  • 21:28 - 21:30
    [VO] After the successful attack on Regina
  • 21:30 - 21:32
    Trench, the Battalion is withdrawn from the
  • 21:32 - 21:35
    front and paraded in front of the top brass.
  • 21:36 - 21:38
    Tolkien however, falls ill.
  • 21:39 - 21:40
    [John Garth] It was trench fever. And this
  • 21:40 - 21:44
    was a louse born disease due to the unhygienic
  • 21:44 - 21:45
    conditions in the trenches.
  • 21:45 - 21:47
    [Paul Golightly] It spread through contact
  • 21:47 - 21:50
    with lice and it symptoms aren't very pleasant
  • 21:50 - 21:54
    It gives you a headache, you can have stomach
  • 21:54 - 21:56
    cramps, you can have pain in you joints
  • 21:57 - 21:59
    and in your bones, you can get lesions on
  • 21:59 - 22:02
    your skin; it's not fatal but it can become
  • 22:03 - 22:05
    very debilitating. So debilitating you can't
  • 22:05 - 22:08
    be an effective soldier. Tolkien got a very
  • 22:08 - 22:11
    bad case, so bad that he had to be invalided
  • 22:11 - 22:13
    "back to Blighty" as they put it.
  • 22:13 - 22:15
    And in fact it was the end of his war.
  • 22:15 - 22:16
    [John Garth] It saved Tolkien's life, it took
  • 22:17 - 22:20
    him out of the battlefield and back to Britain.
  • 22:20 - 22:23
    He was shipped home to Birmingham, to
  • 22:24 - 22:26
    The First Southern General Hospital as it
  • 22:26 - 22:28
    was called at the time, which was actually set
  • 22:28 - 22:30
    up in the grounds of Birmingham University.
  • 22:31 - 22:33
    And it was there that Tolkien was re-united
  • 22:33 - 22:37
    with his wife, Edith and where he began
  • 22:37 - 22:40
    writing the first stories of Middle-Earth.
  • 22:42 - 22:44
    His re-union with Edith was deeply emotional
  • 22:44 - 22:48
    and was an inspiration for various pieces of
  • 22:48 - 22:50
    writing in his mythology, notably the
  • 22:50 - 22:53
    story of Luthien and Beren; which features
  • 22:53 - 22:55
    in the Silmarillion and is mentioned in
  • 22:55 - 22:57
    The Lord of The Rings. A love story between
  • 22:57 - 23:01
    a mortal man and an immortal elf.
  • 23:02 - 23:03
    (Gentle Piano Music)
  • 23:04 - 23:06
    [VO] However, Tolkien's respite is short lived.
  • 23:06 - 23:09
    Shortly after returning to Birmingham, Tolkien
  • 23:09 - 23:11
    learns from Christopher Wiseman, that
  • 23:11 - 23:14
    good friend G.B.Smith has been killed.
  • 23:19 - 23:20
    [John Garth] The Battle of the Somme was
  • 23:20 - 23:23
    over, and Smith had been organising a
  • 23:23 - 23:26
    football match for his men about four miles
  • 23:26 - 23:29
    behind the Frontline, when a stray shell
  • 23:29 - 23:30
    exploded near him.
  • 23:32 - 23:36
    He was hit by shrapnel and developed what
  • 23:36 - 23:38
    they called Gas Gangrene, which killed
  • 23:38 - 23:42
    him within a few days. Early in 1916, while
  • 23:42 - 23:44
    Tolkien was still in training, he had a letter
  • 23:44 - 23:48
    G.B.Smith, who by that time was in the trenches
  • 23:48 - 23:50
    in France.
  • 23:50 - 23:52
    [VO] Smith was about to go out on Night Patrol.
  • 23:52 - 23:54
    The officer who had led the patrol the night before
  • 23:54 - 23:57
    had been captured and most likely killed.
  • 23:59 - 24:00
    [John Garth] It was about the most dangerous
  • 24:00 - 24:03
    activity that you could do on the Western Front
  • 24:03 - 24:05
    and Smith was about to go into it and he took
  • 24:05 - 24:08
    the opportunity to write to Tolkien, and
  • 24:08 - 24:14
    tell him; "I'm about to go out on Night Patrol,
  • 24:14 - 24:19
    I am a wild and wholehearted admirer of
  • 24:19 - 24:22
    what you've written and what you will write"
  • 24:23 - 24:25
    He told Tolkien, "you I'm sure are chosen,
  • 24:25 - 24:30
    and you must publish."
  • 24:34 - 24:36
    Smith was essentially the first Middle-Earth
  • 24:36 - 24:37
    fan.
  • 24:38 - 24:40
    [Simon Stacey] Smith says in the letter that
  • 24:40 - 24:45
    death couldn't put an end to the TCBS, to
  • 24:45 - 24:49
    the "immortal four" as he put it, that Tolkien
  • 24:49 - 24:53
    may say the things that he had wanted to
  • 24:53 - 24:56
    say, long after he is there to say them.
  • 24:56 - 25:01
    That's very moving because Tolkien, although
  • 25:01 - 25:05
    very much his own individual artistic self,
  • 25:05 - 25:09
    I think did see his later career as an
  • 25:09 - 25:11
    attempt to fulfil the artistic dreams that
  • 25:11 - 25:13
    they'd shared.
  • 25:14 - 25:17
    [John Garth] He was able to gather his strength
  • 25:17 - 25:24
    and perhaps see Smith as an ideal to be lived up to.
  • 25:26 - 25:28
    [VO] In the summer of 1918, Tolkien and
  • 25:28 - 25:31
    Wiseman gather some of Smith's poems and
  • 25:31 - 25:33
    have them published in a small volume,
  • 25:33 - 25:36
    entitled; "A Spring Harvest".
  • 25:38 - 25:40
    Tolkien's war is over, but the impact of his
  • 25:41 - 25:43
    experiences will stay with him forever, and
  • 25:44 - 25:46
    will even feature in his future writings.
  • 25:47 - 25:48
    [John Garth] The whole experience of the War
  • 25:48 - 25:52
    had an ongoing affect on much of Tolkien's
  • 25:52 - 25:55
    mythology. As soon as Tolkien returned from
  • 25:55 - 25:56
    the Somme he started writing a story called,
  • 25:56 - 25:59
    "The Fall of Gondolin" which was the first
  • 25:59 - 26:01
    element of his mythology that dealt with battle.
  • 26:03 - 26:05
    And the fascinating thing about it is that the
  • 26:05 - 26:08
    attacking forces use things that are termed
  • 26:08 - 26:11
    by Tolkien, "dragons" or "beasts" or "monsters"
  • 26:11 - 26:14
    but they're described as metallic and rolling
  • 26:15 - 26:17
    and they spout fire and some of them have
  • 26:17 - 26:19
    troops inside them, and it's pretty clear that
  • 26:19 - 26:22
    this is a kind of mythologising of the Tank.
  • 26:23 - 26:25
    Which was Britains secret weapon, which
  • 26:25 - 26:26
    had just been launched on the Somme while
  • 26:27 - 26:27
    Tolkien was there.
  • 26:28 - 26:31
    The Lord of The Rings focusses on a fellowship,
  • 26:31 - 26:34
    they're separated on different battlefronts,
  • 26:34 - 26:36
    much like the TCBS were.
  • 26:36 - 26:37
    [Simon Stacey] It's almost unimaginable that,
  • 26:37 - 26:40
    in writing of the breaking of the fellowship,
  • 26:40 - 26:42
    in The Lord of The Rings, that Tolkien wouldn't
  • 26:42 - 26:46
    have been influenced by his own loss during
  • 26:46 - 26:48
    the First World War and the breaking of the
  • 26:48 - 26:49
    TCBS fellowship.
  • 26:51 - 26:53
    There is a late letter in which he mentions
  • 26:53 - 26:56
    that the dead marshes, through which Frodo,
  • 26:56 - 27:00
    Sam and Gollum travel, owe something to
  • 27:00 - 27:02
    northern France, in the area of the Somme
  • 27:02 - 27:04
    where he fought.
  • 27:04 - 27:06
    [John Garth] Frodo and Sam are very much
  • 27:06 - 27:10
    the equivalent of an officer and his batman; his
  • 27:10 - 27:13
    servant. And Tolkien actually said that, "my
  • 27:13 - 27:18
    Sam Gamgee is inspired by the Privates and
  • 27:18 - 27:21
    Batmen I knew in the First World War".
  • 27:22 - 27:26
    Frodo represents really, the feelings of a young
  • 27:26 - 27:28
    man like Tolkien himself, thrown into a war
  • 27:28 - 27:31
    unwillingly and having to shoulder a terrible
  • 27:31 - 27:35
    burden; a burden of duty. You can see that
  • 27:35 - 27:40
    Frodo develops symptoms of what we would now
  • 27:40 - 27:43
    call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or
  • 27:43 - 27:45
    War Trauma, or what they called then,
  • 27:45 - 27:48
    Shell Shock. He becomes withdrawn from
  • 27:48 - 27:52
    the World, increasingly enclosed within himself
  • 27:52 - 27:56
    he says he can't remember what grass was like,
  • 27:56 - 27:57
    what sunlight was like.
  • 27:58 - 28:00
    When the war is over in The Lord of The Rings,
  • 28:00 - 28:04
    Frodo does not strut his stuff as a hero,
  • 28:04 - 28:06
    he is visibly traumatised by the whole
  • 28:06 - 28:09
    experience. This was very true of many of the
  • 28:10 - 28:12
    soldiers who returned from the Western
  • 28:12 - 28:15
    Front, unable to talk about the experiences
  • 28:15 - 28:18
    that had affected them so deeply.
  • 28:19 - 28:20
    (retrospective piano music)
  • 28:23 - 28:24
    [Paul Golightly] The generation that fights
  • 28:25 - 28:27
    the First World War, should be called courageous.
  • 28:29 - 28:30
    [Simon Stacey] The sacrifice of that generation
  • 28:30 - 28:32
    was extraordinary.
  • 28:33 - 28:35
    [John Garth] It was a tragic loss not only for
  • 28:35 - 28:39
    families, for friends, but for civilisation as
  • 28:39 - 28:46
    a whole. It shook long-held beliefs and
  • 28:46 - 28:49
    assumptions in honour and glory.
  • 28:49 - 28:51
    [Simon Stacey] It is the first thorough
  • 28:52 - 28:56
    going war of the machines. So many
  • 28:57 - 28:59
    thousands and ultimately millions of men
  • 29:00 - 29:04
    could be wiped out, could be destroyed without
  • 29:04 - 29:07
    necessarily facing their individual enemy.
  • 29:07 - 29:08
    [Paul Golightly] These men don't have
  • 29:09 - 29:12
    the privilege of dying one at a time, they die
  • 29:12 - 29:16
    on mass; and it's those numbers that I think
  • 29:16 - 29:18
    traumatise us so much. That's why we have
  • 29:18 - 29:21
    the memorials at Thiepval and Menin Gate;
  • 29:21 - 29:24
    where it's just one long list of names.
  • 29:25 - 29:27
    These bodies have simply disappeared, and
  • 29:27 - 29:29
    they're all separate lives but they've all
  • 29:29 - 29:30
    vanished at once.
  • 29:32 - 29:34
    [John Garth] When you read the King Edward's
  • 29:34 - 29:38
    School Chronicle, as I have to research
  • 29:38 - 29:43
    Tolkien's life here, you get to know the boys
  • 29:43 - 29:46
    with whom he grew up and you see their
  • 29:46 - 29:48
    achievements, you see what they were learning,
  • 29:48 - 29:51
    you see how wonderfully intelligent, potentially
  • 29:51 - 29:55
    creative and brilliant they were. And then
  • 29:55 - 29:57
    the First World War; and you see that they're
  • 29:57 - 29:58
    heading for this.
  • 30:00 - 30:01
    [Paul Golightly] These young men, with their
  • 30:01 - 30:04
    whole lives in front of them, have, yes it's
  • 30:04 - 30:06
    a phrase that we all know, have been cut off
  • 30:06 - 30:08
    in their prime. They were full of potential,
  • 30:09 - 30:11
    full of life, full of vigour, full of plans,
  • 30:11 - 30:13
    full of ambition; wanting to do all kinds of
  • 30:13 - 30:15
    things with their professional lives and
  • 30:15 - 30:17
    their personal lives, and denied that opportunity.
  • 30:18 - 30:19
    [John Garth] When you look at the fortunes
  • 30:19 - 30:21
    of war, it's quite astonishing that Tolkien
  • 30:21 - 30:24
    survived and went on to produce the great
  • 30:24 - 30:27
    works of literature that he did; works that
  • 30:27 - 30:29
    have shaped our culture. And one does
  • 30:29 - 30:33
    wonder how many others didn't survive,
  • 30:33 - 30:35
    what potential was locked inside them that
  • 30:35 - 30:38
    they never had time to bring out of themselves.
  • 30:39 - 30:43
    So there is an uncountable loss there.
  • 30:45 - 30:48
    [Simon Stacey] G.B.Smith gives a brief glimpse
  • 30:48 - 30:53
    of a young life snuffed out and only very
  • 30:53 - 30:57
    incompletely communicating its dreams.
  • 30:58 - 30:59
    [Paul Golightly] This is a generation that did
  • 30:59 - 31:02
    not talk about the way it felt. So in that
  • 31:02 - 31:04
    sense I think the psychological affect was
  • 31:05 - 31:08
    long lasting. A number of veterans surived
  • 31:08 - 31:10
    the war only to find that they couldn't survive
  • 31:10 - 31:12
    the peace.
  • 31:13 - 31:15
    [VO] In the chapel at King Edward's School,
  • 31:15 - 31:17
    eight brass plaques hold the names of
  • 31:17 - 31:21
    245 Old Edwardians who lost their lives during
  • 31:21 - 31:25
    the First World War. Tolkien and his TCBS
  • 31:25 - 31:27
    friends, are just four of almost
  • 31:27 - 31:30
    fifteen hundred Old Edwardians who answered
  • 31:30 - 31:33
    their country's call and fought in The Great War,
  • 31:34 - 31:36
    and each of their stories is worth telling.
  • 31:38 - 31:39
    [Paul Golightly] The graveyards that you can
  • 31:39 - 31:42
    walk around in northern France now have become
  • 31:42 - 31:46
    almost 21st century cathedrals; where some
  • 31:46 - 31:48
    really important questions need to be ask about
  • 31:48 - 31:51
    the nature of war and the nature of
  • 31:51 - 31:57
    sacrifice, and in the First World War's case,
  • 31:57 - 32:01
    the scale of that sacrifice. Whether any war
  • 32:01 - 32:04
    could be worth that.
Títol:
Tolkien's Great War
Descripció:

Tolkien's Great War

A half hour documentary on JRR Tolkien's experiences during the First World War produced for a centenary exhibition at King Edward's School, Birmingham. For more information, please visit www.kes.org.uk/great-war-exhibition

Produced & Directed by:
Elliot Weaver & Zander Weaver 2014
www.EllianderPictures.co.uk

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Duration:
32:58
Kelsey Mitchell edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Maggie S (Amara staff) edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Arvind Patil edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Joanna Lam edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Gaal Galaa edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Enji Mitchel edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Enji Mitchel edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
Enji Mitchel edited anglès subtitles for Tolkien's Great War
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English subtitles

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