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← Tolkien's Great War

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Showing Revision 17 created 08/03/2015 by Pavel Tchernov.

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