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← Tolkien's Great War

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Showing Revision 18 created 08/24/2015 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 to find.
  18. Simon Stacey: Not only did he play rugby
    but he was a leading light
  19. in the debating society
    and the literary society;
  20. he was the life and soul really
  21. and he missed the school a great deal,
    I think, when he finally had to leave.
  22. VO: At the age of just 11, Tolkien
    and his brother Hilary,
  23. lose their mother, Mabel, to diabetes.
  24. Grief stricken, he plunges
    himself into school life
  25. more energetically than before.
    Academically he excels,
  26. but in 1905 meets his intellectual rival,
    Christopher Wiseman.
  27. John Garth: Tolkien met his greatest
    friend at King Edward's,
  28. Christopher Wiseman on the rugby pitch.
  29. A musician, a mathematician;
    quite different from Tolkien.
  30. They developed such a strong
    bond on the rugby field
  31. that they called themselves;
    "The Great Twin Brethren",
  32. which was a phrase from
    "Lays of Ancient Rome" by Lord Macauley.
  33. Simon Stacey: They also were
    friendly rivals in the school,
  34. both being very academic boys.
    Wiseman had a formidable intellect
  35. and he was interested
    in a lot of the things
  36. that Tolkien was getting interested in;
  37. languages, I think he was looking at
    Egyptian and was looking at hieroglyphics.
  38. John Garth: Tolkien and Wiseman
    must have helped define each other
  39. through their teenage years
    because they would argue;
  40. they would argue strongly
    about all their beliefs in life.
  41. Simon Stacey: Wiseman was
    a very talented musician;
  42. Tolkien was supposed to be tone deaf
    but that didn't stop them getting on!
  43. VO: Tolkien also befriends,
    son of the headmaster, Rob Gilson.
  44. Tolkien, Wiseman and Gilson,
    form a strong bond
  45. which will last throughout
    their school years and beyond.
  46. Outside of King Edward's, Tolkien's life
    is about to change, yet again.
  47. John Garth: Tolkien was living
    in lodgings with his brother, Hilary,
  48. and when he was 16 he met fellow lodger,
    Edith Bratt, who was 19 at the time.
  49. And she was a beautiful young girl;
    talented pianist and also an orphan.
  50. And the two of them bonded on their shared
  51. sadnesses but also on their hopes and dreams.
  52. The difficulty for Ronald, as she called him,
  53. and Edith, was that he was a Roman Catholic
  54. and she was an Anglican.
  55. VO: Tolkien's Guardian, Father Francis Morgan,
  56. a Catholic Priest, feels this is major
  57. divide; and also believes that Edith will
  58. distract Tolkien from his attempts to get
  59. into Oxford University.
  60. John Garth: Father Francis Morgan, forbade
  61. them from seeing each other, or even from
  62. communicating. He was thrown back upon his
  63. friendships at King Edward's and it was
  64. this final phase of his time here, that he
  65. began to flourish and make the place his
  66. own; he and his friends ruled the roost.
  67. VO: Making the most of his final year at
  68. King Edward's and the friendships he has
  69. formed, Tolkien and his peers create an
  70. informal society.
  71. These young intellectuals gather in the school
  72. library and do what they are forbidden to do:
  73. brew tea. Outside of school hours, they meet
  74. in a cafe at Barrow's Stores in Birmingham
  75. and so, self-mockingly, they call themselves
  76. the "Tea Club and Barrovean Society"
  77. or the TCBS for short.
  78. (nostalgic music)
  79. John Garth: The core of the TCBS was probably
  80. Tolkien and Wiseman and the others
  81. gravitated around them. There was Robert
  82. Quilter Gilson, the son of the headmaster
  83. here; Rob was a cultured and sociable chap,
  84. he was perhaps the social glue of the group;
  85. he would welcome anyone and find common
  86. cause with them. A gentle artistic fellow
  87. who loved to sketch.
  88. Simon Stacey: He was a gifted artist and
  89. had ambitions to be an architect.
  90. There was a late arrival, Geoffrey Bache Smith,
  91. who was fascinated by mythology, Celtic
  92. mythology; so this gave him common ground
  93. with Tolkien; it was another of Tolkien's
  94. passions.
  95. Simon Stacey: Smith was quite an accomplished
  96. and advanced poet who recommended contemporary
  97. poetry to Tolkien. When he started writing
  98. poetry, Tolkien was to a certain extent,
  99. inspired by Smith and the wider group.
  100. And that was really the beginnings of
  101. Tolkien as a writer.
  102. John Garth: From the beginnings which were
  103. mostly about fun, later on, during the war years,
  104. this developed into a fellowship from which
  105. each of them drew tremendous strength and
  106. comfort.
  107. VO: Later that year, Tolkien's time at
  108. King Edward's comes to an end and he begins
  109. his first term at Oxford, having successfully
  110. gained entrance.
  111. On the eve of his 21st birthday, and his
  112. independence from Father Francis Morgan,
  113. Tolkien writes to Edith and less than a
  114. week later, they are re-united.
  115. Edith is engaged to marry another man,
  116. but despite almost certain ridicule,
  117. she agrees to break the engagement to be
  118. with her Ronald.
  119. Over the next few months, a growing sense of
  120. trouble brews across Europe and on the 28th
  121. of June, 1914, everything changes.
  122. (gun shot sound)
  123. (solemn music)
  124. Gavrillo Princip is arrested for the
  125. assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.
  126. A diplomatic crisis ensues and within weeks,
  127. Europe's major powers are at war.
  128. Germany invades Belgium and Britain declares
  129. war on Germany. Parliament issues a call
  130. to arms from the British public.
  131. Paul Golightly: There isn't a rush to the
  132. colours straight away. It becomes much more
  133. obvious that people are willing to join
  134. up when atrocity stories start to emerge,
  135. then you get a much more concerted rush
  136. to join.
  137. John Garth: There was an air of excitement
  138. about the war, there was a naive sense that
  139. this would allow young men to fulfil their
  140. potential in a way that wasn't possible in
  141. peace time. There was a tremendous sense
  142. of patriotism and a sense of duty towards
  143. whatever England, or Britain, stood for.
  144. Paul Golightly: They are attracted to the
  145. idea of a settling of accounts with the Germans,
  146. or at least some of them will be. On the
  147. whole, they thought they were going to give
  148. the Germans a bloody nose.
  149. John Garth: "The Germans has been dastardly"
  150. and needed to dealt with and shown their place.
  151. Paul Golightly: Men join up out of economic
  152. necessity and you'll find that in any war.
  153. Life is not very exciting and the romance
  154. and colour of joining the army and being
  155. part of something very big indeed, I'm sure
  156. has some allure.
  157. (solemn music) And they see things
  158. in rather romantic ways, which of course is
  159. doomed to fail; we all know what the First
  160. World War turns into. It's not a war of
  161. movement, of dash and élan; it's not cavalry
  162. charges and distant trumpets; I'm afraid
  163. it's the pitter-patter of machine gun fire
  164. and the crump of artillery that's going to
  165. dominate.
  166. So they, I think, have expectations about what
  167. the war will be like, and I think their main
  168. emotion was, will it be over before I can
  169. get to France.
  170. John Garth: Tolkien, who's reading covered
  171. ancient heroic literature, that is surprisingly
  172. frank about what happens in war, went into
  173. the war much more open-eyed. He described
  174. himself as a "young man with too much
  175. imagination" and so he did not relish battle
  176. in any sense.
  177. Paul Golightly: And I think that applies
  178. to, not just men like Tolkien who fought in it,
  179. but also the politicians and generals who
  180. directed it; I think a lot of people
  181. understood that this war could be terrible.
  182. Simon Stacey: What you get in the letters
  183. between Gilson, Tolkien and Wiseman and
  184. then in Smith's poetry, is a serious
  185. determination to do their duty and that they
  186. should be prepared to give their lives.
  187. A realistic appreciation that this is a dark time
  188. and that they've got to come through it.
  189. VO: G.B. Smith and Rob Gilson both join
  190. the army in 1914, Tolkien's brother, Hilary,
  191. signs up as a bugler and Christopher Wiseman
  192. joins the navy. Tolkien however, faces a
  193. dilemma.
  194. Simon Stacey: Tolkien was in a difficult
  195. position when war broke out; he had a year
  196. of his degree at Oxford to run and Tolkien
  197. needed a degree badly because he wanted to
  198. pursue an academic career; he didn't have
  199. any money in his family unlike Gilson and
  200. therefore, having committed three years to
  201. the degree it was very important that he
  202. completed it. So he discovered a scheme
  203. whereby he could undergo some training
  204. in the Officer Training Core whilst
  205. completing his degree, which he did triumphantly
  206. with a first at Oxford.
  207. VO: He follows good friend, G.B.Smith, into
  208. the Lancashire Fusiliers in the hope of being
  209. posted to the same battalion.
  210. John Garth: Tolkien was looking for something
  211. in the army through which he could use his
  212. particular talents, and his particular talents
  213. were languages and writing systems; he was
  214. fascinated by codes and so forth. So it was
  215. only natural that he would train up as a
  216. signaller.
  217. Paul Golightly: It would have meant that
  218. Tolkien was exposed to the technology
  219. available at the time and it must have
  220. interested him; so the use of the radio, the
  221. use of signals, of semaphore.
  222. Simon Stacey: He learnt morse code,
  223. he learnt how to use signalling lamps, field
  224. telephones; which of course went on largely
  225. to be ineffective or not to work.
  226. John Garth: He became Battalion Signalling
  227. Officer for his Battalion. Tolkien had to
  228. oversee the communications of a Battalion
  229. of between 600 and 1,000 men depending on
  230. manpower at the time.
  231. Paul Golightly: His basic job of course
  232. was to act as a link between the various
  233. layers of command, and that he would be
  234. responsible for incoming orders and making sure
  235. that the right people got those and of course
  236. he'd be responsible for telling command further
  237. up the line about the situation on his sector.
  238. John Garth: So he was an absolute lynch pin
  239. in a war which depended absolutely on how
  240. much information you had about your enemies
  241. position.
  242. VO: In March of 1916 as his training nears
  243. its completion, both Tolkien and Edith
  244. become aware that he will soon be sent to
  245. the Front. They marry and just over two
  246. months later, Tolkien is shipped off to France.
  247. The two of them part, not knowing if they
  248. will ever see each other again.
  249. (Loud battle sounds, Guns Firing, Shouting)
  250. (ominous music)
  251. VO: When Tolkien arrives at the Front, the
  252. War has been raging for almost two years.
  253. The cost of the War is clear;
  254. the countryside is scarred and the casualties
  255. high.
  256. After a virtual stalemate of trench warfare
  257. throughout 1915, and with a new wave of
  258. thousands of freshly trained recruits, it is
  259. clear the Big Push is imminent.
  260. (marching feet)
  261. Tolkien's Battalion remains in reserve, but
  262. he fears for the lives of his old school
  263. friends who are at the Front.
  264. Within a month of his arrival in France
  265. the Allies launch the Somme Offensive.
  266. At 7.30am, on Saturday 1st of July,
  267. the troops in the British Frontline,
  268. go over the top.
  269. (whistle sound echoes)
  270. On the first day of the Offensive alone,
  271. 20,000 men are killed, 35,000 are wounded
  272. and over 2,000 are reported missing.
  273. Paul Golightly: The first casualty was
  274. the plan. It started to fall apart very
  275. rapidly. Tragically for the men caught out
  276. in the open, it was a death sentence. 1 in 5
  277. men who went into combat on the 1st of July
  278. was killed.
  279. John Garth: It was the most disastrous day
  280. in the history of the British Army, and
  281. a tragedy for the entire country. There were
  282. villages that had lost all their young men.
  283. Paul Golightly: It's marked as a loss of
  284. innocence, that the 20,000 that were killed
  285. represent a turning point in British
  286. consciousness and the relationship perhaps
  287. between those who make decisions and those
  288. who are forced to carry them out.
  289. (soft piano music)
  290. VO: Among the many men that are lost on that
  291. day, is dear friend and TCBS member,
  292. Robert Gilson.
  293. John Garth: He led his Platoon over the top
  294. took charge of his Company, but was shot
  295. in the middle of No Man's Land.
  296. Paul Golightly: He was in the fourth wave.
  297. He saw the first wave go in and fail,
  298. the second wave go in and fail,
  299. the third wave go in and fail.
  300. And he, as a part of the fourth wave, had
  301. to go in; and they still went. And that
  302. I think is the most poignant and probably
  303. the most tragic thing about the 1st of July
  304. 1916. That this generation, had so much faith
  305. in their superiors, probably had so much
  306. commitment to their fellows that they were
  307. prepared to go, even though it meant certain
  308. death.
  309. John Garth: Tolkien heard about this
  310. after his first action on the Somme a couple
  311. of weeks later; and he was devastated.
  312. It shook him to the foundations of his
  313. beliefs. He had, as all of the members of
  314. the TCBS had, built up their group as a
  315. fellowship, with ideas and a spirit that had
  316. something to give to the World. In which
  317. all four of them were vital parts, and now
  318. one of them was dead. So what did that mean
  319. about their overall purpose? And also his
  320. purpose.
  321. Simon Stacey: Geoffrey Smith wrote him a
  322. letter in which, clearly Smith experiences
  323. feelings of devastation and a sense that the
  324. fellowship had been broken. Rob would never
  325. become an architect, he would never fulfil
  326. his part in whatever they dreamed of.
  327. John Garthm: And I think it took him quite
  328. some time to recover from that. The other
  329. two members, Wiseman and Smith, were
  330. determined to persuade him that, no, the TCBS
  331. purpose continued and I think eventually
  332. Tolkien took heart from that.
  333. VO: Tolkien writes to Rob's father, Headmaster
  334. at King Edward's school to offer his
  335. condolences. The TCBS lost a bright young
  336. man, a talented artist and most painfully
  337. of all; a dear friend.
  338. Tolkien's war has well and truly started and
  339. over the coming months he is subject to the
  340. many hardships of trench warfare.
  341. John Garth: He spent his time in and out
  342. of the trenches. Battalions would be rotated
  343. from the Frontline to the reserve trenches
  344. to rest, as they laughably called it, but
  345. it wasn't really rest, it was training.
  346. Tolkien talked about the universal weariness
  347. of all this war. But during this period he
  348. was involved in three attacks, he was
  349. very fortunate not to have to go through the
  350. first day of the Somme; he was a few miles
  351. back from the Frontline at that time.
  352. His Battalion moved forward for a second
  353. wave of attacks, they were launched against a
  354. village called Ovier; which had been the
  355. German Frontline. One of the first things that
  356. he encountered was, complete chaos in the
  357. battlefield communications system. It was very
  358. primitive. It was only partly built; damaged
  359. by the fortunes of battle. He had signallers
  360. going across No Man's Land carrying flares
  361. to say, we have arrived. Further flares -
  362. "we have taken prisoners", they carried
  363. pigeons; pigeons were about the most reliable
  364. method of communication. One of Tolkien's
  365. signallers won a military medal for managing
  366. to get his pigeons across No Man's Land and
  367. do the job correctly.
  368. VO: The attack is a success and many
  369. prisoners are captured. Of all the combat
  370. Tolkien encounters, one of the most significant
  371. battles is also one of his last; an attack
  372. on Regina Trench.
  373. John Garth: This was in October, by which
  374. time the battlefield had been reduced to mud.
  375. The attack had been delayed by heavy rain
  376. but on October 21st there was a cold snap
  377. so the ground was frozen hard and the
  378. attack was able to go ahead.
  379. (Deep boom. Loud Artillery Fire)
  380. (Gunfire, bullets zipping by)
  381. (solemn music)
  382. John Garth: He saw violent death, he also
  383. saw and felt extreme terror.
  384. He never, as far as we know, described at
  385. length what trench warfare was like but he
  386. summed it up in two words, in one of his
  387. letters, and this was; "animal horror".
  388. It would reduce you from humanity and
  389. turn you into a retched beast desperate only
  390. to cower and survive. And it's very
  391. interesting if you look in The Lord of The Rings
  392. whenever the characters are in situations of
  393. extreme fear, they're always described as
  394. stooping and stupefied, un-manned by terror.
  395. Paul Golightly: A lot of British trenches
  396. were deliberately uncomfortable because
  397. the Generals wanted the men to believe
  398. that they were only temporary, that they
  399. would be advancing beyond this, that this
  400. wasn't their home.
  401. VO: Out on the Western Front, Tolkien feels
  402. isolated from home and letters to, and from,
  403. Edith are a lifeline. For reasons of
  404. strategic importance Tolkien is forbidden
  405. from sharing his location in his letters, so
  406. he devises a code of dots to keep Edith
  407. informed of where he is.
  408. John Garth: He simply found the letters
  409. of the alphabet within what he wrote to her
  410. and put a dot above the relevant ones to
  411. spell out the name of the place where he was
  412. currently located. And Edith kept a map
  413. on her wall and pins to show where he was
  414. at that time.
  415. VO: After the successful attack on Regina
  416. Trench, the Battalion is withdrawn from the
  417. front and paraded in front of the top brass.
  418. Tolkien however, falls ill.
  419. John Garth: It was trench fever. And this
  420. was a louse born disease due to the unhygienic
  421. conditions in the trenches.
  422. Paul Golightly: It spread through contact
  423. with lice and it symptoms aren't very pleasant
  424. It gives you a headache, you can have stomach
  425. cramps, you can have pain in you joints
  426. and in your bones, you can get lesions on
  427. your skin; it's not fatal but it can become
  428. very debilitating. So debilitating you can't
  429. be an effective soldier. Tolkien got a very
  430. bad case, so bad that he had to be invalided
  431. "back to Blighty" as they put it.
  432. And in fact it was the end of his war.
  433. John Garth: It saved Tolkien's life, it took
  434. him out of the battlefield and back to Britain.
  435. He was shipped home to Birmingham, to
  436. The First Southern General Hospital as it
  437. was called at the time, which was actually set
  438. up in the grounds of Birmingham University.
  439. And it was there that Tolkien was re-united
  440. with his wife, Edith and where he began
  441. writing the first stories of Middle-Earth.
  442. His re-union with Edith was deeply emotional
  443. and was an inspiration for various pieces of
  444. writing in his mythology, notably the
  445. story of Luthien and Beren; which features
  446. in the Silmarillion and is mentioned in
  447. The Lord of The Rings. A love story between
  448. a mortal man and an immortal elf.
  449. (Gentle Piano Music)
  450. VO: However, Tolkien's respite is short lived.
  451. Shortly after returning to Birmingham, Tolkien
  452. learns from Christopher Wiseman, that
  453. good friend G.B.Smith has been killed.
  454. John Garth: The Battle of the Somme was
  455. over, and Smith had been organising a
  456. football match for his men about four miles
  457. behind the Frontline, when a stray shell
  458. exploded near him.
  459. He was hit by shrapnel and developed what
  460. they called Gas Gangrene, which killed
  461. him within a few days. Early in 1916, while
  462. Tolkien was still in training, he had a letter
  463. G.B.Smith, who by that time was in the trenches
  464. in France.
  465. VO: Smith was about to go out on Night Patrol.
  466. The officer who had led the patrol the night before
  467. had been captured and most likely killed.
  468. John Garth: It was about the most dangerous
  469. activity that you could do on the Western Front
  470. and Smith was about to go into it and he took
  471. the opportunity to write to Tolkien, and
  472. tell him; "I'm about to go out on Night Patrol,
  473. I am a wild and wholehearted admirer of
  474. what you've written and what you will write"
  475. He told Tolkien, "you I'm sure are chosen,
  476. and you must publish."
  477. Smith was essentially the first Middle-Earth
  478. fan.
  479. Simon Stacey: Smith says in the letter that
  480. death couldn't put an end to the TCBS, to
  481. the "immortal four" as he put it, that Tolkien
  482. may say the things that he had wanted to
  483. say, long after he is there to say them.
  484. That's very moving because Tolkien, although
  485. very much his own individual artistic self,
  486. I think did see his later career as an
  487. attempt to fulfil the artistic dreams that
  488. they'd shared.
  489. John Garth: He was able to gather his strength
  490. and perhaps see Smith as an ideal to be lived up to.
  491. VO: In the summer of 1918, Tolkien and
  492. Wiseman gather some of Smith's poems and
  493. have them published in a small volume,
  494. entitled; "A Spring Harvest".
  495. Tolkien's war is over, but the impact of his
  496. experiences will stay with him forever, and
  497. will even feature in his future writings.
  498. John Garth: The whole experience of the War
  499. had an ongoing affect on much of Tolkien's
  500. mythology. As soon as Tolkien returned from
  501. the Somme he started writing a story called,
  502. "The Fall of Gondolin" which was the first
  503. element of his mythology that dealt with battle.
  504. And the fascinating thing about it is that the
  505. attacking forces use things that are termed
  506. by Tolkien, "dragons" or "beasts" or "monsters"
  507. but they're described as metallic and rolling
  508. and they spout fire and some of them have
  509. troops inside them, and it's pretty clear that
  510. this is a kind of mythologising of the Tank.
  511. Which was Britains secret weapon, which
  512. had just been launched on the Somme while
  513. Tolkien was there.
  514. The Lord of The Rings focusses on a fellowship,
  515. they're separated on different battlefronts,
  516. much like the TCBS were.
  517. Simon Stacey: It's almost unimaginable that,
  518. in writing of the breaking of the fellowship,
  519. in The Lord of The Rings, that Tolkien wouldn't
  520. have been influenced by his own loss during
  521. the First World War and the breaking of the
  522. TCBS fellowship.
  523. There is a late letter in which he mentions
  524. that the dead marshes, through which Frodo,
  525. Sam and Gollum travel, owe something to
  526. northern France, in the area of the Somme
  527. where he fought.
  528. John Garth: Frodo and Sam are very much
  529. the equivalent of an officer and his batman; his
  530. servant. And Tolkien actually said that, "my
  531. Sam Gamgee is inspired by the Privates and
  532. Batmen I knew in the First World War".
  533. Frodo represents really, the feelings of a young
  534. man like Tolkien himself, thrown into a war
  535. unwillingly and having to shoulder a terrible
  536. burden; a burden of duty. You can see that
  537. Frodo develops symptoms of what we would now
  538. call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or
  539. War Trauma, or what they called then,
  540. Shell Shock. He becomes withdrawn from
  541. the World, increasingly enclosed within himself
  542. he says he can't remember what grass was like,
  543. what sunlight was like.
  544. When the war is over in The Lord of The Rings,
  545. Frodo does not strut his stuff as a hero,
  546. he is visibly traumatised by the whole
  547. experience. This was very true of many of the
  548. soldiers who returned from the Western
  549. Front, unable to talk about the experiences
  550. that had affected them so deeply.
  551. (retrospective piano music)
  552. Paul Golightly: The generation that fights
  553. the First World War, should be called courageous.
  554. Simon Stacey: The sacrifice of that generation
  555. was extraordinary.
  556. John Garth: It was a tragic loss not only for
  557. families, for friends, but for civilisation as
  558. a whole. It shook long-held beliefs and
  559. assumptions in honour and glory.
  560. Simon Stacey: It is the first thorough
  561. going war of the machines. So many
  562. thousands and ultimately millions of men
  563. could be wiped out, could be destroyed without
  564. necessarily facing their individual enemy.
  565. Paul Golightly: These men don't have
  566. the privilege of dying one at a time, they die
  567. on mass; and it's those numbers that I think
  568. traumatise us so much. That's why we have
  569. the memorials at Thiepval and Menin Gate;
  570. where it's just one long list of names.
  571. These bodies have simply disappeared, and
  572. they're all separate lives but they've all
  573. vanished at once.
  574. John Garth: When you read the King Edward's
  575. School Chronicle, as I have to research
  576. Tolkien's life here, you get to know the boys
  577. with whom he grew up and you see their
  578. achievements, you see what they were learning,
  579. you see how wonderfully intelligent, potentially
  580. creative and brilliant they were. And then
  581. the First World War; and you see that they're
  582. heading for this.
  583. Paul Golightly: These young men, with their
  584. whole lives in front of them, have, yes it's
  585. a phrase that we all know, have been cut off
  586. in their prime. They were full of potential,
  587. full of life, full of vigour, full of plans,
  588. full of ambition; wanting to do all kinds of
  589. things with their professional lives and
  590. their personal lives, and denied that opportunity.
  591. John Garth: When you look at the fortunes
  592. of war, it's quite astonishing that Tolkien
  593. survived and went on to produce the great
  594. works of literature that he did; works that
  595. have shaped our culture. And one does
  596. wonder how many others didn't survive,
  597. what potential was locked inside them that
  598. they never had time to bring out of themselves.
  599. So there is an uncountable loss there.
  600. Simon Stacey: G.B.Smith gives a brief glimpse
  601. of a young life snuffed out and only very
  602. incompletely communicating its dreams.
  603. Paul Golightly: This is a generation that did
  604. not talk about the way it felt. So in that
  605. sense I think the psychological affect was
  606. long lasting. A number of veterans surived
  607. the war only to find that they couldn't survive
  608. the peace.
  609. VO: In the chapel at King Edward's School,
  610. eight brass plaques hold the names of
  611. 245 Old Edwardians who lost their lives during
  612. the First World War. Tolkien and his TCBS
  613. friends, are just four of almost
  614. fifteen hundred Old Edwardians who answered
  615. their country's call and fought in The Great War,
  616. and each of their stories is worth telling.
  617. Paul Golightly: The graveyards that you can
  618. walk around in northern France now have become
  619. almost 21st century cathedrals; where some
  620. really important questions need to be ask about
  621. the nature of war and the nature of
  622. sacrifice, and in the First World War's case,
  623. the scale of that sacrifice. Whether any war
  624. could be worth that.