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← Tolkien's Great War

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Showing Revision 30 created 10/17/2018 by Kelsey Mitchell.

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