The Great War – Research Notes (18) Edmund Blunden: War Poet

Another of the British War poets I discovered in my research of The Great War for my novel in progress, is Edmund Blunden. The poem I’ve included at the conclusion was inspired by his experience at the Somme in 1916.

The first large offensive of the Battle of the Somme was the offensive at Thiepval Ridge. Mounted by the Reserve Army commanded by Lieutenant General Hubert Gough, the attack was intended to benefit from the attack of the Fourth Army at the Battle of Morval which was planned for twenty four hours later.

However, Thiepval Ridge was a well fortified entrenchment. The German defenders fought doggedly while the British advance bogged down after the first day. The coordination between infantry and artillery declined thanks to the chaos of the maze-like trench system, the dug-outs and shell craters. The British objectives were not actually achieved until October-November when the Reserve Army was reorganized and reinforced at the Battle of Ancre Heights.

Beyond the organizational turmoil, the deteriorating weather frustrated the plans of General Joffre to forge ahead with the planned attacks of the Anglo-French armies. Coincidentally, the Allies’ failures were further hampered by a revival in the German defense. It was time for experimentation in the war’s cruelest and deadliest weapons. The British implemented new techniques in gas warfare, machine gun bombardment and tank/infantry cooperation. The Germans struggled to withstand the ascendancy of men and material fielded by the combined British and French forces, even though they were being reinforced by troops, artillery and aircraft from Verdun. September became the costliest month for German casualties in the Battle of the Somme.

Thiepval Wood – September 1916, Edmund Blunden

The tired air groans as the heavies swing over, the river-hollows boom;
The shell-fountains leap from the swamps, and with wild-fire and fume
The shoulder of the chalk down convulses.
Then jabbering echoes stampede in the slatting wood,
Ember-black the gibbet trees like bones or thorns protrude
From the poisonous smoke — past all impulses.
To them these silvery dews can never again be dear,
Nor the blue javelin-flame of thunderous noons strike fear.

The ruins of Thiepval Village

Images courtesy Wikipedia and Vise Paris

16 thoughts on “The Great War – Research Notes (18) Edmund Blunden: War Poet

      1. I think you should read storm of steel for the opposing view in every way, Junger was German and for him war was a liberating experience, only through war could he know what he was capable of, an experience at the limits of experience

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I read All Quiet On the Western Front- that was German. But this is the guy with the outrageous political views right? I’ll think about it. I have to finish my Spanish flu book first. I got bogged down

        Liked by 1 person

      3. He was a much better writer than remarque…he lived to a 100 was friends to Picasso and Cocteau while he was in Paris in the WWII, tripped with Albert Hoffman and recorded the experiences, wrote some excellent magic realism/science fiction novels.He was against hitler, but was definitely right-wing.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I just did a search for it, apparently the 1929 translation and 1934 translation are much different? Do you know which one you read? Junger himself edited the 1934 version to soften it for foreign audiences but the reviewers agreed that 1929 version was more authentic… It looks like that edition is a little more difficult to come by

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Drew. There’s something about it… It raised the bar to a whole new diabolical level in warfare. And the scale … Not to mention that it directly resulted in the second war. Thank you so much.


  1. Very interesting read, as always. I haven’t read up much on the war, so my only take on it has been through Ken Follet. But I eventually want to research what my great grandfather’s brother experienced.

    Liked by 1 person

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