Tolkien Gateway

Battle of the Somme

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Tolkien's army revolver on display at the Imperial War Museum.

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of World War I, and indeed of all of human history.[1] J.R.R. Tolkien served there from July to October 1916, as Battalion Signalling Officer in the British Army. His unit, the 11th Batallion of The Lancashire Fusiliers, fought in the northern sector of the Somme, in the trenches around Thiepval.[2] In October Tolkien contracted trench fever and was evacuated to England to convalesce; he did not return to the front lines.

Among the hundreds of thousands of young men killed at the Somme were two of Tolkien's close school friends: Robert Gilson and Geoffrey Bache Smith. Tolkien discussed the death of Gilson in a letter written in the trenches to Smith shortly before he too was killed by shrapnel. The "hideous" experience of the Battle, as Tolkien described it, is often seen to be reflected in his written work.[3]

See also


  1. Paul Brewer (2007). The Chronicle of War: A Year-by-Year Account of Conflict from 1854 to the Present Day. London: Carlton Books.
  2. Imperial War Museum. Personal Stories - JRR Tolkien. Retrieved 2010-08-22.
  3. Lisa Jardine. 'The Somme and Tolkien'. BBC News | Magazine. Updated 2006-07-03. Retrieved 2010-08-22.

External links