World War I
J.R.R. Tolkien served in the British Army during World War I (or the "Great War"), most notably in the bloody Battle of the Somme. The earliest works of the legendarium—collected in The Book of Lost Tales Part Two—were begun during the conflict. The extent to which the war and Tolkien's experience of it are reflected in his written work is a matter of much interest in Tolkien scholarship.
Participants[edit | edit source]
- J.R.R. Tolkien
- Christopher Wiseman
- Robert Gilson†
- G.B. Smith†
- T.K. Barnsley†
- Ralph Payton†
Timeline[edit | edit source]
- See also Timeline of World War I at Wikipedia
1914[edit | edit source]
- June 28 - The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.
- July 28 - Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia. Russia mobilizes. The Great War begins.
- August 4 - The British Empire declares war on Germany, following tension and conflict on the mainland in July.
- August - Hilary Tolkien joins the army as a bugler. Geoffrey Bache Smith and Robert Gilson join the army. Christopher Wiseman joins the navy instead. J.R.R. Tolkien plans to finish his education.
1915[edit | edit source]
- June 10 - Exams start at Oxford University. Because of the war, only Tolkien and 24 others remain in the entire University. Tolkien passes.
- June 28 - Tolkien applies at the Oxford recruiting office to join the army.
- July 15 - Tolkien becomes a second lieutenant, and is appointed to the 13th Service Battalion of the Lancashire Fusilliers.
- September 25 - The Big Four of the T.C.B.S. - Tolkien, Smith, Wiseman and Gilson - have their last meeting.
- November 21 - G.B. Smith is shipped to France.
1916[edit | edit source]
- January 2 - Wiseman reports for duty at the HMS Superb in Invergordon.
- January 8 - Robert Gilson is promoted to Lieutenant and shipped to France.
- March 16 - Tolkien receives his degree at the University of Oxford.
- March 22 - Tolkien marries Edith Bratt.
- May 31 - June 1 - Christopher Wiseman fights in the Battle of Jutland.
- June 2 - Tolkien receives orders to report in Folkestone, and prepare for embarking.
- June 4 - Tolkien is shipped to Étaples, France.
- June 27 - Tolkien leaves Étaples, and goes to the Somme front.
- July 1 - One of the bloodiest battles in recent history, the Battle of the Somme, starts. Robert Gilson is one of the first of the 360,000 British casualties when he is hit by a shell at La Boiselle.
- July 14 - Tolkien's C-company is sent into action at the Somme front. This is Tolkien's first 5-day front-line duty.
- July 22 - Ralph "the Baby" Payton, one of the T.C.B.S., is killed in the Battle of the Somme. His body is never identified.
- July 24 - Tolkien's second five day front-line duty begins.
- August 19 - Tolkien and G.B. Smith meet at Acheux.
- October 26 - While in reserve, Tolkien's battalion is inspected by Sir Doulgas Haig, the British commander at the Battle of the Somme.
- October 27 – J.R.R. Tolkien is struck by trench fever, which ends his active service after just 5 months.
- October 28 – Tolkien is hospitalized.
- November 8 - Tolkien is repatriated. He now stays at a hospital in Birmingham.
- November 18 - The Battle of the Somme ends. Neither side wins. Tolkien is officially stricken off as a casualty by his Battalion.
- November 29 - G.B. Smith is hit by shrapnel, and wounded on his right arm and thigh.
- December 3 - G.B. Smith dies of gas-gangrene in his wounds. The news does not reach Tolkien until the 16th.
- December 16 - 25 - Tolkien recovers, and he and Edith visit Great Haywood.
1917[edit | edit source]
- January 12 - Tolkien's leave of absence (to recover from his trench fever) ends, but he is far from recovered.
- January 29 - Tolkien faces a Medical Board in Birmingham, but he is not deemed fit to return to war.
- February - Tolkien faces his second Medical Board, but is again deemed unfit for duty.
- February 27 - Tolkien faces his third Medical Board, and again his leave is extended.
- April 18 - Tolkien and Wiseman, the Great Twin Brethren, meet in Harrogate, and discuss the fate of the Barrovians and the future of the Society.
- April 19 - Tolkien, in revalidation, is assigned to the Humber Garrison, but is not fit enough.
- June 1 - Tolkien is considered fit for service again, but he is not reassigned to the Lancashire Fusilliers.
- June 29 - J.R.R. Tolkien succumbs to gastritis while at Brocton Camp.
- August 1 - "Tea Cake" Barnsley is killed in Ypres.
- October 13- Tolkien is found unfit for duty for six months, but able to do a desk job.
- November – Tolkien moves into 50 St. John's Street.
- November 16 - The Tolkien's first son, John, is born.
1918[edit | edit source]
- October 11 - Tolkien is officially released from Brooklands Hospital, Birmingham.
- November 11 - The War comes to an end in a cease-fire.
1919[edit | edit source]
- February 17 - Hilary Tolkien returns home.
- June 28 - The war officially ends, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
- July 15 - Tolkien is released from service.
- July 16 - Tolkien is officially demobilized.
Further Reading[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- J.R.R. Tolkien's army commission application
- Why World War One Is at the heart of Lord of the Rings by John Garth
- John Garth, Tolkien and the Great War
- The Question of God: Sigmund Freud & C.S. Lewis
- Colin Duriez, Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings, "People and Places in His Life"
- World War I at Wikipedia
- Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
- Martin Gilbert, What Tolkien Taught Me about the Battle of the Somme
- Hilary Tolkien, Angela Gardner (ed.), Black & White Ogre Country, page 50