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“War of Words: Soldier-Poets on the Somme” set to be broadcast
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916
J.R.R. Tolkien in 1916

The BBC Two programme War of Words: Soldier-Poets on the Somme, which tells the story of the poets and writers of the First World War, including J.R.R. Tolkien, is set to be broadcast on Saturday 15 November at 21.45 pm.

The hour and a half programme features Tolkien and the Great War author John Garth, who talks about Tolkien’s war experiences and their impact on his writing.

Directed by Sebastian Barfield (the great-nephew of Inkling Owen Barfield), War of Words will tell the story of the battle of the Somme “through the experiences and words of the poets and writers who took part including Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, David Jones and JRR Tolkien.”

According to the BBC:

The 1916 Battle of the Somme remains the most famous battle of World War I, remembered for its bloodshed and its limited territorial gains. What is often overlooked, however, is the literary importance of the Somme: more writers and poets fought in it than in any other battle in history.

Narrated by Michael Sheen, War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme details the experiences of the poets and writers who served in the battle. The work of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, David Jones, Isaac Rosenberg and JRR Tolkien (who arrived at the Western Front with ambitions to be a poet) was informed and transformed by the battle. Taken together, their experiences allow us to see this dreadful historical event through multiple points of view.

War of Words: Soldier-Poets of the Somme uses animation, documentary accounts, surviving artefacts, battalion war diaries and the landscape itself to reconnect this literature to the events that inspired it.

First World War researcher Jeremy Banning, historian Peter Barton, director Sebastian Barfield, and Tolkien and the Great War author John Garth just outside Thiepval Wood, where Tolkien saw action in August and September 1916.
First World War researcher Jeremy Banning, historian Peter Barton, director Sebastian Barfield, and Tolkien and the Great War author John Garth just outside Thiepval Wood, where Tolkien saw action in August and September 1916.
About the Author: Daniel Helen

Daniel is an Officer without Portfolio and Trustee of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2014, he is mainly responsible for the Society’s digital operations, including this website.