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Watch: Robert Gilson: Memoirs of an Infantry Soldier

King Edward’s School, Birmingham, has produced a short documentary on Robert Quilter Gilson, a close friend of Tolkien who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Together with Geoffrey Bache Smith and Christopher Wiseman, Gilson and Tolkien were core members of the T.C.B.S., a clique formed at King Edward’s who met regularly for tea at Barrow’s Stores (hence Tea Club and Barrovian Society / T.C.B.S.).

All four signed up during the First World War, but only two – Tolkien and Wiseman – survived. Gilson was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme when he led a charge over the top near La Boisselle. Smith died later that year after being hit by shrapnel.

Directed by Elliot Weaver and Zander Weaver, the film is based on the surviving letters Gilson sent to his friends, family, and sweetheart, Estelle King.

Further reading

John Garth, “Robert Quilter Gilson, TCBS – a documentary” (11 May 2016)

John Garth, “Robert Quilter Gilson, TCBS: A Brief Life in Letters”, The Return of the Ring: Proceedings of the Tolkien Society Conference 2012 (Edinburgh: Luna Press Publishing, 2016)

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.