Webley .455 Mark VI revolver carried by Second Lieutenant JRR Tolkien during his service with the 11th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers on the Somme.
I knew that J.R.R. Tolkien served in
Tolkien had just graduated from
with a first class degree in literature when he saw his first active service at the Oxford Somme. From July 1916 until he was invalided out with trench fever at the end of October, he experienced the full relentless ghastliness of day after day of trench life under fire – the discomfort, the cold, the mud, the lice, the fear, the unspeakable horrors witnessed.
He had taken comfort from the fact that he was fighting alongside his three oldest and dearest friends from his school-days – a quartet of gifted would-be-poets who hoped to become outstanding literary men. But by November, two of those friends were dead.
What I didn’t know until I happened upon the webpage today is that the
In June 1916 Tolkien went to
and was posted to the 11th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers. From July onwards his battalion went in and out of the line along the northern sector of the France Somme. He occupied front line trenches in Beaumont-Hamel, Serre and the Leipzig Salient. On 28 September they undertook a successful raid against the Pope’s Nose opposite Thiepval and on 21 October helped to capture Regina Trench. For both of these actions, Tolkien served as Battalion Signalling Officer.
At the end of October, weighed down by weeks of tension and wretched conditions, Tolkien contracted trench fever and was sent back to hospital in
. He remained unfit for the rest of the war. Birmingham