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History of Wilfred Owen in Dunsden researched
Published 21/07/14

THREE brothers whose father knew Wilfred Owen have visited his childhood home in Dunsden.

Bob, Clyde and Ted Ambrose’s father Laurence lived in what the First World War poet called “the crazy, evil smelling huts of the poor”.

Owen lived in Dunsden from September 1911 until February 1913 and was a lay assistant to the vicar of All Saints’ Church.

During this period he visited many poor families in the village and took a particular interest in a farm labourer called Ambrose, who shared a tiny thatched cottage in Sonning Common Road with 12 members of his family, including his son Laurence.

Laurence was born in 1898 and was a choirboy. At the age of 12 he already had a job scaring birds from the fields, known as a “bird-starver”.

His sons visited the cottage thanks to the Dunsden Owen Association, which is researching the poet’s time in the village.

Bob, 82, comes from Lower Earley, Ted, 72, lives in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire, and Clyde, 80, travelled from Tasmania.

The brothers met the cottage’s current owners, Léon and Brenda Pepall, who showed them a drawing their father had made of the cottage.

Bob said Owen had referred to the cottage in letters to his mother in 1912 as the “stone box with the straw lid”. He also mentioned the family and Laurence personally.

Mr Ambrose said: “I think my father was proud that he was brought up as a mere farm boy.”

The brothers inherited their father’s artistic abilities. Bob worked as a creative director for creative agency Breville and Ted as an assistant art director with several Bond films to his credit. Clyde was a ship’s captain but had a keen interest in wood-carving.

Owen enlisted into the army in 1915 and was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment. He was killed on November 4, 1918 while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors.

In April, the association received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of almost £23,000 to stage a series of events marking the centenary of the start of the Great War in conjunction with arts company Outrider Anthems.

A Vigil Concert featuring the Reading A440 Choir will take place at All Saints’ on August 4 commemorating the moment 100 years ago when “the lights went out in Europe”.

An exhibition, more concerts and other events are scheduled for November. For more information, visit www.owenindunsden.org

Ambrose family 1 - Laurence Ambrose, front row, right, in the cap in a picture from 1905

Ambrose family 2 - Brothers, left to right, Bob, Clyde and Ted Ambrose stand where once their father stood

Published 21/07/14

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