Tuesday, 22 June 2021

French visit to Owen site

DUNSDEN has taken a step closer to twinning with Ors.

DUNSDEN has taken a step closer to twinning with Ors. Last week, the mayor of the town in Northern France was welcomed by members of Dunsden Church, Eye and Dunsden Parish Council and Binfield Heath Parish Council.

Ors is where the poet Wilfred Owen was killed during the First World War, just one week before the Armistice. His life is also commemorated at Dunsden Church, where he worked as a lay assistant from 1911 to 1913.

John Bodman, former Churchwarden, said: “In 2014 it will be the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and we want to mark that by holding a concert at the church. Because of our connection with Wilfred Owen we felt that the twinning ceremony would be appropriate at this time.

“Ors celebrates the life of Owen both as a man and a poet, and we really want to make something of that, too. We want to put the church on the map and bring it to the attention of a wider audience.”

Owen was drawn to Dunsden after noticing a sign advertising the job placed by the church rector while visiting his aunt in Sonning Common. The whole family moved to the area, and Owen’s father Tom, mother Harriet Susan and sister Mary are buried in the graveyard.

Mr Bodman said: “Owen was about 17 at the time and not sure whether he was going to go to university so he applied. He continued for two years from 1911 and then left the church and went to teach privately in France. He returned to England on the outbreak of war then decided to join the Manchester Regiment where he became an officer and went to France to fight.”

Beth Timms, chair of trustees for Eye and Dunsden village hall, said: “We are trying to raise the profile of this area because we often get ignored. This is a way of raising awareness, and Ors is very similar in size to us.”

Ors Mayor Jacky Duminy laid wreaths on Owen’s plaque inside the church and on the grave of A T Simmonds, who died in 1919 of his war injuries.

He said: “I feel that Dunsden is exactly like Ors and I feel very much at home and at ease here. The schools and politics are similar too.”

Damian Grant, of the Wilfred Owen Association in France, added: “French intellectuals, having been alerted to the significance of Wilfred Owen, are very determined to include his history in their literature, art and music programmes.”

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