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1896 -1919

The eldest of nine children Edmund Blunden was born in London on 1 November 1896, where his parents were both schoolteachers. In 1900 the family moved to Yalding in Kent. Yalding was a typical nineteenth century working village and inspired over fifty of Edmundís poems. In 1909 Edmund moved from the local Grammar School to the boarding school Christ's Hospital in Horsham, Sussex having won a Classics scholarship. Christ's Hospital was a unique school founded by Edward VI for the boys of parents with little or no means. Following a successful and enjoyable time at Christ's Hospital he gained a place at Queens College, Oxford to read Classics. However like so many other young men at the time he volunteered for the Army in 1915, and put aside the opportunity to study for a degree, joining the community of army life instead and finding himself plunged into the chaos of the Great War.

In the spring of 1916 he joined the 11th Royal Sussex Regiment and saw active service at Festubert, Cuinchy and Givenchy, and later on that year he was at the Somme, the Ancre valley, and Thiepval. He won the Military Cross for his 'conspicuous gallantry in action' when he and a runner completed a reconnaissance mission, an almost suicidal action under constant shelling. In November 1916 the battalion was transferred to the Ypres Salient, where he remained through the battle of Passchendaele until January 1918 when the battalion was returned to the Somme. He was eventually de-mobbed on 17 February 1919, but 'Undertones of War' was not published until 1928. He was the longest serving war poet having spent two years in the trenches

In 1918, while at training camp in Suffolk, he met Mary Daines who he later married that year. Their first child, Joy, was born in July 1919. After visiting Edmund's parents, Joy was suddenly taken ill - possibly through infected cow's milk. She was rushed to Great Ormond St Hospital, where Edmund gave his own blood in an attempt to save her, but it was too late and she died later that evening. Joy's death inspired a number of poems, including 'The Child's Grave', and 'To Joy' which was set to music by his friend, the English composer Gerald Finzi. The death of Joy, his experience of war and the loss of his fellow soldiers haunted him for the rest of his life.

It was during this period that Edmund first met Siegfried Sassoon, then literary editor of the Daily Herald to whom he had sent some early poems. Their deep friendship and vast correspondence lasted over forty years.

In 1919 he took up his deferred place at Oxford University changing from Classics to English literature. However his personal literary research which now included the rediscovery of the poet John Clare, and contributions to a wide range of periodicals, meant that his undergraduate studies took second place. On top of this his financial situation became precarious with a young family to support, so he decided to take up the offer of a job on the journal 'The Athenaeum', and 'The Nation' (later the 'New Statesman') in London.






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