Ceremony at war poet Wilfred Owen’s graveside 100 years after his death

The centenary of war poet Wilfred Owen’s death has been marked at his graveside in France by the sounding of a bugle he took from the battlefield.

Elizabeth Owen, widow of his nephew Peter, attended the “moving” ceremony in Ors communal cemetery on Sunday, following a dawn visit to the site of the soldier’s death along the Sambre-Oise canal.

French locals and members of the Wilfred Owen Association gathered to hear The Last Post played on a bugle Owen took from a dead German soldier during the First World War.

Wilfred Owen bugle
Wilfred Owen bugle

Musician Heather Madeira Ni said she was grateful to have the opportunity to play the instrument, which had never been sounded in public before, on such a historic occasion.

She said: “The bugle is such a piece of history and a great chance for me to get to know Owen and his poetry. It’s such an important part of British history.

“The more I learn about Wilfred Owen, the more grateful I am to have this opportunity.”

Owen was killed on November 4 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors, just seven days before peace was declared.

He wrote about the bugle, referring to having got some “loot”, in a letter to his brother in 1917.

Some of Owen’s poetry, focused on the brutal reality of war, was also recited.

His final letter home was read and wreaths were laid in his memory in a service Fiona MacDonald of the Wilfred Owen Association, described as moving.

She said: “It was really moving.

“There is just something really special about being here and hearing Owen’s bugle played for the first time in public.”