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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

John Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings, endured life in the front line trenches of the Somme throughout the summer and autumn of 1916.  The impact of the Battle remained with him for the rest of his life and its influence can be clearly seen in his unique mythological world and stories.

Tolkien was brought up in Birmingham.  His father died in 1896 and his mother in 1904.  From the age of 12, he and his brother were looked after by a local priest.  Tolkien graduated from Oxford in June 1915 and soon obtained a commission in the army as a Second Lieutenant. 

In June 1916 Tolkien went to France 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 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 Birmingham.  He remained unfit for the rest of the war.

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Webley .455 Mark VI revolver carried by Second Lieutenant JRR Tolkien