21 Mar 2014

Tolkien the Soldier

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The King Edward School (Birmingham) Cadet Corps in 1907. The 15-Year-Old J.R.R. Tolkien (mouth open) is fourth from the left in the middle row.

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24-Year-Old Second Lieutenant J.R.R. Tolkien, Lancashire Fusiliers, 1916.

A school photo of the schoolboy J.R.R. Tolkien in Cadet Corps uniform recently made the British papers after being unearthed from the archives of his old school in Birmingham.

The Kind Edward School Cadet Corps had just been founded in march of 1907, and had the honor of being inspected by Lord Roberts of Kandahar in April.

Not many years later, most of these boys would find themselves as junior officers with the life expectancy of a mayfly on the Western Front. Tolkien participated in the Battle of the Somme, specifically in the assaults on the Schwaben Redoudt and the Leipzig salient, but happily survived, when so many others did not, because he was incapacitated by trench fever. He spent the rest of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duty, having been found medically unfit for further front-line service.

Via John Garth.

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