With an Identity Disc

Contextual Info

British soldiers were required to wear identity discs (also known as dog tags), so if they were killed they could be identified. They were given two discs which were worn on a cord around their necks. If they died, one stayed on the body and the second was cut off and taken to their unit so their death could be recorded. After the recording of the death, the disc may have been sent to family members.

British identity discs from WWI

In Westminster Abbey, the “heart of London” is a ‘Poets’ Corner’ where famous British poets’ names are written. In the original manuscript Owen makes a reference to Westminster Abbey, so it’s apparent that this is what he is referring to here. One of Owen’s literary idols is John Keats, who is not buried in Westminster Abbey but in Rome.

The Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Glossary

  • unsurpassed: to surpass means to exceed or go beyond something. So unsurpassed means to not be beaten by something, in this case time.
  • Fugitive: someone who has escaped and running away from the law.
  • Sanctuary: a place of peace or refuge; an especially holy part of a church or temple
  • longed: to really want something; desire greatly
  • graver: someone who engraves
  • florid: flowery or showy
  • screed: a piece of writing
  • Inscribe: to carve into something, often a name
  • deed: an action
  • vague: unable to be deciphered accurately

Guiding Questions

  • How does Owen’s ideas of how he wants to be remembered change? How do you think his experiences in the war have influenced this change?

References

Owen, Wilfred, and Jon Stallworthy. The War Poems of Wilfred Owen. London: Chatto & Windus, 1994. Print

The Wilfred Owen Association. “With an Identity disc”. Kenneth Simcox, 2000. Online resource.   (http://www.wilfredowen.org.uk)

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