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Owen was repatriated to Britain. At the Craiglockhart hospital outside Edinburgh, he slowly began to recover under the imaginative care of Dr W.H.R. Rivers. The arrival of Sassoon a month later transformed his life, and helped him to raise his poetry to new heights. It was here that he processed his experiences and sharpened his poetic technique, working and re-working masterworks such as “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.

He resumed light duties with a training battalion at Scarborough and enjoyed social life in London with poets and writers. Although only four of his poems had been published, he had arrived and, to his great delight, was admired and liked by his peers.

The first half of 1918 saw the British army nearly broken by the German spring offensive, but by late summer the tide had turned and Owen was sent back to the war. He was back with the 2nd Manchesters in mid-September.

On October 1, the regiment attacked the German line at Fonsomme, gaining all its objectives and capturing 210 prisoners but at great cost. Owen was awarded an immediate Military Cross, having taken command of his company when its commander and all but one of the other officers became casualties. As usual, he spared his mother none of the details:

I lost all my earthly faculties and fought like an angel . . . I am now commanding the company, and in the line had a boy lance-corporal as my Sergeant Major. With this corporal who stuck to me and shadowed me like your prayers, I captured a German machine gun and scores of prisoners . . . My nerves are in perfect order. I came out in order to help these boys — directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their suffering that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can. Of whose blood lies yet crimson on my shoulder where his head was — and where so lately yours was — I must not now write.

The Germans repeatedly counter-attacked Owen’s fearfully exposed position, but he held it until relieved by a fresh battalion. The other surviving officer, Lieut Foulkes, MC, wrote later:

This is where I admired his work — in leading his remnants, in the middle of the night, back to safety. I remember feeling how glad I was that it was not my job to know how to get out. I was content to follow him with the utmost confidence.
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