Wilfred Owen remembered in Birkenhead


On Sunday 04 November, exactly one hundred years after he was killed, Wilfred Owen was the focus for a special episode of Songs of Praise, recorded at Christ Church, Birkenhead. All this week Christ Church is remembering the World War 1 soldier and poet as part of a series of public events in partnership with The Wilfred Owen Commemoration. 

Jackie Harness is a Reader at Christ Church and passionate about Wilfred Owen and the Armed Forces. She has been involved with The Wilfred Owen Commemoration for some time, helping to organise a series of public events at Christ Church.

Jackie says she “fell in love” with Wilfred Owen after reading his poetry.

“I was brought up in Wales with Dylan Thomas, not Wilfred Owen and it wasn’t until later that I started reading his poetry and fell in love with him. He has this thing about him - his poetry, the futility of war - I just found this connection with him and the horrors of the War and it just brought everything home. 

“My Dad served in the Navy on an aircraft carrier in WW2, but he never spoke about the war at all. Wilfred Owen’s poetry speaks about war and about the horror, the killing, the mud, the rats, the treading on the bodies of the fallen soldiers, and the futility of it all. His poems really engage you with all of that.”

Jackie has personal connections with the Armed Forces and says it is this and her love of the poetry of Wilfred Owen that has sparked a passion for remembering the fallen.

“We’ve had members of the family serve in the Forces. My own son was out in Belize for a while. When he returned he became quite disillusioned and left the army. My nephew served in the RAF in Afghanistan for six months alongside his best friend, but unfortunately, his friend was killed at the age of just 20. My brother-in-law was a serving soldier for many years but sadly suffered a heart attack shortly after leaving the force.

“So, the serving forces are quite dear to me and that’s why I really felt that getting involved with The Wilfred Owen Commemoration was close to my heart.”

Wilfred Owen lived in Birkenhead for ten years and during that time attended Christ Church with his family, and also attended a local school, Birkenhead Institute.

Wilfred Owen was killed in the early hours of 04 November 1918 on the Oise-Sambre-canal bank, just one week before Armistice. He is buried in the churchyard at Ors, France.

On Sunday 04 November, exactly one hundred years after he was killed, Christ Church featured in a specially recorded programme of Songs of Praise that focussed on the life of Wilfred Owen.

As part of the centenary commemorations, Christ Church dedicated a special plaque to him and renamed the lower vestry room in his name.

Other events taking place as part of The Wilfred Owen Commemoration include special theatre, film, poetry and music recitals and concerts. A statue inspired by the poet has also been unveiled in Hamilton Park.

A full list of events can be found on The Wilfred Owen Commemoration website.

For Jackie, being involved with the commemorations has allowed her to follow a personal interest in researching war and those we’ve lost. At Christ Church, she has researched every one of the 60 names found on the memorial inside the church. She says she wanted to “put faces to their names.”

“I spent many hours researching each person, reading war diaries, and finding photographs from various sources. I’ve produced three separate volumes of books that include details of almost every single person. They’re no longer simply names on the memorial, but young men, some only boys."

Jackie says that despite the horrors of war, she believes God was with each of them.

“God was there with them, he hadn’t left them. God was with each and every one. They were his children, his sons that died during that war and they were never forgotten by God.

“Every soldier that went to war was given a St John Gospel, a tiny little book that they tucked into their pocket. This tiny book was important to them. The Word was written in that book and it meant everything to them and despite the horrors of the war, those men kept that book close. That says a lot.”

Churches around the Diocese of Chester have been marking and remembering the people who have died in wars. Here is a round-up of some of the activities taking place in the diocese to remember the fallen. 

Page last updated: 7th Nov 2018 8:07 AM