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Archive of Wilfred Owen and family members


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The archive includes autograph manuscripts of Wilfred Owen and the papers of Harold Owen, primarily concerning his brother, including correspondence and a large collection of press cuttings. There are also family photographs, artefacts, and artwork.


  • Creation: c.1820-2003, n.d.


7.7 Linear metres (75 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

To ensure its availability to future readers, access to some material (MSS. 12282/1-6) in this collection is restricted, and readers are asked to work from reproductions and published descriptions as far as possible. To apply to see originals, please send a message to, outlining the subject of your research, the importance of this material to that research, and the resources you have already consulted.

Researchers should first consult the digital versions available on the World War I Poetry Digital Archive and Jon Stallworthy's edition of Wilfred Owen: The Complete Poems and Fragments (London, 1983; revised 2013).

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. 12282/1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. 12282/1-52; MSS. 12282 photogr. 1-10; JL 977-984

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12282


Papers and autograph manuscripts of Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), poet, with papers of other family members.

Biographical / Historical

Wilfred Owen was born in 1893 in Oswestry, and bought up in Birkenhead and Shrewsbury. In 1915 he enlisted in the British Army and his first service on the front line took place in Serre and St. Quentin in January-April 1917, and it was found a few months later that he was suffering with shell shock. Owen returned to Britain and underwent treatment at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh, where he met Siegfried Sassoon, who provided him with guidance, and encouragement to bring his war experiences into his poetry.

Owen returned to the Western Front, and in October 1918 he took part in the breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Joncourt, for which he was awarded The Military Cross. He was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the battle to cross the Sambre-Oise canal at Ors. At the time of his death, only four of his poems had been published.

Wilfred's younger brother, Harold Owen, was born in 1897 and joined the Merchant Navy prior to the First World War. In 1916 he was transferred to the Royal Navy Reserve. After the war, Harold left the navy and studied at St. Martin's College of Art. Harold wrote about Wilfred and the Owen family in the trilogy Journey from Obscurity, and won the Royal Society of Literature's W. H. Heinemann Award.

Further biographical information is available via The Wilfred Owen Foundation.


The archive is arranged in two series: Wilfred Owen's autograph manuscripts, and other papers of special interest, and material mostly collected by Harold Owen.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the archive was presented to the English Faculty by Phyllis Owen, widow of Harold Owen, in 1975. The Gunston collection was donated in 1978. Some small additions were made later. On 13 January 2016 the archive was transferred to the Bodleian Library.

Separated Materials

Books from Owen’s own library of some 450 volumes, with his annotations, are separately catalogued on SOLO.

Catalogue of the archive of Wilfred Owen and family members
Finding aid prepared by EAD version by Laura Hackett
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom