“Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind” East Cambs academic creates new app to celebrate First World War poet Wilfred Owen

A screenshot from the new app

A screenshot from the new app - Credit: Archant

A new interactive computer app featuring 45 of Wilfred Owen’s war poems has been released to coincide with the centenary of the start of the First World War.

Together with Siegfried Sassoon, Ivor Gurney and Robert Graves, Owen was one of a group of soldiers who became famous for documenting the horrors of the conflict through poetry but was the only one of the quartet to die in action, killed a week before the armistice was signed in 1918.

Lecturer Ian Bennett, from Sutton, who teaches creative and digital publishing at Anglia Ruskin University, developed the app over a period of 18 months, designing the layout of each page as well as producing new audio recordings.

Each poem is read by a woman, including serving members of the armed forces, to reflect that war poetry was often sent home like a letter and that the first person to read it was likely to be the soldier’s wife or mother.

Bennett said: “Wilfred Owen’s poetry powerfully conveys the vivid sights, sounds and thoughts experienced while serving as an active soldier during the First World War.

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“As with most war poetry, in all likelihood it would have been a mother or close female figure who would have been the first to read them, offering a glimpse into the world that the young man had now been thrown.

“In their own way those left at home, and left to wonder, are every bit a part of the soldier’s war. Therefore the poems have been read by women from a variety of backgrounds, including the partners of currently serving personnel and two serving officers.

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“All of the recording sessions produced the same effect; those participating and those listening were all clearly moved. The female voice introduces another dynamic to the words, particularly as many of those listening were expecting to hear the voice of a young man.”

As well as the audio recordings and original illustrations, the app features commentary on each poem by leading academics. Wilfred Owen’s nephew, Peter Owen, has also provided a written introduction. The app is available for iPads and can be downloaded now from the iTunes store, priced £7.49.

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