Tolkien's war: Webley Mk VI pistol.

11:02 PM

During the dark days of the First World War, 2nd Lieutenant JRR Tolkien kept his revolver close to him at all times as he fought to survive the front-line trenches.

Tolkien served on the frontline as a signals officer for the Lancashire Fusiliers from June to October 1916, when he contracted trench fever and was sent to a hospital in Birmingham. There he began writing stories which became The Silmarillion, the legendary history of Middle-earth which underlies The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Debate still continues regarding the extent to which Tolkien's war experiences influenced his literary work, however the impact of the battle remained with him for the rest of his life and fans say its influence can clearly be seen in his writing. Effects of World War I Tolkien’s experiences on the Western Front shaped his later books, with episodes such as Frodo Baggins’ experience in the dead marshes in The Lord of the Rings, where he sees dead warriors in pools amid a desolate landscape, a reminder of the realities of the Somme and Ypres. The writer also said that Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s dependable and heroic servant in The Lord of the Rings, was ‘a reflexion of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself’

Few kilometers from Tolkien, in German trenches, a young Adolf Hitler was wounded in the left thigh when a shell exploded at the entrance to the dispatch runners' dugout. He begged not to be evacuated,[20] but was sent for almost two months to the Red Cross hospital at Beelitz.

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