Prince William launches poetry competition to find a Wilfred Owen for new generation
Once heard, the haunting words of Wilfred Owen and his First World War contemporaries can never be forgotten, capturing all the heroism, trauma and tragedy their generation endured. A century on, the Duke of Cambridge is leading the search for a talented poet for a new era, inviting them to write their “modern-day perspective on service, conflict and humankind’s ability to overcome adversity”. The Duke, who said he never fails to be moved by the “sentiments invoked by the brave, young soldiers” of the First World War, has launched a national poetry competition to immortalise the sacrifices of 21st century servicemen and women, promising to read out the winning entry himself. The poetry competition marks both the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and the opening of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC): a world-leading clinical rehabilitation centre for the Armed Forces. Called A Poem To Remember, it is intended to honour and convey the challenges faced by current serving men and women, and their families. Ahead of the competition’s launch on Friday, the Duke of Cambridge said: “The centenary year of the end of the First World War is a very appropriate year to be launching a national poetry prize. “Many of the memories of that conflict, and our understanding of it, have been shaped by the remarkable works of poetry written by those caught up in that struggle. “I, like countless other readers over the decades since the war, have always been moved by sentiments invoked by the brave, young soldiers. “That is why – as Patron of the appeal to build the Defence National Rehabilitation Centre – I am delighted to help launch this competition to find a new poem that, inspired by those earlier works, will have its own modern-day perspective on service, conflict and humankind’s ability to overcome adversity. “I am greatly looking forward to reading the winning entry.” The best poem will be chosen by the public from a shortlist of five, and be read by the Duke of Cambridge, the Patron of the DNRC campaign, at a special event at the new defence facility this summer. It will also be mounted at the DNRC, with its author receiving a £2,000 cash prize. The DNRC, which is funded by charitable donations, will succeed Headley Court as the UK’s leading facility for the clinical rehabilitation of sick and injured members of the Armed Forces later this year. The building project was initiated by the late 6th Duke of Westminster, who had a distinguished 40 year service in the British Reserve Army and is said to have cared deeply about the treatment provided for those who volunteer for their country. The state-of-the-art facility, which will be run by the Ministry of Defence, is situated near Loughborough and is designed to provide neurological and complex trauma care, and a full suite of rehabilitative facilities, together on one site. The Duke of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry were both major supporters of Headley Court, photographed there speaking to those undergoing rehabilitation on numerous occasions. Patients being treated at the centre, which has been running for 70 years, will be phased over to DNRC once it is up and running this summer. The poetry competition is open to anybody aged 17 and over, and requires writers to submit unpublished work no more than 25 lines long. Entries will be whittled down to a longlist of 25, before the best five are selected by a panel of judges chaired by historian and broadcaster Dan Snow and including SAS veteran and bestselling novelist Andy McNab. The winner will then be decided by public vote. The competition is supported by the Poetry Society, Poet in the City, the War Poets Association, the Wilfred Owen Association, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, Help for Heroes, the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Style for Soldiers, and Walking with the Wounded. Will Greenwood, England rugby player and supporter of Walking With The Wounded, a charity that is backing A Poem to Remember, said: “It is so important that we don’t forget our injured troops. “The new Defence National Rehabilitation Centre will be a powerful signal that the country is committed to providing the best possible care for our wounded service personnel. “The First World War poets are still held in deep regard, and it seems very appropriate to launch a competition that can both remind us of their great work and their sacrifice, while helping us contemplate the service and sacrifice that the current generation and their families have given.” Levison Wood, former British army officer and ambassador for Walking with the Wounded added: “I think it’s very important that we never forget the sacrifices made by British and Commonwealth servicemen and women and poetry is a wonderful way of immortalising the legacy of that great generation, whilst remembering that today’s soldiers have their own challenges to face.” The competition is now open, with a deadline for entries on April 9th.