A STATUE has been commissioned of Wilfred Owen, Oswestry’s most famous son – and will be unveiled next year on the centenary of his death.
The sculpture – which will be slightly larger than life-sized – is the result of a collaboration between Lights Out Trefonen and Oswestry Town Council.
Owen, widely recognised as the greatest poet of the First World War, was born at Plas Wilmot in Weston Lane.
He was killed in action on a battlefield on November 4, 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, one week – almost to the hour – before the signing of the Armistice which ended the war.
His mother received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day as the church bells were ringing out in celebration of the war’s end.
His poems told of the horrors of trench and gas warfare and he was determined the horrific realities of the war should be told.
The statue will be unveiled during a week-long festival of commemoration and remembrance and will be sited in Cae Glas Park, and look out through the Memorial Gates.
The town council – which will underwrite the project to the tune of £40,000 – says: “It is acknowledged 2018 will conclude the centenary period when across the world, nations, communities and individuals will come together to mark, commemorate and remember the lives of those who lived, fought and died in the First World War.
“The unveiling of the sculpture during a week-long festival of commemoration and remembrance culminating in Armistice Day 2018 will mark the support and contribution of Oswestry to this landmark centenary.”
The idea for the project – and the sculpture – came when Chris Woods from Lights Out Trefonen and Oswestry artist Tim Turner put a proposal to the town council.
Lights Out Trefonen is a community organisation associated with the impact of the First World War on the community. Mr Woods has managed several projects in the west Midlands linked to the war.
He said: “I am delighted and proud the town council has agreed to support this project.
“Tim and I thought it was very important to ensure such a unique opportunity regarding a double centenary linked to our town didn’t pass us by.
“Owen is regarded by many as the greatest poet of the First World War and his works are now an established part of learning and education for young and old. This projects links with national initiatives and as a result is endorsed by the Imperial War Museum and the Wilfred Owen Association.
“I feel it will be a wonderful attribute for the town and will bring in many visitors.
“We are also delighted to be supported in our efforts by the Wilfred Owen Association whose president is Peter Owen, the nephew of Wilfred, and who we have liaised with for some time.”
Meg Crane of the Association said: “The Wilfred Owen Association is delighted to learn of this project, which will commemorate Wilfred in the town of his birth, and would like to express support for the statue and for the Centenary Festival Week in Oswestry.”
The statue will be created by sculptor Mr Turner, who was a pupil at Oswestry School before going on to study at the Royal College of Art.
His recent work includes a bronze bust of King Orllie Anthoine 1st which was unveiled last August in Tourtoirac, France.
Mr Turner said: “I was delighted when the town council approved my design for the Wilfred Owen tribute and I was deeply moved by Chris’s passion for this project, knowing his family connections to the Battle of the Somme.
“I think the sculpture will be a great credit to the town. There could be no greater honour for a local artist than to create such a memorial for the beautiful town of Oswestry.”
The sculpture will be cast by the Castle Fine Arts Foundry based in Llanrhaeadr.
Oswestry mayor Councillor Paul Milner said: “This exciting project recognises the opportunity to provide a legacy for the town and to commemorate Wilfred Owen, arguably our most recognised famous son.
“It also reflects for generations past and present the impact the war had on our local community.
“Looking into the future, it provides the opportunity for a significant tourism feature.”
The week-long festival organised by Lights Out Trefonen between November 4-11 will involve schools, local organisations and include musical recitals, drama productions, poetry, a light show, an artist’s trail and the lighting of commemorative beacons, as well as the unveiling of the Wilfred Owen sculpture.