in A Level, English Literature, Essay Technique, Writing Skills

Below, you can find an extract from the last letter Wilfred Owen wrote to his mother.

For anyone who studies Wilfred Owen or simply enjoys reading his poetry, reading his letters is an absolute must. He presents a completely different view of himself and his personality here. He is kind, sensitive and thoughtful – but also quick-witted and optimistic; showing his gratitude to his mother for sending a parcel full of ‘luxuries’ like socks and chocolate to him while he was about to go to war. Sadly, this was the last letter he ever wrote – four days later, he was killed in action. This letter also offers a historical account of what it was really like to be a soldier in the middle of the First World War.

There are several ways that you can use this letter:

  • To supplement your contextual knowledge of Wilfred Owen and his poetry
  • To enhance your understanding of the First World War
  • To understand better how to craft excellent letters yourself, by paying close attention to Owen’s writing and structuring.

Thanks for reading! If you find this page useful, you can find more help and support with English and Writing on our website here:

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Wilfred Owen's Last Letter
Portrait of Wilfred Owen, found in a collection of his poems from 1920. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Wilfred Owen’s Last Letter

Oct. 31. Thurs.
6.15 p.m. 

Dearest Mother,

I will call the place from which I’m now writing “The Smoky Cellar of the Forester’s House”. I write on the first sheet of the writing pad which came in the parcel yesterday. Luckily the parcel was small, as it reached me just before we moved off to the line. Thus only the paraffin was unwelcome in my pack. My servant & I ate the chocolate in the cold middle of last night, crouched under a draughty Tamboo, roofed with planks. I husband the Malted Milk for tonight, & tomorrow night. The handkerchief & socks are most opportune, as the ground is marshy, & I have a slight cold!

Check out our analysis of Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Exposure’

So thick is the smoke in this cellar that I can hardly see by a candle 12 ins. away, and so thick are the inmates that I can hardly write for pokes, nudges & jolts. On my left the Coy. Commander snores on a bench: other officers repose on wire beds behind me. At my right hand, Kellett, a delightful servant of A Coy in The Old Days radiates joy & contentment from pink cheeks and baby eyes. He laughs with a signaller, to whose left ear is glued the Receiver; but whose eyes rolling with gaiety show that he is listening with his right ear to a merry corporal, who appears at this distance away (some three feet) nothing [but] a gleam of white teeth & a wheeze of jokes.

Splashing my hand, an old soldier with a walrus moustache peels & drops potatoes into the pot. By him, Keyes, my cook, chops wood; another feeds the smoke with the damp wood.

It is a great life. I am more oblivious than alas! yourself, dear Mother, of the ghastly glimmering of the guns outside, & the hollow crashing of the shells.

There is no danger down here, or if any, it will be well over before you read these lines.

I hope you are as warm as I am; as serene in your room as I am here; and that you think of me never in bed as resignedly as I think of you always in bed. Of this I am certain you could not be visited by a band of friends half so fine as surround me here.

Ever Wilfred x


Thanks for reading! If you find this page useful, you can find more help and support with English and Writing on our website here:

AQA GCSE Power and Conflict Poetry Course

AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2: Nonfiction Course

All our English Courses