Last Great War poet dies at 103

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The Independent Culture
The last surviving poet of the First World War has died at the age of 103.

Geoffrey Dearmer, who together with Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon transmuted the horror of the Great War into eloquent verse, died on Sunday night at his home in Birchington, near Margate, Kent.

He published two acclaimed collections of poetry after the war and, although his work has not had the lasting power of Owen or Sassoon, he is remembered for poems such as "The Sentinel" and "The Somme".

His fame in the inter-war years is apparent from Robert McBride's review of his 1918 Poems in the New York Times. "This is the first book of a young English soldier-poet whose work has aroused the admiration of English critics everywhere. Mr Dearmer is, par excellence, a poet of the war," he wrote.

Dearmer was born in 1893, the same year as Wilfred Owen. He was made a second lieutenant in the London Regiment of the Royal Fusiliers on joining up in 1914. He survived what he called the "needless horror of the Dardanelles" - a nightmare compounded by the death of a much-loved brother at Gallipoli - and then experienced the trauma of the Western Front. But, unlike Owen, he made it through the war.

His father, Percy Dearmer, was a London vicar who eventually became a Canon of Westminster and edited hymn books including the English Hymnal and Songs of Praise. His mother, Mabel, wrote children's books, novels and plays before dying of enteric fever in 1915 while serving with an ambulance unit in Serbia.

When the war ended, Dearmer continued to write poetry, as well as plays and novels. He was notoriously modest and took little interest in keeping copies of his works or press notices.

He went on to join the BBC where he worked for many years and was a highly respected director of Children's Hour.

Dearmer leaves a daughter, the Rev Juliet Woollcombe, of Pershore, Worcestershire.

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