|Source||‘Mr Edmund Blunden: Distinguished poet and author who found fame in wartime’, The Times, 21st January 1974; CWGC Archive, WG 10/9 – Professor Edmund Blunden, 04/03/1936 – 02/02/1953; CWGC Archive, Add 10/1/37 – CORONATION MEDAL 1953; CWGC Archive, CM 3/1/23, COMMISSION MEETING NO. 192, 11/03/1936; CWGC Archive, COMMISSION MEETING NO. 482, 17/03/1966|
|Biographical Note||Professor Edmund Charles Blunden CBE MC was the Commission's Honorary Adviser; succeeding the late Rudyard Kipling in this post.|
Edmund Charles Blunden was born on 1 November 1896.
In 1898, his family moved to Yalding, Kent, where his father was a schoolmaster, organist and choirmaster. Blunden attended the local grammar school before he won a scholarship to Christ’s Hospital, Horsham. In 1914, Blunden gained a senior classics scholarship at Queen’s College, Oxford but the outbreak of the First World War disrupted his higher education.
During the First World War, Blunden volunteered in the 11th Bn., Royal Sussex Regiment. He was commissioned in 1916 and was awarded the Military Cross in 1917. Following the end of the war, Blunden wrote Undertones of War (1928), which was an account of his own traumatic experiences of the First World War and remains in print today.
In June 1918, Blunden married Mary Daines. The couple had a son and daughter through this marriage. After his demobilisation in 1919, Blunden resumed his studies and took up the scholarship he had won in 1914. However, he was unable to settle down into an academic lifestyle and left for London in 1920 to become assistant to Middleton Murray on The Athenaeum, continuing as a regular contributor when it merged with The Nation in 1921. The publication of Blunden’s The Shepherd in 1922 won him the Hawthornden Prize and established his name as a poet. In 1924, Blunden became Professor of English at the University of Tokyo, Japan and returned to England in 1928 to renew his connection with The Nation before being elected a Fellow and Tutor of English at Merton College, Oxford in 1930. He also published several volumes of poetry during the 1930’s. In 1933, Blunden married his second wife, Sylvia Norman, who was also a writer. This marriage dissolved in 1943 and Blunden married Claire Poynting in the following year and with whom he had four daughters.
In March 1936, Blunden accepted the position of Literary Adviser and also consented to deputise for Lord Baldwin. Blunden’s position was intended to provide assistance in the same capacity as was given by Rudyard Kipling until his death in January 1936. Whilst he was Literary Adviser, Blunden advised on several matters, such as the introductions to the 1939-1945 Cemetery and Memorial registers, and to the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour. He also advised on the inscriptions for the Commission’s larger 1939-1945 memorials and he penned the introductions to two of the Commission's official histories: The Immortal Heritage (1937) by Sir Fabian Ware and The Unending Vigil (1967) by Philip Longworth.
The Second World War inspired Blunden’s poetry in the same vein as his earlier works and included Shells by a Stream (1944) and After the Bombing (1949). In 1947, Blunden returned to Japan as Cultural Liaison Officer to the British Mission and was subsequently elected to the Japan Academy in 1950. In 1951, he was created CBE and held honorary degrees with the universities of Leeds and Leicester. Blunden worked on The Times Literary Supplement in 1949 but returned to the Far East in 1955 when he took up the post of Professor of English at the University of Hong Kong. He was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1955 and, in March 1966, Blunden was elected as Professor of Poetry at Oxford, succeeding Robert Graves.
Edmund Blunden died on 22 January 1974, aged 77 in Long Melford, Suffolk.