While George Orwell is better known for his novels, the first work he ever published was a poem. Written when he was only 11 years old, ‘Awake! Young Men of England’ appeared in the local newspaper Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard on 2 October 1914. The poem was published under Orwell’s real name, Eric Blair – he only adopted the pseudonym George Orwell in the 1930s.
During the years of the First World War, Orwell was a student at St Cyprian’s, a preparatory boarding school outside Eastbourne. Despite his young age, he was already determined to become a well-known writer. Orwell’s poem, written in three quatrains, shows the influence of the patriotic language and glorification of war that characterised the recruitment campaigns aimed at young men during the Great War.
Your Country Needs You
‘Awake, Young Men of England!’ appeared on the back cover of the newspaper, next to a long list of names of local men who had enlisted. During the first months of the war the army successfully recruited hundreds of thousands of volunteer soldiers, but the numbers of men willing to enlist began to decline soon afterwards. In 1916, conscription (compulsory enlisting) was imposed for the first time on all single men aged between 18 and 41.
- Full title:
- 'Awake! Young Men of England!'
- 2 October 1914, Oxfordshire
- Periodical / Newspaper / Ephemera
- George Orwell
- Usage terms
George Orwell: © With kind permission of the estate of the late Sonia Brownell Orwell. You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.
The Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard: © Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard. Published under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Licence.
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- British Library
- Article by:
- John Sutherland
- Power and conflict, Literature 1900–1950
John Sutherland describes the biographical and historical events that produced George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, which combines memoir with a study of poverty in two European cities in the late 1920s.
- Article by:
- Alexander Watson
- The war machine
Dr Alex Watson looks in detail at the statistics surrounding the millions of conscripted and volunteer soldiers who served the European armies of World War One.