The Send-Off - Synopsis and commentary

Synopsis of The Send-Off

Owen describes how the troops leave their training camp by train with flowers on their breasts, watched by the porters and a tramp. He does not know to which front line of the war they are going. The poet asks if they will return and speculates that only a few will ‘creep’ back home up roads which they only half remember.

Investigating The Send-Off

  • Make a time map or a flow chart of the journey Owen takes us through in this poem from the initial send off to the final return.
    • Is there a circular movement in the poem?
    • In what way does it end where it began?

Commentary on The Send-Off

In this profound and moving poem Owen, in an understated, almost gentle way communicates the tragedy and waste of war. It is a straightforward account relating how many men have been sent off to war and how few will return.

Context of The Send-Off

This poem was written while Owen was at training camp in Ripon in 1918. Owen had undergone one tour of duty on the Somme (France) in early 1917 and had been invalided home with neurasthenia later that year. Having been discharged from Craiglockhart where he had convalesced, he was being prepared to return to the Western Front


At the Ripon training camp Owen would have observed hundreds of men being sent off to war in the way he describes here: new recruits and old soldiers. He would know only too well what fate awaited many of them. (He himself would not be among the ‘few’ of line 18.)

Soldiers leaving for warNot surprisingly, the mood of The Send-Off is in marked contrast to those of other poets whose poems were written in the early months of the war and were full of patriotic fervour. It is different even to some of Owen’s own, angry, anti-war poems such as Dulce et Decorum Est which he had completed a few months before and may well have been revising at Ripon at the same time as The Send-Off was written. Unlike them, this poem makes no attempt to reproduce the violence and agony of the front; rather it leaves that to the imagination of the reader who can only surmise what the ‘grimly gay’ men of the first stanza will experience before a ‘few’ of them ‘creep back, silent ... / Up half-known roads’. 

Title and redrafts

Owen originally entitled this poem not The Send–Off but The Draft. This is a military term for a group of conscripted men. The original title concentrates on a particular group of men going off to the front. The final title considers the whole process of sending men off to war and their unlikely return. Owen made seven drafts of The Send-Off. Parts of the poem were there from the first, others he struggled with.

Investigating commentary on The Send-Off

  • The Send-Off was crafted and re-crafted by Owen until he was satisfied.
    • In your view which is the better title - The Send-Off or The Draft?
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