Tolkien at fifteen, a warrior-to-be

John Garth

A newly discovered photograph reveals J.R.R. Tolkien at fifteen in his school’s new cadet corps—launched in 1907 as nations geared up for war.

Tolkien is one of some 120 unnamed figures in the picture, unearthed by the history department at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. School archivist Alison Wheatley managed to pick his face out of the crowd. The image appears here at a higher resolution for the first time.

J.R.R. Tolkien in the Cadet Corps, King Edward's School, Birmingham, 1907 A face in the crowd: Tolkien, fourth from left in the middle row, stands for inspection with the new Cadet Corps at King Edward’s School, Birmingham, on 4 April 1907*

A low-resolution version was published last week by the Birmingham Mail and the BBC in reference to a radio item about Tolkien and the First World War. Ambiguous captioning gave the impression that this might show Tolkien with the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, the battalion he fought in at the Battle of…

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