Born in London in 1896, Blunden was educated at Christ's Hospital, a famous public school in Sussex, and later at Queen's College, Oxford. In 1915, he enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment, and served with them right up to the end of the war, taking part in the actions at Ypres and the Somme, and winning the Military Cross in the process. His own account of his sometimes traumatic experiences was published, in 1928, under the title Undertones of War.
It was after the war that Blunden began his long-standing friendship with Siegfried Sassoon, who came from the same part of England and whose interests in country pursuits he shared. In 1922, Blunden was awarded the prestigious Hawthornden Prize for Poetry. Although he wrote war poems, they never had the ironic edge of those of Sassoon or Wilfred Owen, nor did his memoirs of war service have the immediacy of those of Sassoon or Robert Graves.
After his marriage, Blunden was invited to teach in Tokyo, and the years 1924-27 were one of two periods he spent working in Japan and the Far East. In 1931, he became a Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, where he remained until 1944. In 1967-68, after a period as Professor of English Literature in Hong Kong, he returned to Oxford as Professor of Poetry. He died in 1974.