True Memoirs of an International AssassinAfter a publisher changes a writer s debut novel about a deadly assassin from fiction to non fiction, the author finds himself thrust into the world of his lead character, and must take on the role of his character for his own survival Memoirs of an infantry officer Memoirs of an infantry officer aux ditions Faber et faber Votre panier est vide, profitez des produits disponibles et trouvez l inspiration Memoirs of an Invisible ManIMDb Directed by John Carpenter With Chevy Chase, Daryl Hannah, Sam Neill, Michael McKean After a freak accident, a yuppie turns invisible and runs from a treacherous CIA official, while trying to cope with his new life Definition and Examples of Memoirs A memoir is a form of creative nonfiction in which an author recounts experiences from his or her life Memoirs usually take the form of a narrative, The terms memoir and autobiography are commonly used interchangeably, and the distinction between these two genres is often blurred True Memoirs of an International Assassin OfficialThe action comedy stars Kevin James as Sam Larson, a mild mannered would be author who gets mistaken for a killer for hire when his fictional novel about anMemoirs of an Imperfect Angel Wikipdia Henry David Thoreau


10 thoughts on “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer

  1. Jeffrey Keeten Jeffrey Keeten says:

    ”I, single human being with my little stock of earthly experience in my head, was entering once again the veritable gloom and disaster of the thing called Armageddon. And I saw it then as I see it now---a dreadful place, a place of horror and desolation which no imagination could have invented. Also it was a place where a man of strong spirit might know himself utterly powerless against death and destruction, and yet stand up and defy gross darkness and stupefying shell-fire, discovering in himself the invincible resistance of an animal or an insect, and an endurance which he might, in after days, forget or disbelieve.”

    photo
    Siegfried Sassoon

    At the end of Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, we left George Sherston in the trenches, and for the bulk of this book that is where he remains. He is losing friends and acquaintances at a rapid clip. As Siegfried Sassoon sifts through his memories, while preparing to write this trilogy of the “fictionalized” version of his war experiences, I can’t even imagine the number of ghosts he must have stirred up. Faces blurred by time, and memories muddled by just the infinite number of men who passed through the scope of his war experiences. He remembers the nonchalance portrayed by many of these young men that never quite reaches their eyes as they try to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of complete unthinkable carnage.

    ”A gunner had just been along here with a German helmet in his hand. Said Fricourt is full of dead; he saw one officer lying across a smashed machine-gun with his head bashed in---’a fine looking chap,’ he said, with some emotion, which rather surprised me.”

    I’ve read enough about war to have some understanding that there is no way for a soldier to know what particular experience will get to him or her. Lost comrades can pile up in your mind like carefully stacked firewood, without even a quiver of your lip, but then they see something that penetrates all those carefully erected defenses like a bolt from a crossbow, and emotions tumble out like blood from a wound. Is it because the German officer was handsome? Few of us like to see beauty destroyed. Is it because he reminds him of someone from home? Is it because he knows the German officer was killed by the British offensive? I’m sure the German did his level best to kill the British, but in the end, is the death of the enemy any different? Is the stain on yourself any less than the loss of your friends?

    ”The War’s all right as long as one doesn’t get killed or smashed up.” One can believe that when one is still naive, but as the war continues for these “survivors,” it becomes more and more difficult to live with being alive. Surviving the war is proving to be ever more difficult for Sherston. He has been lucky so far. He has won some medals by displaying fearlessness in front of the enemy, or one could say displaying suicidal tendencies. Death is a constant presence. ”And should I be sent for tomorrow? A sort of numb funkiness invaded me. I didn’t want to die---not before I’d finished reading The Return of the Native anyhow.” This made me laugh. As inappropriate as it is to find humor in a novel of horrors such as this, I couldn’t help thinking of my own theories of reading. I could call it the religion of books because a healthy dose of faith is necessary to believe.

    It is actually a very simple belief. I have convinced myself that, as long as I am in the middle of reading a book, I can’t die, which would leave me extremely vulnerable whenever I finish a book except for, because I’m no dummy, I’m always in the middle of three different books. Hopefully, it will be many years before my theory is put to the test. I perfectly understand Sherston’s desire to finish reading Thomas Hardy. Departing with a book unfinished would create afterlife anxiety for me in whatever realm is beyond.

    Sassoon is a gifted writer, and he provides these wonderful descriptions of moments that put the reader right there in the muck of the trenches with him.

    ”The distant gunfire had crashed and rumbled all night, muffled and terrific with immense flashes, like waves of some tumult of water rolling along the horizon. Now there came an interval of silence in which I heard a horse neigh, shrill and scared and lonely. Then the procession of the returning troops began. The campfires were burning low when the grinding jolting column lumbered back. The field guns came first, with nodding men sitting stiffly on weary horses, followed by wagons and limbers and field-kitchens. After this rumble came the infantry, shambling, limping, straggling and out of step. If anyone spoke it was only a muttered word, and the mounted officers rode as if asleep. Thus, with an almost spectral appearance, the lurching brown figures flitted past with slung rifles and heads bent forward under basin helmets. Moonlight and dawn began to mingle, and I could see the barley swaying indolently against the sky.”


    ”An Army of Ghosts.” Many of these very men would be dead in a matter of months.

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    An army of shopkeepers, miners, farmers, and young aristocrats. Was patriotism what kept them fighting?

    Sherston is shot through the lung and allowed to convalesce back home. His doubts about the validity of the war have reached a new level of unsustainability. He contacts an anti-war newspaper reporter and puts together a manifesto against the war. Sassoon is a legitimate war hero, an officer, and someone well respected by those above him, so this is a particularly unexpected surprise for those “in charge” of the direction or, in Sassoon’s opinion, directionlessness of the war. One of his superiors makes a comment: “Once the common soldier became articulate the War couldn’t last a month.” To me this is a shocking assertion because he is admitting, why would this country of shopkeepers keep going over the trench wall into a hail of machine gun fire if they really had a good understanding of the futility of their own deaths?

    They wouldn’t.

    There is another interesting comment by another of George’s superior officers: ”It was absolutely impossible, he asserted, for the War to end until it ended---well, until it ended as it ought to end.” Nonsensical on one hand, but perfectly honest on the other. He is as committed to the war ending “naturally” with a winner and a loser as Sassoon is for the war to end because it is absolute insanity to continue.

    George Sherston/Siegfried Sassoon has stirred up a fine mess, and now I am off to book three, Sherston’s Progress, the final volume in the trilogy, to find out if this protest makes the proper waves or if it is squashed before it can gain enough momentum to make a difference.

    ”Shell-twisted and dismembered, the Germans maintained the violent attitudes in which they had died. The British had mostly been killed by bullets or bombs, so they looked more resigned. But I can remember a pair of hands (nationality unknown) which protruded from ths soaked ashen soil like the roots of a tree turned upside down; one hand seemed to be pointing at the sky with an accusing gesture. Each time I passed the place the protest of those fingers became more expressive of an appeal to God in defiance of those who made the war. Who made the War?”

    Excellent question! Who made the War?

    If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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  2. Paul Paul says:

    This is the second of Siegfried Sassoon’s trilogy of autobiographical war novels. It covers the period from 1915 to 1917; Sassoon’s time on the front line, the Battle of the Somme, his time recuperating from wounds, his protest about the war and ends with him being sent to Craiglockart, the psychiatric hospital for those with shellshock.
    Sassoon continues to be self-deprecating and tries to capture his feelings throughout, which were often contradictory. Other characters pop up thinly disguised. David Cromlech is Robert Graves, who plays a significant role which Sassoon clearly has mixed feelings about. In real life Sassoon wrote to The Times denouncing the aims and conduct of the war. In the novel he does it slightly differently, but to similar effect. There was a period of time when Sassoon thought he was going to be court-martialled and shot and this was a serious possibility. He details his worries about whether he has done the right thing and whether his views are correct and how ambivalent he feels. This is a long way from the rather foolish young man of three years earlier who only really wanted to hunt and ride horses and had very little political thought in his head. He also describes throwing his Military Cross into a river; another thing that indicated how much he had changed. Cromlech (Graves) went to the military board that was hearing the case to persuade them that Sassoon was suffering from shellshock and needed help not punishment (without Sassoon’s knowledge). It isn’t clear from this book whether Sassoon believed he had shellshock; he may not have been sure himself. He was certainly having nightmares and he describes alternating feelings of despair and elation. His stay in hospital is described in the last of the trilogy.
    Sassoon is very good at describing the ordinary life of a platoon, most of which was very boring and uncomfortable. The actual action was interspersed between these periods of boredom. Sassoon does not preach or bully he just tells the tale and explains how he underwent change. One example is his anger when he sees people in London eating at expensive restaurants and hotels and remembers what he and the troops have been eating for the last months.
    Sassoon has been criticised by some reviewers for pulling his punches and not being as realistic as people like Graves and others. I wonder whether I was reading the same book. Here are a couple of examples;
    “As I stepped over one of the Germans an impulse made me lift him up from the miserable ditch. Propped against the bank, his blond face was undisfigured, except by the mud which I wiped from his eyes and mouth with my coat sleeve. He'd evidently been killed while digging, for his tunic was knotted loosely about his shoulders. He didn't look to be more than 18. Hoisting him a little higher, I thought what a gentle face he had, and remembered that this was the first time I'd ever touched one of our enemies with my hands. Perhaps I had some dim sense of the futility which had put an end to this good-looking youth. Anyway I hadn't expected the battle of the Somme to be quite like this.”

    And at the height of the Battle of the Somme
    “I can remember a pair of hands (nationality unknown) which protruded from the soaked ashen soil like the roots of a tree turned upside down; one hand seemed to be pointing at the sky with an accusing gesture. Each time I passed that place the protest of those fingers became more expressive of an appeal to God in defiance of those who made the War. Who made the War? I laughed hysterically as the thought passed through my mud-stained mind. But I only laughed mentally, for my box of Stokes gun ammunition left me no breath to spare for an angry guffaw. And the dead were the dead; this was no time to be pitying them or asking silly questions about their outraged lives. Such sights must be taken for granted, I thought, as I gasped and slithered and stumbled with my disconsolate crew. Floating on the surface of the flooded trench was the mask of a human face which had detached itself from the skull.”

    It speaks volumes that Sassoon ends the chapter there with no further comment and he clearly did go on to ask the “silly questions”.
    For me this was better than the first in the trilogy as it deals with the contradictory feelings within one person at the front and what it took for him to make one of the most potent anti-war statements of the period, even though he wasn’t sure of himself and what he was doing. Again there is humour in the descriptions of the futility and I suspect that the writers of Blackadder had read this. One of the better war memoirs and I found Sassoon a good deal more engaging than Graves in “Goodbye to All That”.


  3. Dan Dan says:

    Memoirs of an Infantry Officer by Siegfried Sassoon

    One evening about a fortnight later I was down in that too familiar front-line dug-out with Barton, who had just returned from leave and was unable to disguise his depression. I wasn’t feeling over bright myself after tramping to and fro in the gluey trenches all day. A little rain made a big difference to life up there, and the weather had been wet enough to make the duckboards wobble when one stepped on them. I’d got sore feet and a trench mouth and food tasted filthy. And the Boche trench-mortars had been strafing us more than usual that evening. Probably I’ve been smoking too much lately …

    Memoirs of an Infantry Officer is widely recognized as one of the greatest war novels ever written. It is the second in the George Sherston trilogy written by Siegfried Sassoon, a man known as one of the War poets. Largely autobiographical, it covers Sherston’s experience on the front lines as an officer, witnessing the deaths of his comrades, experiencing his own injuries and culminating with a written protest against the war while convalescing. In addition to the beautiful writing, there is a great deal of survivor’s remorse that oozes out of this book.

    In comparing ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer’ to that other great WWI novel, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’, the title character George Sherston is more detached and reserved than Paul Baumer, the more innocent first person protagonist in Remarque’s book. While Remarque gets the nod as the better story teller, Sassoon is able to masterfully capture the incongruous feelings of despair and boredom on the front lines. Perhaps because he is a poet, Sassoon is not always as consistent in his story-telling but this is offset by the literary gems scattered throughout, such as this one in the midst of the Battle of the Somme I was huddled up in a little dog-kennel of a dug-out reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles and trying to forget about the shells which were hurrying and hurrooshing overhead.

    The story follows George Sherston in early 1916 when he is promoted to the officers ranks and is sent back from the front lines to attend officer’s school for a month. At the school he is subjected to many lectures To instill fear into the opponent’ was one of the Major’s main maxims. Man, it seemed, had been created to jab the life out of the Germans. To hear the Major talk, one might have thought that he did it himself every day before breakfast. His final words were: “Remember that every Boche you fellows kill is a point scored to our side; every Boche you kill brings victory one minute nearer and shortens the war by one minute. Kill them! Kill them! There’s only one good Boche, and that’s a dead one!

    Upon his return to the front lines he is immediately assigned to a small scale raid of the German lines. It doesn’t go well for Sherston’s company. With the rope, and a man to help, I got back to O’Brien, and we lifted him up the side of the crater. It was heavy work, for he was tall and powerfully built, and the soft earth gave way under our feet as we lugged and hoisted the limp shattered body. The Germans must have seen us in the half light, but they had stopped firing; perhaps they felt sorry for us. At last we lowered him over the parapet. A stretcher-bearer bent over him and then straightened himself, taking off his helmet with a gesture that vaguely surprised me bit its reverent simplicity. O’Brien had been one of the best men in our Company. I looked down at him and then turned away; the face was grotesquely terrible, smeared with last night’s burnt cork, the forehead matted with a tangle of dark hair.

    After divisional rest Sherston returns to the front for the British Assault on Mametz Wood, a German occupied area with significant machine gun defenses, an initiative that is part of the larger Battle of the Somme. The battle lasts for weeks, Sherston is not wounded in the deadly battle, but is cycled back to the reserve support line. At the conclusion of the battle he observes his regiment returning Then, as if answering our expectancy, a remote skirling of bagpipes began, and the Gordon Highlanders hobbled in. But we had been sitting at the crossroads nearly six hours, and faces were recognizable, when Dottrell hailed our leading Company. Soon they had dispersed and settled down on the hillside, and were asleep in the daylight which made everything seem ordinary. None the less I had seen something that night which overawed me. It was all in a day’s work — an exhausted Division returning from the Somme Offensive — but for me it was as though I had watched an army of ghosts.

    After the battle Sherston acquires a serious illness for which he is sent back to England to rest. After recuperating for an extended period and catching up with relatives, he is sent back to the front lines in France as part of the second battalion, a different unit south of Ypres in a company of bombers, which were essentially hand grenade specialists. They were preparing to invade the German trenches as part of an assault in the Battle of Arras The Bombing Parties of 25 men will rendezvous at 2:30 am tomorrow morning’. They found their way across to the enemy trench, ‘The whole affair had been so easy that I felt like pushing forward until we bumped into something more definite … I started to explore a narrow sap on the left side of the trench. (Not that it mattered whether it was on the left side or the right, but it appears to be the only detail I can remember; and when all is said and done, the War was mainly a matter of holes and ditches.) … and then decided to take a peep at the surrounding country. This was a mistake which ought to have put an end to my terrestrial adventures, for no sooner had I popped my silly head out of the sap than I felt a stupendous blow in the back between the shoulders. Sherston had been shot through the back and lung.

    The last few chapters of the book cover Sherston’s lengthy recovery back in Britain from his wounds, his learning that even more friends had perished and his intent to publish an anti-war letter in the papers. The Brits did not take kindly to pacifist statements as they were construed as pro-German. At the conduct review with his superiors The major began by explaining that the Colonel was away on leave. ‘He is deeply concerned about you, and fully prepared to overlook the’ — here he hesitated — ‘the paper which you sent him. He has asked me to urge you most earnestly to — er — dismiss the whole matter from your mind.’ Nothing could have been more earnest than the way he looked at me when he stopped speaking. I replied that I was deeply grateful but I couldn’t change my mind.

    Sherston is still in the Army and decorated so his superiors proceed cautiously. Sherston's intransigence begins to greatly anger the Colonel however. Eventually Sherston's friend David convinces him not to publish the manifesto
    So it was decided that I was suffering from shell-shock. The colonel then remarked to the Major that he supposed there was nothing more to be done now….. When we were walking back to my hotel I overhead myself whistling cheerfully, and commented on the fact. ‘Honestly, David, I don’t believe I’ve whistled for about six weeks!” I gazed up at the blue sky, grateful because, at that moment, it seemed as though I had finished with the War. There the story ends.

    Five Stars.


  4. Terry Terry says:

    3.5 – 4 stars

    Reading works like this makes me wonder how the human race has survived the hugely numerous and multifarious wars, battles, skirmishes, and ‘military actions’ that it has undertaken during the relatively brief span of its existence when they constantly bring home just how truly limited the insight and abilities of the military elite to see beyond their own arses seems to be. The glamourization of war in both historical and current popular culture makes the ability of a highly trained force of soldiers under the direction of charismatic leaders to meet their objectives appear a no-brainer. When one really stops to ponder the sheer logistics involved in the organization and deployment of anything approaching the size of an army, adds to that the conflicting aims of the various political entities or opinions involved (on only one side of the conflict), and then layers in the seemingly absurd pride of place given to the egos and various personal manias of the leaders making all ‘strategic’ decisions one soon realizes that we ought to have wiped ourselves off of the globe a long time ago. The sheer pigheaded inertia of the military mindset which allows it to calmly accept the fact of attrition as a valid method to achieve success and thus throwing away thousands, if not millions, of human lives in the name of achieving ill-defined (or even explicitly well-defined) political and military objectives rather than re-think the current political position or military tactics is terrifying. Simply confining oneself to such modern military actions as the Civil War, WWI, WWII and the Vietnam War and being constantly told of the insanely costly (in human lives) fuck ups that various battles or engagements were simply due to the wrong people being given the power to lead and make tactical or strategic decisions for the wrong reasons blows my mind.

    Thus we come to the continuing story of George Sherston (the semi-autobiographical stand-in for author Siegfried Sassoon) who, by this second volume of his memoirs, has graduated from a somewhat feckless and leisure loving dilettante of the upper middle class to become an old hand as a low-level officer in the Machine that is the allied force of WWI. This is not to say that Sherston feels in any way qualified for his job, for the most part he is simply trying to muddle along and look like he knows what he’s about without making any errors that are too egregious or obvious. This eminently unqualified (except by his place on the social ladder) individual assigned to lead his men in battle readily admits at one point that “I had no idea where our objective was, but the corporal informed me that we had reached it, and he seemed to know his business.” To me that statement alone stands as an utterly terrifying testimony to the situation for many of the men, both leaders and led, in the Great War. As the story opens Sherston at least has faith in both the alleged aims of the powers that are leading the war from his side as well and their ability to do so. This conviction begins to waver, however, as he sees friends and comrades drop like flies to gain (if anything) little more than a few feet of muddy ground in increasingly botched actions along the trenches of the western front. Compounding this are the sheer monotony, confusion, and uncertainty that characterize the quiet moments filling up the lengthy gaps between the terrifying chances to lose one’s life. Sherston recalls a moment typical of his front line experience:

    But I can remember a pair of hands (nationality unknown) which protruded from the soaked ashen soil like the roots of a tree turned upside down; one hand seemed to be pointing at the sky with an accusing gesture. Each time I passed that place the protest of those fingers became more expressive of an appeal to God in defiance of those who made the War. Who made the War? I laughed hysterically as the thought passed through my mud-stained mind.

    “Such sights must be taken for granted…” reflects Sherston, but the disturbance they cause deeper in his psyche can ultimately not be ignored.

    Sherston is one of the lucky ones. Through a series of illnesses brought on by the poor conditions in the trenches and a few ‘lucky’ wounds he is able to leave the front at key times and return to ‘Merry Olde England’ when he would otherwise have likely met the bullet with his name on it as did so many of the friends and comrades he names in these memoirs. It is during these quiet moments that he is able to contrast the conditions of his strange new life with those being lived by the civilians at home. It becomes clearer & clearer to him that these civilians in England are no longer a part of Sherston’s world whether they are the well-meaning, but vacuous, supporters of the British war effort against “the Boche”, or war profiteers and ‘conscientious objectors’ living in relative comfort and ease while the cream of young men from his generation are being obliterated at a staggering rate. Indeed everyone around him (even, or perhaps especially, the commanders on the home front) seems to completely misunderstand the position of the soldiers in the trenches and Sherston is slowly forced to re-evaluate his position on the war. As with the participants in many other wars Sherston slowly becomes disassociated from his own countrymen. He is no longer a member of the society for which he is fighting, he is instead a member of
    …the survivors; few among us would ever tell the truth to our friends and relations in England. We were carrying something in our heads which belonged to us alone, and to those we had left behind us in the battle.
    He is a member of a much smaller community formed by violence and loss and he begins to realize that he has more in common with the enemy, a likely group of ‘poor blighters’ more akin to him and his friends, than any of these ‘allies’ at home.

    Slowly Sherston comes to hate the war and all of the meaningless death and destruction it brings. As he digs further and asks more questions he comes to believe that those in charge, the people for whom he and his friends are putting their lives on the line, are pursuing not a noble war of defense in the face of tyranny, but a war of aggrandizement and acquisition. Is this worth dying for? Is it worth killing for? Sherston knows the answer to these questions that his own heart gives, though he feels keenly the futility and alienation of his position should it ever become known. Still, he begins to tentatively travel in some of the anti-war circles of his day and formulates an idea that he must do something, anything, even if it is simply to state his opposition to the horrors continuing unless the Allies’ objectives become clear and open knowledge. He is not really a member of the anti-war intelligentsia though, and even his desire to act in some way outside of the military sphere is one fraught with internal conflict. He is still simply a soldier thinking of the needs of other soldiers and while it may be true that in the eyes of the anti-war protestors
    …there was no credit attached to the fact of having been at the front… for me it had been a supremely important experience. I am obliged to admit that if these anti-war enthusiasts hadn't happened to be likeable I might have secretly despised them.

    In the end this second volume of his memoirs closes in media res as Sherston sends in his statement of protest (just as Sassoon himself did in reality) and awaits imprisonment as a criminal or confinement as a mentally ill invalid with the prospect that no good at all may come of his apparently futile gesture.


  5. Smiley Smiley says:

    Amazingly, I came across this secondhand paperback at the DASA BookCafe last month (April 21st). Indeed, it dazzled me due to its compact lines of words till I wondered if I could read it at all with reasonable understanding and enjoyment. Moreover, I liked its thick, reader-friendly fonts because of its typography of quality. His name soon rang a bell, hazily, I first knew his name (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siegfri...) mentioned in Robert Graves's Goodbye to All That, his memoir depicting his life and plights as a soldier in the First World War. However, this book belongs to the famous George Sherston trilogy as No. 2; Nos. 1 and 3 being entitled Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, and Sherston's Progress. So you can see that reading this book is not a good start because I should read it as the aftermath of having read No. 1 first. If you are lucky, you may find a three-in-one copy entitled The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston published by Faber and Faber (1937).

    One thing I would like to say is that this trilogy is of different genre as compared to the above-mentioned by Mr. Graves, that is, it has portrayed his fictionalized memoirs presumably based on his World War I experiences as summarized in this synopsis, . . . Not the least interesting part of the book deals with his revulsion of feeling about the war and his abortive anti-war protest. First published in 1930, after the spate of 'war-books' was over, it made an immediate impact, and predictions made then of its lasting significance have proved amply justified. (inside front cover).

    To continue . . .


  6. Ian Ian says:

    I was given this book as a present many years ago and first read it at that time. Although I enjoyed it I was conscious that I hadn't read the first book of the trilogy and that I was therefore missing a lot of context. Recently I got round to reading Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man and decided to follow that with revisiting this second part.

    The life of George Sherston set out in this book is very different from the extended adolescence described in the first part of the trilogy; this second part taking in The Great War and the author's gradual conversion from a patriot accepting the received wisdom of the day, to an anti-war activist.

    There is a well-known quote about war consisting of months of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme terror, or words to that effect. Sassoon's account of his war certainly fits that description, with much of his time spent hanging around reserve areas or marching back and forth between rest areas and the frontline. Sassoon's own war heroism is well documented, to the extent he received recommendations and awards for gallantry and became known to his men as Mad Jack, but he himself describes these incidents in a very understated and matter of fact way, a style typical of aristocratic British people of his generation. Sassoon doesn't hold back though on the horrors of trench warfare. Whilst sheltering from a bombardment his dugout is invaded by rats themselves trying to escape the shelling; in the dark he tries to wake a sleeping man, shaking him roughly only to find he has hold of a corpse; on another occasion he describes seeing, floating in a pool of muddy water, a face that had come detached from its skull. Most of his friends and colleagues are killed, and he himself is wounded. It is during his convalescence that he decides to speak out against the continuation of the war. Partly this springs from his despair at the seemingly endless waste of young lives at the front, but also from disgust at the activities of war profiteers and the attitudes of complacent civilians who favoured the continuation of agonies they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise. Sassoon is painfully open about the mental anguish he felt whilst preparing his denunciation, knowing only too well the hurt it would cause to friends and family, not to mention the likelihood of a court martial to himself. He had however become fully converted to the anti-war cause, and as is common with converts, his new opinions were held all the more passionately.

    With the benefit of a century's hindsight, we can see a number of weaknesses in what Sassoon said. He claimed that the British government was pursuing the War for reasons of aggression and conquest, a view that I feel is unsupported by the historical evidence. It follows that Sassoon thought Great Britain could pull out of the War without negative consequences, a hopelessly naive view in my opinion. However, I am straying into historical opinion rather than a review of this excellent book, one that I very much recommend.


  7. Sophia Sophia says:

    This account is fast moving, as Sherston gets pushed from pillar to post by the unseen powers in high command. He finds himself in the thick of battle on several occasions and Sassoon's descriptions of a soldier's mentality in such extreme situations are fascinating. Over the course of the novel Sherston will begin to question the whole point of the war in which so many have lost their lives, and his desire to stand up against the war is balanced by his fear of what his fellow officers and his friends back home will think. His feelings on the subject are so human and authentic that it's obvious to what degree the novel is autobiographical.

    The cast of characters is huge, and the reader soon loses track of all the different soldiers who pass through Sherston's life. Almost all of them are reported dead within a few pages, and we feel - though Sherston never says so explicitly - that it would cause him more harm than good to make too many close friends.

    Sassoon has an easy, conversational style which is very powerful while relating the horrors of war. Sherston feels completely at a loss in the environment of trench warfare, and tells us self-deprecatingly that he has neither the temperament nor the brains to be a successful officer. He's just an ordinary chap who muddles through as best he can, and he knows very well that he owes his survival more to blind luck than to any particular skill or talent.

    The humour which Sassoon displayed so readily in Memoirs of Fox Hunting Man is evident here too, only now it has a much darker quality. Some of the situations the generals order their soldiers into are utterly ridiculous, and this is not lost on Sherston. If it weren't for the fact that the generals' blunderings cost thousands of lives, these passages would be highly comic.

    Of course, Sassoon is best known for his poetry, and there are little flashes of the poet in this novel. The descriptive passages - in fact the whole novel - is beautifully written, and Sassoon is obviously a man who has big ideas and is able to communicate them well. I can't imagine that there can be many more honest, lyrical and human accounts of the First World War than this. If you're at all interested in the subject, Siegfried Sassoon is one of the first authors you should investigate


  8. Checkman Checkman says:

    Classic WW I memoir thinly disguised as fiction in which 'George Sherston' is the pseudonym for Sassoon. It begins several months into Sherston's tour of duty in France and covers his combat experiences and changing attitude towards the war.This is still one of the more effective accounts of life in the trenches and ,even eighty-three years after it's initial publication, an effective and visceral read. Highly recommended for those interested in the so-called Great War and the experiences of those who fought in it. One of the best in my opinion.

    A short EndNote here. Sassoon served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers with Robert Graves whose pseudonym is 'David Cromlech'. Read Grave's own World War One memoir Goodbye to All That for a counterpart. It's interesting to note that while Graves seems to have been very fond of Sassoon and played a major part in preventing him from being Court-martial by the British Army in 1917 Sassoon doesn't return the feelings. At one point 'David' is described as being (I'm paraphrasing here) dirty and unorganized by Sherston. I suggest reading both books.


  9. Dillwynia Peter Dillwynia Peter says:

    This is the 2nd volume of the Siegfried Sassoon autobiographical trilogy recounting his experiences of the First World War. No punches are withheld and it is a brutal commentary of trench warfare, the poor organisation skills and the boredom of stuck waiting for something to happen. For Sherton, doing anything was important & so when he was involved in a raid, he is most alive. The outcome often being his advance is surrounded by failing advances. He could be reckless, but also not shy of getting dirty like his men & it appears he was well loved as a leader.

    This book contains the famous letter of denouncing the War. Succinct and clear, it must have sent shivers down the spines of the Big Wigs. Here is a decorated officer, highly popular telling them to stop, or at least announce the new directives (which Sassoon felt were dishonourable). The only action left to them was to send him to a mental hospital. And thus the end of this volume.

    You would think the dull sitting around would make this a turgid languid book that is hard to get through. However, Sassoon is a master of he written word & the book keeps the reader interested throughout & you pop out the other end much surprised when you realise the long dead moments & short action sequences.

    This trilogy is so timely with the hoopla of the WW1 centenary celebrations currently occurring. I note the lesser savoury aspects are being air brushed out of the marketing hype.


  10. Jeff Lacy Jeff Lacy says:

    Sassoon's account of WWI. It rounds out memoirs and another novel in the WWI genre. I found much stronger and visceral depictions of the soldiers' life in the trenches, in Henri Barbusse's novel, UNDER FIRE, in the memoirs GOODBYE TO ALL THAT by Robert Graves (perhaps the strongest), Ernst Junger's, STORM OF STEEL (from the perspective of the German soldier), Vera Brittain's, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, and John Lewis Barkeley's, SCARLET FIELDS: THE COMBAT MEMOIRS OF A WORLD WAR I MEDAL OF HONOR HERO. There are also quite a few good nonfiction accounts of the war written by Barbara Tuchman, such as THE ZIMMERMAN TELEGRAM that describes the way in which the United States really got into the war, not the sinking of the Lusitania, and Tuchman's Pulitzer Prize winning, THE GUNS OF AUGUST. WWI killed 17 million. It was an insane and fascinating series of battles for strips of land between trenches, backwards and forwards over four insane years. The anti-war comments about the war begin around 85% into the book. This book has it's own merit as the other books cited. These books should be read as a whole for those interested in WWI.