Memoirs & Diaries - War is War - Early Doubts

French troops using flamethrowers Crossing the English Channel to France: "Here was I, a young writer (aged twenty-seven), unmarried but with three people to support, going off to the war and leaving them to the mercy of God with a separation allowance of twelve and sixpence a week.

"...I began to think I was rather a mug for being there.  I needn't have been.  I had joined rather late, but still as a volunteer.  Even after conscription had been brought in I might have been kept out on compassionate grounds.  I was not fit... and had only got past the doctor through influence.  I had no inclination at all for soldiering, and privately knew myself to be a coward.

"Then what the devil was I doing in that rotten cattle-boat, probably on my way out to a bloody death?  Professor Freud might answer the question.  I hated being thought a funk.  I had the strongest disapproval of young and fit civilians without dependants, but could not very well express it while I was a civilian myself...

"Most of my friends who were worth while had vanished... Don't think that I wasn't a patriot.   I was willing to die for my country if needs were.  But dying for one's country may be a very expensive luxury for which others have to pay.  I had not a bean to leave to my mother and two other near relatives.  For their sakes I could not afford to die - nor could I for my own, for I was then going through a phase of spiritual trouble.

"I had been brought up as a R.C., but had given up practising my religion because I couldn't quite believe in it.  On the other hand, I couldn't quite disbelieve, and if it were all true I realised that things might be very awkward for me if I happened to die in that state of mind.  A very weak character?  Yes, of course I was."

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Photographs courtesy of Photos of the Great War website

The Parados was the side of a trench farthest from the enemy.

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A M Burrage - War is War