Prose & Poetry - Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon photograph Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) was born into a wealthy family on 8 September 1886 in Kent.  After studying at Marlborough College Sassoon attended Clare College, Cambridge, but left without graduating in 1907 (he was subsequently made an Honorary Fellow in 1953).

For the following eight years Sassoon lived the life of a country gentleman, spending his time hunting, playing cricket and golf, and writing poetry, the latter of which he had privately printed and which made little impact critically.

With the onset of the war, and at the age of 28, Sassoon enlisted first as a cavalry trooper in the Sussex Yeomanry before transferring to the Royal Welch Fusiliers as an officer in May 1915, where he met Robert Graves.  He quickly developed the nickname 'Mad Jack' for his fearless courage on the Western Front, often volunteering to lead night raids.

Sassoon was awarded the Military Cross in June 1916 for assisting a wounded man back to British lines while under fire.

After being wounded in April 1917 Sassoon was sent back to England for recuperation.  Sassoon had meanwhile developed increasingly angry feelings concerning the conduct of the war.  This led him to publish, in The Times, a letter announcing his view that the war was being deliberately and unnecessarily prolonged by the authorities.

Sassoon narrowly avoided punishment by courts martial via the swift assistance of Robert Graves, who convinced the military review board (with Sassoon's reluctant consent) that Sassoon was suffering from shell shock.  Consequently Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart military hotel to recover.  It was while at Craiglockhart that Sassoon met and struck up a friendship with Wilfred Owen.  Sassoon subsequently edited and arranged publication of Owen's work after the war.

Returning to the war following a spell at Craiglockhart, Sassoon was posted to Palestine before returning to France where he was again wounded, forcing a return home to England.

In addition to publishing anti-war rhetoric in The Old Huntsman (1917) and Counter-Attack (1918), Sassoon wrote three volumes of classic fictional autobiography loosely based upon his immediate pre-war and war experiences: Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man (1928, initially published under a pseudonym); Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930); and Sherston's Progress (1936).

He followed these with three volumes of actual autobiography: The Old Century (1938); The Weald of Youth (1942); and Siegfried's Journey (1945).

Siegfried Sassoon, who married once, died in 1967.

Britain introduced conscription for the first time on 2 February 1916.

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Prose & Poetry