Advertisement

Witnesses to Death: Soldiers on the Western Front

  • Natasha Silk
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter explores the response of British soldiers who fought on the Somme between July and November 1916 to bereavement. While historians concede that these soldiers were affected, sometimes profoundly, by their battlefield experiences, this is usually balanced by the belief that in time they became hardened to the sights of violent death. Nevertheless, the belief that emotional stoicism was such a vital part of the pervading construct of masculinity that emotional responses from soldiers were rare and when they did occur, were frowned on, deserves to be more thoroughly interrogated by historians. The diaries, memoirs, trench journals, and oral testimony of soldiers provide ample proof that they constructed, processed, or attempted to mask their feelings in a variety of ways in response to bereavement.

References

  1. Aitkens, Alexander. Gallipoli to the Somme: Reflections of a New Zealand Infantryman. Wellington and Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1963.Google Scholar
  2. Ashworth, Tony. Trench Warfare, 1916–1918: The Live and Let Live System. London and Basingstoke: The Macmillan Press, 1980.Google Scholar
  3. Audoin-Rouzeau, Stephane, and Annette Becker. 14–18: Understanding the Great War. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002.Google Scholar
  4. Bourke, Joanna. Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War. London: Reaktion Books, 1999.Google Scholar
  5. Brown, Malcolm. Tommy Goes to War. Gloucestershire: The History Press, 1978.Google Scholar
  6. Davies, Jan. “One Hundred Billion Dead: A General Theology of Death”. In Ritual and Remembrance: Responses to Death in Human Societies, ed. Jan Davies. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  7. Dewing, Thomas Alfred. Catalogue Number: 19073, The Imperial War Museum, 1999.Google Scholar
  8. Drinkwater, Harry. Harry’s War: The Great War Diary of Harry Drinkwater. St. Ives: Edbury Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  9. “Editorial. 1916.” The Outpost. Aug 1, 1916.Google Scholar
  10. French, David. Military Identities: The Regimental Systems, the British People and the British Army c. 1870–2000. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.Google Scholar
  11. Fussell, Paul. The Great War and Modern Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.Google Scholar
  12. Hay, William G. Do Funerals Matter? The Purpose and Practice of Death Rituals. New York: Routledge, 2013.Google Scholar
  13. H.C.A. “Editorial.” The Outpost, October 1, 1916.Google Scholar
  14. Hewitson, Mark. “German Soldiers and the Horrors of War: Fear of Death and Joy of Killing in 1870 and 1914.” History, 101, no. 346 (2016): 396–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Irwin, Alfred Percy Bulteel. 1973, 211, The Imperial War Museum.Google Scholar
  16. Jalland, Pat. Death in War and Peace: Loss and Grief in England, 1914–1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.Google Scholar
  17. Lifton, Robert J. The Broken Connection: On Death and the Continuity of Life. New York: Basic Books, 1983.Google Scholar
  18. Linzell, Lieutenant Harold Harding. Fallen on the Somme: The War Diary of 2nd Lieutenant Harold Harding Linzell M.C. 7th Border Regiment. Ed. M.A. Argyle. Bideford: Shadow Books, 2015.Google Scholar
  19. Loez, Andre. “Tears in the Trenches: A History of Emotions and the Experience of War.” In Uncovered Fields: Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Jenny Macleod and Pierre Purseigle. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004.Google Scholar
  20. Lynch, E.P.F. Somme Mud: The Experiences of an Infantryman in France, 1916–1919. London: Transworld Publishers, 2006.Google Scholar
  21. Parkes, Colin Murray. Bereavement: Studies of Grief in Adult Life. London: Penguin Books, 1998.Google Scholar
  22. Philpott, William. Blood Victory: The Sacrifice on the Somme. London: Abacus, 2014.Google Scholar
  23. Portelli, Alessandro. “The Peculiarities of Oral History”. History Workshop Journal, no. 12 (1981): 96–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Prior, Robin, and Trevor Wilson. The Somme. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2006.Google Scholar
  25. Roper, Roper. The Secret Battle: Emotional Survival in the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  26. Rynearson, Edward K. Retelling Violent Death. Philadelphia: Brumer-Routeldge, 2001.Google Scholar
  27. Sheffield, Gary. The Somme. London: Cassell, 2003.Google Scholar
  28. Summerfield, Penny. Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives: Discourse and Subjectivity in Oral History Interviews. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  29. Todman, Dan. The Great War: Myth and Memory. London: Continuum, 2005.Google Scholar
  30. Van Emden, Richard. The Quick and The Dead: Fallen Soldiers and Their Families in the Great War. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.Google Scholar
  31. Watson, Alexander. Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  32. Whiltlam, Wilfred. 1987, 9882, The Imperial War Museum.Google Scholar
  33. Winter, Denis. Death’s Men: Soldiers of the Great War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.Google Scholar
  34. Winter, Jay. “Representations of War on the Western Front, 1914–18: Some Reflection in Cultural Ambivalence.” In Power, Violence and Mass Death in Pre-modern and Modern Times, ed. Joseph Canning, Hartmut Lehmann, and Jay Winter. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

Personalised recommendations