Memoirs of an Infantry Officer



In February 1926 Dr J.C. Dunn, during the war Medical Officer in the Second Battalion Royal Welch Fusiliers, in which Sassoon had served for two months in 1917, wrote to him asking if he would like to contribute to the regimental history he was compiling. Sassoon’s inital response took the form of a poem, ‘A Footnote on the War’, in which he expressed his reluctance to re-live his war memories:

in those seven odd years I have erected A barrier, that my soul might be protected Against the invading ghosts of what I saw In years when Murder wore the mask of Law.

But he soon relented and, using his war diaries, he wrote a brief account which eventually appeared as Chapter XII, ‘A Chapter in a Subaltern’s Life’, in Dunn’s book, The War the Infantry Knew 1914–1919. But owing to unforeseen circumstances, Dunn’s book did not appear until 1938, and by that time Sassoon had incorporated much of this material in the second volume of his own memoirs.


Paradise Lost Unforeseen Circumstance Autobiographical Account Military Authority Home Front 
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  1. 1.
    Cf. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, pp. 74–8 & Diaries 1915–1918, pp. 824. Sassoon made only some minor changes, the most interesting of which is that whenever the diaries mention “Huns” this is replaced in the book by “Germans”.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Brian Finney, The Inner I. British Literary Autobiography of the Twentieth Century (London, 1985), p. 172.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    All page references in the text are to the first edition, published by Faber & Faber in September 1930.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Edmund Blunden, Undertones of War (Harmondsworth, 1982), p. 242.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    When Graves published his Lawrence and the Arabs in 1927, he wrote to Edmund Gosse asking him if he would not like to review the book. Sassoon considered this a reprehensible form of log-rolling. Shortly after the death of Thomas Hardy in January 1928, Graves wrote to Sassoon asking him if he might be interested in writing a short and lively biography. Sassoon wrote back saying that he regarded this proposal part of the “vulgar uproar” surrounding Hardys death. In his reply Graves made abundantly clear that he did not believe in literary ‘elders and betters’: “I treat everyone as an equal unless they prove themselves inferior”.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. In Broken Images, pp. 196–209 & 220–33.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    Craig Raine, ‘Siegfried Sassoon’ (1973), in: Haydn & the Valve Trumpet (London, 1990), pp. 165, 167.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Though Raine gives some pertinent examples, he apparently takes Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man to be a volume of straight autobiography, completely disregarding its finer points. Also, one cannot help feeling that his critical judgment has been impaired by his dislike of the world of the fox-hunter, and his sympathy for the infantry officer’s stand against the war.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    The Great War and Modern Memory, p. 104.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    Cf. Jon Silkin, Out of Battle, p. 132: “although he was in contact before and during the war with Edward Marsh and the Georgians, nothing in the Memoirs indicates either contact with, or interest in, the Imagists”. Silkin here clearly confuses biographical knowledge about Sassoon’s career and the limitations of the Sherston persona: George Sherston is not a writer and there is nothing in the Memoirs that links him with the contemporary literary world: it is true that the Imagists are never mentioned, but there is nothing in the Memoirs that suggests contact with, or interest in, Marsh and the Georgians either.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    George Parfitt, Fiction ofthe First World War, (London, 1988), p. 142.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Cf. Goodbye to All That, pp. 215–16.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    In Broken Images, p. 199.Google Scholar

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© Paul Moeyes 1997

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