If you have read Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy than you will have come across this extraordinary man.
Siegfried Sassoon is known as one of England's greatest war poets. He was born in 1886. He was no ordinary soldier but a decorated hero, awarded the Military Cross for bravery. In 1917 he became demoralized with the war and wrote the "Soldier's Declaration" in protest.
This is the actual declaration.
Lt. Siegfried Sassoon.
3rd Batt: Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of agression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practised upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not enough imagination to realise.
It was this declaration that was the reason for Sassoon being sent to the Craiglockhart Military Hospital, which is a major part of the first Regeneration novel.
Through his poetry you can feel the hatred and horror of the trenches and his poetry is very powerful.
Suicide in the Trenches.
I knew a simple soldier boy Who grinned at life in empty joy, Slept soundly through the lonesome dark, And whistled early with the lark.
In winter trenches, cowed and glum, With crumps and lice and lack of rum, He put a bullet through his brain. No one spoke of him again.
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye Who cheer when soldier lads march by, Sneak home and pray you'll never know The hell where youth and laughter go.
Such a short poem and yet it says so much. The boy who represents the soldiers, the youth, who can take no more, and who are experiencing the "real" war in the trenches as opposed to the medals and the glory many of them went searching for, especially in the early years of the war.
I shall post some more of his poetry as I read it.