Sassoon’s experience of this horror was not only through seeing its effects on his comrades. He experienced the effects of this new industrialized warfare, personally and physically. The year he wrote “Attack,” he was shot in the head mistakenly by a member of his own troops. Previously during his service his little brother had been killed in the trenches, and in 1916 he both risked his life by crossing no-man’s-land in order to rescue other wounded soldiers and managed to take a German trench by himself. He experienced the war to its fullest degree of bloodshed, all the while writing poetry in the vein of “Attack” about this experience.1
His experiences did not solely result in poetry. While on leave in 1917, Sassoon revealed pacifist tendencies in a brave move. He published a statement in the London Times on July 31, 1...
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...ish because the writer is, but essential to Sassoon’s message is that the nationality doesn’t matter. There are the same “grey, muttering faces,” and the same hopelessness on all sides of the war.
“Attack” gives historians a perspective of the lived experience of soldiers in the war –a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those actually fighting. Importantly, this is a viewpoint away from imperial centers where poetry about the war is likely to be romantic and to call upon British nationalism and “bravery.” Soldiers were not unaffected by what they went through during the First World War. The apparent meaninglessness of the war and carnage of industrial weaponry was especially obvious to them. Sassoon’s poem is a reminder that from beginning to end, World War One was fought by lines of men, their faces “masked in fear,” walking straight into “bristling fire.”
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