Slight thread digression but have you read 'The War The Infantry Knew' by James Dunn? He was the MO of 2RWF and served with Graves, Sassoon and Richards. In fact Siegfried Sassoon wrote a poem about him:Greetings Colonial! I knew of Graves and read his book a few times. I didn't mention him to Stacker because Graves sounded too English, Stacker would have jumped onto it! , I visited Graves house in Majorca a few years ago, but I had no idea of his German connection, so thank you for that! I don't know if you have read the book 'Old Soldier's Never Die' by Frank Richards RWF a superb read, apparently the Archives have revealed that Graves had some input into the Grammar of that book?
A Footnote on the war (On Being Asked to Contribute to a Regimental History) [the aforementioned book]
A Lenten blackbird singing in the square
Has called me to my window, Thence one sees
Sunshine-pale shadows cast by leafless trees-
And houses washed with light. One hears out there
A Sunday-morning patter of pacing feet,
And Time, in drone of Traffic, drifting down the street.
When I was out in France, nine years ago,
The Front was doubly-damned with frost and snow:
Troops in the trenches cowered on the defensive,
While the smug Staff discussed the Spring Offensive.
Rest-camps, though regions where one wasn’t killed,
Were otherwise disgusting: how we hated
Those huts behind Chipilly! Drafts we drilled
Were under-sized arrivals from belated
Chunks of the population wrongly graded
As fit for active service. No one cursed
The weight of an equipment more than they did,
Poor souls! I almost think they were the worst
Soldiers who ever gulped battalion stew;
And how they fired their rifles no one knew.
We’d got a Doctor with a D.S.O.
And much unmedalled merit. In the line
Or out of it, he’d taught the troops to know
That shells, bombs, bullets, gas, or even a mine
Heaving green Earth Howard heaven, were things he took
For granted, and dismissed with one shrewd look.
No missile, as it seemed, could cause him harm.
So on he went past endless sick-parades;
Jabbed his inoculation in an arm;
Gave “medicine and duty” to all shades
Of uninfectious ailment. Thus his name
Acquired a most intense, though local fame.
Now here’s his letter lying on my table,
Reminding me that, by some freak of chance,
He sauntered through three years of gory France
Unshot. And now, as samply as he’s able,
He’s quietly undertaken to compile
His late battalion’s history. Every mile
They marched is safely store inside his head …
I visualize the philosophic smile
That mask his wounding memories of the dead.
He asked me to contribuye my small quota
Of reminiscente, What can I unbury? ….
Seven years have crowded past me since I wrote a
Word a war that left me far from merry.
And 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.
Well-what’s the contribution I can send?
Turn back and read what I’ve already penned
So jauntily. There’s little left to say …
I’m not the man I was. Nine years have passed;
And though the legs that marched survive today,
My Fusiliering self has died away;
His active service came and went too fast.
He kept a diary. Reading what he wrote
Like some discreet ejecutor I find
The scribbled entries moribund-remote
From the once-living context of his mind.
He wrote as one who craved to leave behind
A vivid picture of his personality
Foredoomed to swift extinction. He’d no craft
To snare the authentic moments of reality;
His mind was posing to be photographed:
“If I should die”…. His notebook seldom laughed.
The distant Doctor asks me to report
That morning “when the Bosche attacked the Block”
When my detachment functioned to support
Some Cameronians who had “got the knock”...
Our own artillery fire was dropping short;
A sniper shot me through the neck; the shock
Is easy to remember. All the rest
Of what occurred that morning has gone west.
“The battle and the sunlight and the breeze;
Clouds blowing proud like banners;” lines like these
Were written in the way by many a poet
Whose words range false, although he didn’t know it.
The battle and the breeze were up that morning
For my detachment, staff and chilled and yawning,
When out from underground they swore and stumbled;
The sun shore bright; intense bombardments grumbled,
And from their concrete-nests machine-guns rattled-
In fact the whole Brigade war properly embattled.
But how can I co-ordinate this room-
Music on piano, pictures, shelves of books,
And Sunday morning peace-with him for whom
Nine years ago the World wore such wild looks?
How can my brain join up with the plutonian
Cartoon? … The trench, and a fair-haired Cameronian
Propped in his pool of blood while we were throwing
Bombs at invisible Saxons … War’s a mystery
Beyond my retrospection. And I’m going
Onward, away from that Battalion history
With all its expurgated dumps of dead:
And whats remains to say I leave unsaid.
Siegfried Sassoon, 1926