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Mike Allen

Dr. Benjamin Lieberman


20th Century European History
14 September 2014
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Paper
World War I, originally referred to as The Great War, was a horrific and senseless
conflict that resulted in the loss of thousands of lives of people who had no real stake in
the conflict. Despite this fact the soldiers originally approached the war with much
enthusiasm as they were sent off to do battle. Later, after the soldiers had experienced the
horrors of combat, the troops morale was lowered to a point where many had come to
question the reason as to why they were fighting. In the face of this disgusting loss of
human life the soldiers lost faith in their countries and their leaders. In Siegfried
Sassoons book Memoirs of an Infantry Officer a soldiers experience of World War I is
documented and recorded to show the dark side of the conflict. The book was written by
Sassoon as a way of documenting his own experience of the war, but instead creates the
character of George Sherston to be the surrogate storyteller from which we experience
Sassoons account of the war. Sassoons book shows how soldiers opinions on the war
changed after they had first hand experience with combat.
Sassoon writes about aiding the wounded during a skirmish I prided myself on
pulling off something rather heroic; but when all was said and done it was the only sort of
thing which people often did during a fire or railway accident (pg. 28). This shows how
Sassoon originally thought of his actions in the war as heroic, and how he saw the
battlefield as a place for heroism and honor. This outlook would later change. This is

evident when Sassoon later writes of news of his old battalion viewed broadmindedly,
the attack had been quite a commonplace fragment of the War. It had been a hopeless
failure (Pg. 202). Sassoons outlook on the death of the officers of Second Battalion
shows a growing distaste for the conflict. Sassoon continues to show resentment towards
the war when he writes Out there its just one thing after another, and one soon forgets
the bad times; Its only when one gets away from it that one begins to realize how
stupid and wasteful it all is (pg. 208). This statement summarizes completely Sassoons
final thoughts on The Great War.
Memoirs of an Infantry Officer is a gripping account of a war which changed the
face of Europe in the 20th century. After World War I many veterans held a new outlook
on life on which not much mattered. As if witnessing the slaughter of thousands had
somehow clued them in to the oddity of the human condition. This shared traumatic
experience caused the soldiers attitude toward the war to change from one of optimistic
enthusiasm to that of somber indifference and bitter resentment. This is the effect that
combat had on how soldiers regarded World War I.