"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 this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose 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 on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not, and which they have not sufficient imagination
to realize".
Siegfried Sassoon's Political Statement, quoted here in full under the heading,  put the British government in a difficult position when the statement was published in 1917.

Sassoon had previously served in the trenches in France with conspicuous bravery and had been awarded a Military Cross before being wounded and returned to England to recover. His subsequent "statement" - a protest against the war - was not only published in the media of the day, it was also the subject of parliamentary debate. How could the British Army high command respond to Sassoon's very public comments? They could hardly prosecute him for cowardice or treason.
The response of the Powers that Be was to declare Sassoon (temporarily) insane. It was during his recuperation at Craiglockhart (Mental) Hospital in Scotland that the older Sassoon (known as "Uncle" by the younger officers) not only met the youthful Wilfred Owen, then just 24 years old, but actively encouraged Owen to write and publish poems.

Both Sassoon and Owen felt guilty that their comrades were dying in France whilst they remained in comparative safety. Both men applied to return to active service, a request which was readily granted by senior army officers. Whilst Sassoon was to survive the war, Wilfred Owen was killed just seven days before peace was declared in November 1918.
Sixteen poets from World War I, including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, are commemorated on a memorial in London's Westminster Abbey: The poets of the Great War.

Ross Barnett

Owen meets Sassoon from "Regeneration" (1997)

The author of this article, Ross Barnett, has written a short documentary on the subject . The project is a short (ten minute) documentary shot in HD video which demonstrates not only the poetry of the Soldier Poets of the First World War (notably Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon), but also their political and social relevance. With the centenary of the declaration of World War I due in the foreseeable future (August 2014), the subject matter is not only topical but also relevant to the history of warfare throughout the ages. Check Ross Barnett's website HERE

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