Battlefield Journals of Siegfried Sassoon

The journals of Siegfried Sassoon are now on public display. While never put on such display in the past, the new decision to exhibit them has opened the public to a world of new poetry, as well as other writings in addition to small sketches. These journals come straight from the Western Front, and have suffered some wear and tear in the years between their eventual display and the times that Siegfried Sassoon was able to take a break from the fray to write in his notebooks.

Twenty-five volumes in all have been collected. In two of them, the young writer simply showcases his poetry. The rest, however, house a number of different works. A great deal of them are filled primarily with sketches, but there are also some writings that offer information helpful to understanding the war. Siegfried Sassoon made diagrams of the battlefields, allowing for a better view of where each army was located. In addition, he also kept track of casualties and recorded any important briefings the troops were given. As such, his journals offer both a view of the war through his eyes as well as a sample of raw data used to better understand the conflict.

The soldier was never without some form of notebook or journal, always toting one in his pocket. He wrote in the trenches, in the hospital, and anywhere in between so long as he could find the time. The writings of Siegfried Sassoon were sold to Cambridge University five years ago, for a sum of well over one million pounds. They quickly began the digitization process, until they had over four thousand pages loaded online for anyone and everyone to see.

This is the first time these writings have been made available in this manner, though not the first time the text has been made available in general. Previously, many of these pages were transcribed and issues in print. The ability to see the writings of Siegfried Sassoon precisely as they were written is a much different experience, which is why Cambridge has decided to digitize the journals in their entirety, The Telegraph reports.

The writings of Siegfried Sassoon present the thoughts of a man who was entrenched along with many others during a highly tumultuous period of history. The ability to see the pages as they were written allows readers to sense a very different feel in his writings from before and after he was shot. In addition, readers can see uncut original versions of one of the most famous poems by Siegfried Sassoon, “The Dug-Out.” The digitized journals are available to anyone wishing to view them, completely free of charge.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE