Siegfried Sassoon was a poet best known for his First World War poetry
When and Where was he Born?
8th September 1886, Brenchley, Kent, England. Christened Siegfried Louvaine Sassoon.
Siegfried Sassoon was the second of three sons of Alfred Sassoon who was from a family descended from oriental Jews and Theresa Thorneycroft from a family of artists.
Marlborough School. Clare College, Cambridge. (Studied law and history but left before he completed his degree).
Chronology/Biography of Siegfried Sassoon:
After leaving Cambridge University he lived the life of a country gentleman and filled his days engaging in sports and writing poetry. His verses were not noticed either by the critics or the book buying public.
1914: Joined up on the 2nd August two days before the Outbreak of the First World War as a cavalry trooper in the Sussex Yeomanry.
1915: Siegfried Sassoon became an officer in the Royal Fusiliers and was posted to the Western Front. He was christened “Mad Jack” by the other soldiers as they thought him recklessly brave. (November 1st) His younger brother Hamo was buried at sea after being mortally wounded at Gallipoli.
1916: (March 18th) Second Lieutenant David Thomas (Dick Tiltwood of “Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man”) was killed whilst out with a wiring party on the Western front. He was awarded the Military Cross for bringing back a wounded man to safety under heavy gunfire when his platoon was involved in a raid on the Kiel trench. During the first day of the Battle of the Somme he was held in reserve in support trenches opposite Fricourt. He was moved up to the front on July 4th. After being recommended for another decoration he was finally sent home in late July suffering from Trench fever. Whilst on a visit to London with Robert Ross he was introduced to Arnold Bennet and H.G. Wells. He reported back for duty at Liverpool in December.
1917: (February) He returned to the front but was struck down by German Measles. (April) Once recovered he was wounded in the shoulder at the Second Battle of the Scarpe and sent back to England. Whilst recuperating he talked to several prominent pacifists including Bertrand Russell. He became outspoken about the way the British military establishment were running the war and published a “Soldier’s Declaration” which stated that the war was deliberately being prolonged. This hostility was also reflected in his poetry. His graphic and satirical style caused controversy when his first collection “The Old Huntsman” was published. He was so maddened by what was happening that he threw away his Military Cross. Robert Graves managed to avoid Sassoon receiving a Court Martial and he was sent to Craiglockhart Hospital in Edinburgh suffering from shell shock. Here he met Wilfred Owen. (November) He was passed fit for duty once more and returned to the regimental depot.
1918: (January) Siegfried Sassoon was posted to Limerick. (February) He was posted to Palestine. (May) Posted back to the Western Front in France near Mercatel then on to St Floris. (July 13th) His old foolhardiness had returned and he attacked a German trench with no other support than a single Corporal. He was wounded in the head and invalided back to England. Publication of “Counter Attack” poems caused further controversy. Despite his attacks on authority he was sent back to the fronts in France and Palestine where further injuries forced him to return to England for good. In the years following the war he wrote three semi-autobiographical works and three volumes of autobiography. He spent a short period as literary critic of the Daily Herald newspaper but gradually went back to being a country gentleman.
1919: He had been officially on Sick Leave at the end of the war and was finally discharged in March. During this period Sassoon met many other men of letters including Thomas Hardy in Dorset, Walter de la Mare and T.E. Lawrence. He became Literary Editor of the Daily Herald for a short while. The next five years he spent mainly living in London but with extensive lecture tours of the United States and many parts of Europe.
1928: Began work on his autobiography which ran to six volumes of semi-fictional prose.
1936: Birth of his son George.
1937: Publication of “The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston”, his autobiography.
1945: Siegfried Sassoon was not called up for military service during the Second World War but lived peacefully at his home, Heytesbury House in Wiltshire where he was to remain until his death.
1948: Wrote a biography of George Meredith.
1956: Published “Sequences” a book of poetry which is spiritual in tone.
1957: Siegfried Sassoon became a Roman Catholic.
1917: “The Old Huntsman”.
1918: “Counter Attack”.
1919: “The War Poems”. “Picture Show”.
1926: “Satirical Poems”.
1928: “The Heart’s Journey”.
1930: “Memoirs of an Infantry Officer”.
1933: “The Road to Ruin”.
1936: “Sherston’s Progress”.
1940: “Rhymed Ruminations”.
1947: “Collected Poems”
1933 to Hester Gatty. (Divorced 1945)
When and Where Did he Die?
1st September 1967, Heytesbury, Wiltshire, England.
Age at Death:
Site of Grave:
St Andrews Church, Mells, Somerset, England.
Places of Interest:
The British Library.
The Imperial War Museum.
Folkestone Museum and Sassoon Gallery, 2 Grace Hill Folkestone, CT20 1HD.