Monday, 7 July 2014

Suicide in the Trenches - Siegfreid Lorraine Sassoon ( 8//9/1886- 1/9/67)


Following my recent post on Armed Forces Day, a poem by Siegfried Sassoon.
The trenches of  the First World War were a vast area of darkness and danger, dank and miserable conditions, often infested  with rats who ate the flesh of the dead. The stench  of unwashed humanity, all squashed together, combined with the smell of rotting flesh, and overflowing latrines, and the lingering smell of death and battle on accounts must have been unbearable.
Siegfried Sassoon witnessed  all this and came to see and understand the futility of conflict. In the following poem, the line ' No one spoke of him again.' illustrates how many soldiers at the time found dead  in the trenches at the time were simply forgotten. All his suffering, erased, because death which occurred in such vast numbers  simply merged into one.  Over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded in what is considered to be mong the deadliest of
conflicts in human history.
We should not forget the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers who were shot  on the orders of the military top brass, many suffering from shell shock, and what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress. Charged with desertion after  becoming dazed and confused, young disturbed, traumatised teenagers some of them , who had simply volunteered for duty.
Many other soldiers during the First World War were driven to suicide, or left with  mental exhaustion, depression and shell shock because of this war.
It has taken time, but the stigma of mental health issues  caused by conflict are  very real indeed. In the end  no glory in war, only sadness, this is how I choose to remember. This why humanity too, should  not forget the barbarity and futility  that the world has ever known.

Suicide in the Trenches

I knew a simple soldier boy
Who grinned at life  in empty joy.
Slept  soundly through the lonesome dark.
And whistled early with  the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum,.
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with  kindling eye
Who cheer  when soldier lads march by.
Sneak home and pray you'll never know
The hell where youth  and laughter go.

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