Sas­soon man­u­script un­veiled in ex­hi­bi­tion on anti-war protests

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

A hand­writ­ten poem by Siegfried Sas­soon is to go on dis­play for the first time as part of an ex­hi­bi­tion on anti-war protest, the Im­pe­rial War Mu­se­ums (IWM) have said.

The man­u­script of one of Sas­soon’s most fa­mous war po­ems, The Gen­eral, will be dis­played at IWM Lon­don as part of the Peo­ple Power: Fight­ing For Peace ex­hi­bi­tion.

More than 300 ex­hibits, from paint­ings to posters, ban­ners and mu­sic, stretch­ing from the first world war to the present day, will ex­plore anti-war protest and the cre­ativ­ity used to cam­paign against con­flict, the IWM said.

The Gen­eral was writ­ten in April 1917 from Sas­soon’s hos­pi­tal bed in Lon­don, where he was re­cov­er­ing from a shoul­der wound in­flicted while he was lead­ing a bomb­ing as­sault.

The man­u­script in the ex­hi­bi­tion is a later hand­writ­ten ver­sion dated 7 Fe­bru­ary 1919, and is an­grier than the one pub­lished in his sec­ond col­lec­tion, Counter-At­tack and Other Po­ems, in 1918. In this ver­sion of the poem, which con­trasts the com­mon sol­diers with the in­com­pe­tent mil­i­tary lead­ers who sent them to their deaths, he changes the last line from “did for them” to “mur­dered them”.

Sas­soon en­listed at the start of the first world war but be­came in­creas­ingly op­posed to the con­flict fol­low­ing his ex­pe­ri­ences of trench war­fare.

He was awarded the Mil­i­tary Cross for gal­lantry for bring­ing back wounded and dy­ing com­rades dur­ing a raid on en­emy trenches in 1916.

Af­ter re­cov­er­ing from his wound in 1917, he re­fused to re­turn to duty. He wrote to his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer, en­clos­ing a state­ment claim­ing that “the war is be­ing de­lib­er­ately pro­longed by those who have the power to end it”, which was later read out in par­lia­ment.

Rather than court mar­tial a hero, the au­thor­i­ties sent Sas­soon to Craiglock­hart hos­pi­tal near Ed­in­burgh. He later re­turned to the front.

Other items go­ing on dis­play in­clude a hand­writ­ten let­ter by the au­thor AA Milne on strug­gling to rec­on­cile his paci­fism with the rise of Hitler. Peo­ple Power: Fight­ing For Peace at IWM Lon­don runs from 23 March to 28 Au­gust

In the sec­ond ver­sion of the poem The Gen­eral, Siegfried Sas­soon changes the last line from ‘did for them’ to ‘mur­dered them’

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