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Sassoon decried the war, not its conduct

SIR – May I correct a detail in Simon Caldwell’s moving account of Siegfried Sassoon’s conversion and subsequent work (Feature, March 30)?

Sassoon’s “Soldier’s Declaration”, read out in Parliament and published in the Times in July 1917, was not “an unflinching statement of protest against the conduct and the objectives of the war”, but of the objectives only. In the declaration he stated that “this war, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest”, adding, “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.”

Indeed, in the draft version in his journal he specifies “military conduct”.

There is no doubt that Sassoon thought little of the military conduct of the war too, as he makes clear in one of his most famous of poems, “The General”, which Caldwell quotes. To have taken aim at the military as well as the political leadership, however, would not only have been supremely perilous but diluting of his central charge.

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