Sassoon diaries opened to the public

Image credit: PA via Daily Mail

Cambridge University has today announced that they have published the original, mud-stained diaries of the war poet Siegfried Sassoon online.

The 23 journals and two notebooks of poetry will now be open to the public, running from the years 1915-27 and 1931-32. They include Sassoon’s famously harrowing descriptions of the horrors of WW1 battlefields.

His letter ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’, a caustic criticism of the war which was read out in Parliament, is among the collection. The journals also contain his descriptions of being shot by a sniper at the Battle of Arras.

Sassoon was a soldier on the Western Front who was decorated for bravery, but grew thoroughly disillusioned with the war. ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’ was a lone protest, for which he avoided a court martial but was admitted to Craiglockhart War Hospital for shell shock. Whilst there, he met fellow war poet Wilfred Owen.

He survived the war, and became a celebrated writer, dying in 1967 aged 80.

In a statement commenting on the move, Cambridge University Librarian Anne Jarvis said: “The war diaries Sassoon kept on the Western Front and in Palestine are of the greatest significance, both nationally and internationally, and we are honoured to be able to make them available to everyone, anywhere in the world, on the 100th anniversary of the First World War.”

"The Sassoon archive is a collection of towering importance, not just to historians, but to anyone seeking to understand the horror, bravery and futility of the First World War”.

Alex Izza, an undergraduate History student from Magdalene, was pleased at the announcement: “This is a great way of adding to the building solemnity surrounding the WW1 centenary, showing the true horrors of war.”

The diaries and notebooks were purchased by the university in 2009 following a fundraising effort lead by Sassoon's official biographer Max Egremont.  Other notable supporters of the campaign included Sir Andrew Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Sebastian Faulks.

The archive, coming to 4,100 pages, can be accessed through the Cambridge University digital library at:

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