Diary of a Dead Officer

West Arthur Graeme West

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Born in September 1891, Arthur Graeme West was a quiet and self-effacing youth with a passion for literature, who went on to become a keen Oxford scholar. When war broke out in 1914, for some time it left him untouched. However, in January 1915, in a rush of enthusiasm, he enlisted as a private in the Public Schools Battalion. From that time, until his death in April 1917, his life was a succession of training in England and fighting in France, with short intervals of leave.West joined due to a feeling of duty and patriotism, but the war was to have a profound effect on him. He developed an intense abhorrence of army life and began to question the very core of his beliefs — in religion, patriotism and the reason for war. This growing disillusionment found expression in two particularly powerful war poems, God! How I Hate You, You Young Cheerful Men and Night Patrol, which stand deservedly alongside those of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen.In August 1916, he became a second lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Shortly after, he wrote to his CO renouncing the war and any further part in it — but he could not bring himself to post the letter. Less than a year later, on April 3rd, 1917, he was shot dead by a sniper's bullet near Bapaume.Written with complete frankness and sincerity, Diary of a Dead Officer gives voice to West's struggle to come to terms with the realities of war and is a poignant tribute to a lost generation of soldiers.

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