‘War is hell’

as Sherman wrote

‘War is hell’, Sherman wrote. But it is not the complete picture. War is also thrilling, boring and ridiculous. For every Sassoon or Owen traumatised by his ordeal, there is a Capt. Greenwell, of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, who wrote home during the First Battle of the Somme: ‘It is an extraordinary sort of battle and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. I think we shall soon enter upon another violent phase. I hope so…’

He wanted to beat the enemy, a far more common sentiment among the men than the pacifist ambivalence of war poets. Bomb school he found ‘ripping’ fun, and in the depths of the wretched winter of 1915, while struggling to fulfil new duties as Transport Officer, Greenwell confided: ‘My mind is deeply engaged with a grand dinner party I am giving…’