VALOUR RARELY SURPASSED

The literary efforts of the Royal Welch Fusiliers saved for posterity a harrowing account of the Western Front during 1914-18. Peter Caddick-Adams examines the regiment’s history

“T rench warfare was mostly monotonous drudgery, and I preferred the exciting idea of crossing the mine-craters and getting into the German frontline,” wrote Siegfried Sassoon in his thinly disguised autobiography Memoirs of an Infantry Officer of 1930.

The author, a young officer of the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch (Welsh) Fusiliers became one of the representative voices of the trenches of World War One. In his book, Sassoon introduced us to his brother officers, including ‘David Cromlech’. This was Robert Graves, whose autobiographical memoir of the war, Good-Bye to All That, had appeared in 1929. These three in turn remembered a young signaller who fought in their battalion, Frank Richards. He had already served in India and Burma as a regular Welch Fusilier; he left and rejoined in 1914.

Earning both the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM), after the war he wrote to his old officer, Graves, asking him for advice in publishing his own memoir. Immediately impressed by what he read, Graves helped it towards publication in 1933. The book, Old Soldiers Never Die, which mentions Graves, and Sassoon, has rarely been out of print since. Some years later, James Churchill Dunn, a battalion medical officer, published a memoir of the war in 1938, The War the Infantry Knew, initially anonymously.

Want to read more?

This is a premium article and requires an active subscription.

Existing subscriber? Sign in now

No subscription?

Pick one of our introductory offers