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Tag: World War One

The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock

The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock

We greatly value the Library’s War Poets Collection, housed at our Craiglockhart campus, and this week we’d like to highlight two anniversaries connected with the Collection. Read on to find out more about The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock.

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon

Siegfried Loraine Sassoon was born in Kent on 8th September 1886 and signed up for active service on the very day the UK declared war on Germany – 4th August 1914. Sent to the Western Front, he soon earned himself the nickname “mad Jack”, such was his exceptional and reckless bravery on the battlefield. In fact, Sassoon’s actions were so inspiring that he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916.

Nevertheless, Sassoon developed a bitter and abiding opposition to the War and was threatened with court-martial for writing an anti-war declaration that was read out in Parliament. Afterwards, he was sent to Craiglockhart, then a military psychiatric hospital, for treatment for what was then known as shell shock.
It was at Craiglockhart that Sassoon met fellow poet Wilfred Owen in 1917. Through mutual encouragement, their poetry flourished, and today they’re regarded as two of the greatest artists to emerge from World War I.

Sassoon survived the Great War and continued writing for the rest of his life. We have copies of his collected poems which you can access by logging into LibrarySearch

John Arthur Brock

Local lad, John Arthur Brock was born on the 9th of September 1878 in Kirkliston, just outside Edinburgh. After qualifying as a medical doctor, he worked for spells in Vienna and Berlin before returning to his native city.

Dr Brock was one of the doctors who treated the soldiers at Craiglockhart Hospital for shellshock, or neurasthenia as he called it. The characteristics of neurasthenia, he believed, were “dissociation, disintegration and split personality” and the way to treat it was holistically, specifically by reintegrating patients with their environment and restoring community links. This often meant hard physical work.

In volume 60 (2005) of the Journal of the history of medicine and allied sciences, David Cantor quotes Siegfried Sassoon remembering that Dr Brock “pushed his patients out of bed in the dark cold mornings and marched them out for a walk before breakfast. Rumour has it that they bolted themselves into lavatories and bathrooms (the bolts had been removed) but he was wise to that”. (Department of Documents, Imperial War Museum, London).

Brock retained a life-long interest in the treatment of psychiatric illnesses. In 1925 he moved to North Queensferry and established a convalescent home for nervous patients.

The War Poets Collection further Information

To find out more about The War Poets Collection: Siegfried Sassoon and Dr Brock, visit the collection online on our special collections website. You can also visit the collection at our Craiglockhart Campus, but please check access times in advance.

Read more about the War Poets on our blog:

War Poets Collection: Remembering Siegfried Sassoon

The Poet and the Doctor, Craiglockhart War Hospital 1917 (War Poets Collection)

Let’s leave the last words of this piece to Sassoon:

Does it Matter?
Does it matter – losing your legs?…
For people will always be kind,
And you need not show that you mind
When the others come in from hunting
To gobble their muffins and eggs.

Does it matter – losing your sight? …
There’s such splendid work for the blind;
And people will always be kind,
As you sit on the terrace remembering
And turning your face to the light.

Does it matter – those dreams from the pit? …
You can drink and forget and be glad,
And the people won’t say that you’re mad;
For they’ll know that you fought for your country
And no-one will worry a bit.

Collected Poems 1908-1956, Faber & Faber, 2002.

By Lesley McRobb

Remembrance Day and The Poppy

World War One, Remembrance Day and The Poppy

The battles of the First World War (WWI) devastated the countryside of Western Europe. One of the plants that survived the churned-up battlefields was the poppy. As the soldiers saw scarlet poppies bloom through the terrible destruction, they were encouraged to see that life could recover. One soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write the poem, In Flanders Fields, in the spring of 1915. 

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie, 

 In Flanders fields

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Subsequently, Since WW1 the poppy has become the universal emblem of remembrance, symbolising the sacrifices that soldiers in past wars made for us. 

The Selling of Poppies

In the United Kingdom, artificial poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion in the run-up to 11th November (Poppy Day). Importantly this is when the Armistice (an agreement to end the fighting) began at 11am on 11th November 1918. Furthermore, sales from the poppies go to providing financial, social and emotional support to British Armed Forces serving soldiers, former soldiers and their dependents. This year is the centenary of the UK Poppy Appeal. 

The original Poppy Days were created by Madame Guerin to raise funds for the French widows and orphans of the War. In 1921 she took samples of her artificial poppies to the Royal British Legion and proposed an Inter-Allied Poppy Day during which all WW1 allied countries use artificial poppies as an emblem of remembrance.

The poppies would be made by French widows and orphans and raise funds for the families of the fallen as well as survivors of the conflict. Although the idea was initially not well received by the British public, the WW1 British Army commander Earl Haig was keen, and after that, when the Royal British Legion held its first Poppy Day on 11th November 1921, it was a great success. Those first poppies were made in France, but from 1922 British veterans made the poppies at the Richmond factory which now employs 50 ex-servicemen all year round. In 1926 Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established to produce poppies for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies are made by hand each year. 

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