World War I From Both Trenches.

2118 words - 8 pages

After the industrial revolution, all facets of life were permanently altered. Not the least of these changes was warfare. Battles in the twentieth century were to be won with increasingly larger and more deadly armaments such as tanks, dreadnaughts and machine guns. Consequently, the ordinary combat soldier was faced with much more deadly and efficient dangers in the field despite the fact that humans cannot be made more impervious or brave no matter how much technology had advanced. This might not have been an issue if there had been no wars to fight, but by 1914 several European powers had grown through colonization and the industrial revolution and all were eager to challenge their neighbors for supremacy. But while the politicians made their plans for conquering rival nations, their sons were being shipped, railroaded or driven in taxis to engage in a brand new kind of war. The experiences of those men were unimaginable to civilians who were not near the front or in the enemy's way. Robert Graves and Ernst Junger, an Englishman and a German respectively, each published memoirs of their World War I combat experience. While some descriptions were similar, each author also had unique attitudes towards the war. Through combining their accounts, we can gain a full perspective of the atrocities of the Great War.Robert Graves came from a classic Victorian upbringing. His early life involved harassment, both verbal and physical, from his classmates while attending various boarding schools. Graves was an intellectual and also of German descent. He understandably did not enjoy his time at these schools, particularly at Charterhouse. But it was at Charterhouse that he began to think independently and became an agnostic. He had a problem respecting authority and criticized his masters. He wrote, "what passed as the public school spirit... we felt as fundamental evil" (Graves 37). After a few years, he had attained seniority and was suddenly a little reluctant to leave. He was wary of his future as a freshman at Oxford and feared being harassed as he had been in the past. Also around this time, England declared war on Germany. All newspapers prognosticated a short conflict. Fear of matriculating, the promise of "a very short war" and the expectation of no combat duty convinced Graves to apply for a commission (Graves 67). His first assignment was fruitless as he was stationed at an internment camp for German aliens. Frustrated, he longed to join his peers in France. He wrote, "guarding prisoners seemed an unheroic part to be playing in the war, which, by October, had reached a critical stage; I wanted to be abroad fighting" (Graves 72).Ernst Junger had his own attitudes upon entering the war. He did not include details about his youth as Graves had, but his pre-war mentality was also gung ho. Junger foresaw a great adventure and was inspired "to carry forward the German ideals of '70" and believed that there was "no death lovelier in the world... anything...

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