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Dive Copse British Cemetery in Sailly-le-Sec, France.

Dive Copse British Cemetery in Sailly-le-Sec, France.

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Sunday, May 20, 1917

"May 20 [1917]

When I woke early this morning to hear the bird-voices, so rich and shrill in the grey misty dawn, piping hoarse and sweet from the quiet fragrance of the wet garden and from the green dripping woods far off—lying in my clean white bed, drowsy and contented, I suddenly remembered 'At zero the infantry will attack'—Operation Orders! Men were attacking while I lay in bed and listened to the heavenly choruses of birds. Men were blundering about in a looming twilight of hell lit by livid flashes of guns and hideous with the malignant invective of machine-gun fire. Men were dying, fifty yards from their trench—failing to reach the objective—held up.

And to-night the rain is hushing the darkness, steady, whispering rain—the voice of peace among summer foliage. And men are cursing the downpour that drenches and chills them, while the guns roar out their challenge."

Quotation Context

Entry for May 20, 1917, from the diary of Siegfried Sassoon, British poet, author, Second Lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers, and recipient of the Military Cross for gallantry in action. Sassoon had been wounded, shot through the shoulder by a sniper, in an April 16 attack on the village of Fontaine-lès-Croisilles in the Battle of Arras.


Siegfried Sassoon Diaries 1915-1918 by Siegfried Sassoon, pp. 170–171, copyright © George Sassoon, 1983; Introduction and Notes Rupert Hart-Davis, 1983, publisher: Faber and Faber, publication date: 1983


1917-05-20, 1917, May, Dive Copse British Cemetery