Siegfried Sassoon was born on 8 September 1886 in Matfield, Kent. His father, Alfred Ezra Sassoon, was part of a wealthy Jewish merchant family, originally from Iran and India, and his mother part of the artistic Thorneycroft family. Siegfried had one older brother, Michael, born in October 1884, and one younger brother, Hamo, born in 1887. His parents separated when he was very young, meaning that in his younger years he saw his father only rarely. Alfred died of consumption in 1895.
As a child Siegfried was prone to illness, and spent many hours reading and writing poetry. He was sent to study at the New Beacon School in Kent in 1900, followed by Marlborough College in 1902. Sassoon studied at Cambridge University but he left after a year without a degree. For the next eight years, he lived the life of a country gentleman, hunting and playing cricket while also publishing small volumes of poetry. Published privately, Sassoon's poetry made very little impact on the critics or the book buying public.
Siegfried joined the Sussex Yeomanry on 4th August 1914, the day that England declared war, but soon after broke his arm in a hunting accident. He received his commission as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers in May 1915, he was posted to the Western Front in France. Considered to be recklessly brave, he soon obtained the nickname 'Mad Jack'. While drilling at Litherland in November 1915, he received word of Hamo’s death at Gallipoli. Siegfried left England to join his battalion in France on 17th November (1915) just after the Battle of Loos, serving as a transport officer. In March 1916 Siegfried was finally able to secure a front-line placement. In April 1916, he attended 4th Army School at Flixecourt. He displayed courage and calm under fire, receiving a Military Cross for his actions during a raiding party in May 1916; in fact he displayed such bravery that he attracted the nickname 'Mad Jack'. He spent...
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