The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, C.B.E., M.C., Poet and Novelist, son of Alfred Ezra Sassoon, financier and sculptor and Theresa Georgina Sassoon [Thornycroft]
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Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, the second of three sons of Alfred Ezra Sassoon and Theresa Georgina Thornycroft, was born on 8th September 1886 at Weirleigh, Matfield, near Brenchley in Kent. The Sassoons were a wealthy Baghdadi and Indian Jewish merchant family and the Thornycrofts were a notable English Catholic family of sculptors, artists and engineers. Alfred Sasson was disinherited for marrying outside the Jewish faith and after six years of marriage, when Siegfried was four, the couple separated. Five years later in 1895 Alfred Sassoon died of tuberculosis.

Siegfried was educated at Marlborough College and then Clare College, Cambridge, but in 1907 left university without a degree. For the next seven years he hunted and played cricket in Kent, and began to develop his talent for poetry, some of which he published privately.

WWI was to change Siegfried's life. After a period with the Sussex Yeomanry, Siegfried joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers as a second lieutenant on 29th May 1915. As his battalion was preparing to leave for France, Siegfried was hit hard by the death of his younger brother Hamo on 1st November 1915 from wounds received in the Gallipoli campaign. Siegfried's bravery and leadership on the Western Front was exceptional. He was nicknamed "Mad Jack" for his exploits and was awarded the Military Cross on 27th July 1916 for conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches.. In April 1917 he was wounded and during his convalescence in Oxford met with pacifist friends including Bertrand Russell. He was inspired to write Finished with the War: A Soldier's Declaration which he sent to his commanding officer and to a sympathetic M.P. who read it out in the House of Commons. It was also published in The London Times. Being a serving officer Siegfried could have faced a court martial for this defiant statement but instead the Under-Secretary of State for War sent Siegfried to Craiglockart War Hospital in Edinburgh to be treated for "shell shock" where he met and strongly influenced the war poet Wilfred Owen. Siegfried was treated by the psychiatrist W.H.R. Rivers who became a life-long friend. In 1918 Siegfried returned to active service in Palestine and then France where he was wounded again on 13th July and returned to Britain having been promoted to acting captain.

Siegfried's reputation as a war poet was secured with the publication of The Old Huntsman and Other Poems in 1917 and Counter Attack in 1919 - containing over 100 realistic and compassionate poems about the war. Throughout the 1920s he published numerous collections of poems, dabbled in politics and toured extensively in the U.S.A. and Europe. In 1928 he published his first novel - Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man - a fictionalised autobiography about his early years in Kent where he figures as the narrator George Sherston. The novel was an immediate success and won the Hawthornden and James Tait Black memorial prizes. Two more fictionalised autobiographies followed Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930) and Sherston's Progress (1936). Later in life Siegfried would write his genuine autobiography in three volumes - The Old Century and Seven More Years (1938), The Weald of Youth (1942) and Siegfried's Journey (1945) and then in 1948 published a biography of George Meredith. Throughout this period until the 1960s he continued writing and publishing his poetry. In the 1951 New Years Honours he was made Companion of the British Empire.

Siegfried's personal life after the war is marked by his search for a life-time companion. He also began to express his homosexuality more openly as he conducted a series of unsuccessful affairs with a number of his artistic and aristocratic friends. In 1931 Siegfried moved to Wiltshire where he was to stay for the rest of his life and in 1933, to the surprise of many, he married Hester Gatty who was twenty years his junior. They bore one child George Thornycroft Sassoon (1936-2006) who became a scientist, linguist and author. The marriage broke down in 1945. In 1957 Siegfried converted to Roman Catholicism and he paid regular visits thereafter to the nuns at Stanbrook Abbey who printed some of his later work.

Seigfried Sassoon died on 1st September 1967 one week before his 81st birthday of stomach cancer. He is buried at St Andrew's Church, Mells, Somerset. On 11th November 1985, Siegfried was among sixteen Great War poets commemorated on a slate stone unveiled in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. The inscription, written by Wilfred Owen, reads:

"My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

See also
Date
Type
Information
Source
 
8th Sep 1886
Born
At Weirleigh in the Parish of Matfield, Kent; registered at Tonbridge District, Kent; ref: 1886 Q4 Vol 2a Page 675
ODNB web site
 
1917
Published
The Old Huntsman and Other Poems
Collection of 72 poems
published by William Heineman
 
30th Jul 1917
Declaration
Finished with the War: A Soldier's Declaration
 
Whilst recovering from wounds received on the front, Siegfried, who had witnessed the death and suffering of many of his friends and colleagues, incuding the death of his close friend David Thomas, decided that he should make some sort of protest and in 1917 he wrote his Finished with the War: A Soldier's Declaration. He sent it to his commanding officer, to his friends and to Hastings Lees Smith, M.P. who read it out in the House of Commons. It was published in The London Times the following day.
I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellows soldiers entered upon this War should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attained by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolonging those sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the War, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which has been practised upon them; also I believe that it may help to destroy the callous complacence with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realise.
 
1918
Published
Counter Attack
Collection of 39 poems
published by William Heinemann
 
Counter-Attack
© Siegfried Sassoon by kind permission of the Estate of George Sassoon


   We'd gained our first objective hours before
While dawn broke like a face with blinking eyes,
Pallid, unshaved and thirsty, blind with smoke.
Things seemed all right at first. We held their line
With bombers posted, Lewis guns well-placed,
And clink of shovels deepening the shallow trench.
The place was rotten with dead; green, clumsy legs,
High-booted, sprawled and grovelled along the saps;
And trunks, face-downward in the sucking mud,
Wallowed like trodden sand-bags loosely filled;
And naked sodden buttocks, - mats of hair, -
Bulged, clotted heads, slept in the plastering slime.
And then the rain began, - the jolly old rain!

A yawning soldier knelt against the bank,
Staring across the morning blear with fog;
He wondered when the Allemands would get busy;
And then, of course, they started with five-nines
Traversing, sure as fate, and never a dud.
Mute in the clamour of shells, he watched them burst,
Spouting dark earth and wire with gusts from hell,
While posturing giants dissolved in drifts of smoke.
He crouched and flinched, dizzy with galloping fear,
Sick for escape, loathing the strangled horror
And butchered, frantic gestures of the dead.
An officer came blundering down the trench:
'Stand-to and man the fire-step!' On he went,
Gasping and bawling, 'Fire-step … counter-attack!'

Then the haze lifted. Bombing on the right
Down the old sap; machine-guns on the left;
And stumbling figures looming out in front.
'O Christ, they're coming at us!' … Bullets spat,
And he remembered his rifle … rapid fire …
And started blazing wildly … then a bang
Crumpled and spun him sideways, knocked him out
To grunt and wriggle; none heeded him; he choked
And fought the flapping veils of smothering gloom,
Lost in a blurred confusion of yells and groans …
Down and down and down, he sank and drowned,
Bleeding to death. The counter-attack had failed.
 
1919
Published
Picture Show
Collection of 34 poems
privately printed
 
1919
Published
War Poems
Collection of 64 poems
published by William Heineman
 
1923
Published
Recreations
Collection of 24 poems
published by Chiswick Press
 
1925
Published
Selected Poems
Collection of 67 poems
published by William Heineman
 
1926
Published
Satirical Poems
Collection of 32 poems
published by William Heinemann
 
1927
Published
The Heart's Journey
Collection of 28 poems
published by William Heinemann
 
1928
Published
Memoirs of a Foxhunting Man
Fictional autobiography - part one
published by Faber & Gwyer
 
1930
Published
Memoirs of an Infantry Man
Fictional autobiography - part two
published by Faber & Faber
 
1933
Published
The Road to Ruin
Collection of 7 poems
published by Faber & Faber
 
Dec 1933
Married
Hester Gatty at Christchurch in the County of Hampshire
 
 
1935
Published
Virgils
Collection of 35 poems
published by William Heinemann
 
1936
Published
Sherston's Progress
Fictional autobiography - part three
published by Faber & Faber
 
30th Oct 1936
Birth of a son
George Thornycroft, in London
www.thepeerage.com
 
1938
Published
The Old Century and Seven More Years
Autobiography - part one
published by Faber & Faber
 
1940
Published
Poems Newly Selected
Collection of 58 poems
published by Faber & Faber
 
1940
Published
Rhymed Ruminations
Collection of 42 poems
published by Faber & Faber
 
1942
Published
The Weald of Youth
Autobiography - part two
published by Faber & Faber
 
The Weald of Youth
© Siegfried Sassoon by kind permission of the Estate of George Sassoon
Commences:
Late one afternoon, at the end of May, in the year 1909, I was driving myself home from Tunbridge Wells in our new dog-cart, which was a very comfortable one, two-wheeled, rubber-tyred, nicely varnished, and much the same colour as brown sherry. Under the seat was my cricket-bag. And beside me, below my straw hat, which I had placed over it for safety's sake, was this week's number of The Academy. To call it this week's number was an understatement of its significance; for it contained a sonnet to which my initials were reticently appended, and I was feeling appropriately elated. My sonnet wasn't an exhilarating one, for it was about the poet Villon when he was rather more down and out than usual. But there it was, for everybody to read; and when I got home one I would read it again myself, with due appreciation of its finely-cadenced ending.

and ends:
The years of my youth were going down for ever in the weltering western gold, and the future would take me far from that sunset-embered horizon. Beyond the night was my new beginning. The Weald had been the world of my youngness, and while I gazed across it now I felt prepared to do what I could to defend it. And after all, dying for one's native land was believed to be the most glorious thing one could possibly do!
 
1945
Published
Siegfried's Journey
Autobiography - part three
published by Faber & Faber
 
1956
Published
Sequences
Collection of 62 poems
published by Faber & Faber
 
1960
Published
The Path to Peace
Collection of 29 poems
published by Stanbrook Abbey Press
 
1966
Published
Something About Myself
A poem
published by Stanbrook Abbey Press
 
1st Sep 1967
Died
At Heytesbury in the County of Wiltshire; aged 80 years
ODNB web site
 
after 1st Sep 1967
Buried
At St Andrew's churchyard, Mells in the County of Somerset
 

Headstone


SIEGFRIED
LORAINE
SASSOON
1886-1967
R.I.P.


Ancestor's report
Descendent's report
Sasson, Sassoon individual records
The ancestral pedigree of Siegfried Loraine Sassoon, C.B.E., M.C., Poet and Novelist
  
 Sheikh Ben Saleh Sassoonm: c 1785Amam Gabbay 
 b: 1750 Baghdad, Iraq, son of Saleb Sassoon
d: 1830 Bushire, Iran
  b: 1746 daughter of Abraham Gabbay
d: 1821
  
      
 Benjamin Yamen Joseph Reuben David Simon 
 b: 1785 to 1790 Baghdad, Iraq b: 1785 to 1790 Baghdad, Iraq b: 1791 Baghdad, Iraq
d: 1802
 b: October 1792 Baghdad, Iraq
d: 7th Nov 1864 Pune, Maharashtra, India
 b: 1795 Baghdad, Iraq 
            
Great-Great-
Grandfather record
   
   
   
2nd marriage David Sassoonm: 1828Fahra (Flora) Hayim 
 b: October 1792 Baghdad, Iraq
d: 7th Nov 1864 Pune, Maharashtra, India
  b: 1814 Baghdad, Iraq, daughter of Freddy Faraj Hayim and Rifka Elkebir-Gabbay
d: 1886 Calcutta, India
  
           
Sassoon David  Arthur Abraham David  Aaron David Kate Rebecca Simha Frederick David Mozelle 
b: 1832 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 23rd Jun 1867 Langham Hotel, Portland Place, London, Effect under £120,000
  b: 1840 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 13th Mar 1912 Ascott, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, aged 72 years; Effects £376,863 16s 5d
  b: 1841 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 5th May 1907 35 First Avenue, Hove, Sussex, Effects: £88,361 9s
 b: 1844 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 1917 Steyning, Sussex, aged 73 years
 b: 1847 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 1918
 b: 1850 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 1857
 b: 1853 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 14th May 1917 17 Koghtsbridge, London, Effects: £696,400 10s 4d
 b: 1855 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 26th May 1952 Hove, Sussex
 
   David Reuben Solomon David            
   b: 1835 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 7th Mar 1905 Sussex, Effects: £92,037 17s 6d
 b: 1841 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 1894
            
                 
Great-
Grandfather record
   
   
   
 Sassoon David Sassoonm: 1850 Bombay, Matraharash, IndiaFahra (Flora) Reuben 
 b: 1832 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 23rd Jun 1867 Langham Hotel, Portland Place, London, Effect under £120,000
  b: 1836
d: 7th Mar 1919 37 Adelaide Crescent, Brighton, Sussex, Effects: £8,068 17s 11d
  
     
 Joseph Alfred Ezra Frederick Meyer Rachel 
 b: 1856 Bombay, Matraharash, India
d: 2nd Jan 1918 London, Effects: £43,477 10s
 b: July to Sep 1861 London registered at St. Pancras District, London ref: 1861 Q3 Vol 1b Page 24
d: 18th Apr 1895 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, Sussex, Effects: £ 5,410 1s 1d
 b: 15th Jul 1862 London registered at St. Pancras District, London ref: 1862 Q3 Vol 1b Page 14
d: 3rd Oct 1889 Ashley Park, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, Personal estate: £52,162 15s 3d
 b: 1864
ch: 3rd Aug 1887 Holy Trinity, Upper Chelsea, Kensington, London, adult christening
 
           
Grandfather record
   
   
   
 Alfred Ezra Sassoon
financier and sculptor
m: January 1884 LondonTheresa Georgina Thornycroft 
 b: July to Sep 1861 London registered at St. Pancras District, London ref: 1861 Q3 Vol 1b Page 24
d: 18th Apr 1895 Grand Parade, Eastbourne, Sussex, Effects: £ 5,410 1s 1d
  b: 1853 St. Pancras, London, daughter of Thomas Thornycroft and Mary Francis
d: 1947 Tonbridge, Kent
  
    
 Michael Thornycroft Siegfried Loraine Hamo Watts 
 b: 14th Oct 1884 Tonbridge, Kent registered at Tonbridge District, Kent ref: 1884 Q4 Vol 2a Page 699
d: December 1969 Tonbridge, Kent, aged 85 years
 b: 8th Sep 1886 Weirleigh, Matfield, Kent registered at Tonbridge District, Kent ref: 1886 Q4 Vol 2a Page 675
d: 1st Sep 1967 Heytesbury, Wiltshire, aged 80 years
bur: after 1st Sep 1967 St Andrew's churchyard, Mells, Somerset
 b: Oct to Dec 1887 Weirleigh, Matfield, Kent registered at Tonbridge District, Kent ref: 1887 Q4 Vol 2a Page 701
d: 1st Nov 1915 Sulva Bay, Dardanelles, Turkey, died on board the hospital ship S.S. Kildonan Castle from wounds received in action; Effects: £18,904 9s 11d
 
        
Parental record
   
   
   
 Siegfried Loraine Sassoon
C.B.E., M.C., Poet and Novelist
m: December 1933 Christchurch, HampshireHester Gatty 
 b: 8th Sep 1886 Weirleigh, Matfield, Kent registered at Tonbridge District, Kent ref: 1886 Q4 Vol 2a Page 675
d: 1st Sep 1967 Heytesbury, Wiltshire, aged 80 years
bur: after 1st Sep 1967 St Andrew's churchyard, Mells, Somerset
  b: Apr to June 1906 registered at Kensington District, London ref: 1906 Q2 Vol 1a Page 157
d: 1973
  
  
 George Thornycroft 
 b: 30th Oct 1936 London
d: 8th Mar 2006
 
Family record

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