I write on Nov 11th, when we remember the dead of all wars, but especially those of the Great War, which ended with an armistice on this date, allowing the world to prepare for newer and greater brutalities. A quarter of those sent out from Britain lay dead. Nobody who took part was unmarked. Geoffrey Keynes went out as a young surgeon and in his memoirs, The Gates of Memory, written sixty years later, describes the fear that literally paralysed him when he was called out to face a hail of bullets in order to pronounce a soldier past saving. He later became a knighted surgeon and famous bibliophile. Another half-remembered knight of that era was Sir Herbert Read, whose literary studies gather dust in every second-hand bookshop. Here, in response to Wordsworth’s lines,
“Who is the Happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?