Image of Arthur Graeme West


Lifetime: 1891 - 1917 Passed: ≈ 106 years ago


Writer, Poet



Arthur Graeme West

Arthur Graeme West was a British writer and war poet. West was born in Eaton, Norfolk, educated at Highgate School, then Blundell's School and Balliol College, Oxford, and killed by a sniper in 1917.

West enlisted as a Private with the Public Schools Battalion in January 1915. He joined from a feeling of duty and patriotism, but the war had a profound effect on him. An individualist who hated routine and distrusted discipline, he developed an intense abhorrence to army life and began to question the very core of his beliefs – in religion, patriotism and the reason for war. This growing disillusionment found expression in two particularly powerful war poems he wrote during this time: "God, How I Hate You" and "Night Patrol". In his diary he describes reading Bertrand Russell's writings on pacifism, which made a great impression on him. In August 1916 he became a second lieutenant in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Shortly after, he wrote to his new battalion threatening to desert the army - but he could not bring himself to post the letter. Less than a year later, on 3 April 1917, he was shot dead by a sniper's bullet near Bapaume.

West is principally known for one book, The Diary of a Dead Officer (1919), which presents a scathing picture of army life and a vivid account of daily life in the trenches. The book was published posthumously and edited by C. E. M. Joad, an Oxford colleague of West's and an active pacifist (and contemporary of West's at Blundell's). It was reissued in 1991 by the Imperial War Museum and published again by Greenhill Books in 2007 with an introduction by Nigel Jones. The first edition of the book consisted of an introduction by Joad, extracts from West's 1915-17 diary, and several essays and poems. Joad edited the book as pacifist propaganda and it was published jointly by the left-wing Herald newspaper and Sir Francis Meynell's Pelican Press (Meynell's other publications had included Sassoon's protest in 1917). Jones' edition does not include Joad's introduction.

Books by Arthur Graeme West

The Diary of a Dead Officer  Cover image

The Diary of a Dead Officer

Poetry War Biography
Young Military Death Autobiography Poems Life

The Diary of a Dead Officer brings together the private papers of Arthur Graeme West. First published posthumously in 1917, it presents a scathing picture of army life, and West's poems, which make up the fifth section of the book, serve as a powerfu...