The First World War: trauma and memory
The First World War: trauma and memory

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The First World War: trauma and memory

3.1.2 Vera Brittain

Described image
Figure 4 Vera Brittain, 1893−1970. This photograph was taken in 1918.

The British writer Vera Brittain served as a nurse during the war, and lost her fiancé, brother and two close friends in the war. She was appalled by the horrific injuries she witnessed, and through her multiple bereavements became increasingly disillusioned with the validity of the war. Yet, despite her developing disillusionment, Brittain’s wartime letters and diaries reveal that she clung to many of the romantic and patriotic ideals that legitimised the conflict. By doing so, she reassured herself that those she loved had not died in vain. This ambivalent attitude was by no means uncommon. After the war, Brittain published her autobiography Testament of Youth (1933), which poignantly recalled her bereavements and vehemently denounced the war. Yet even in this text the ambivalence remains.

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