The Soldier Artist and Poet

Many soldiers, from all ranks, pulled out their sketch books to either record or escape from the harsh realities of the First World War. Making use of their artistic abilities, they created unique images of their experiences. Others turned to poetry to make sense of the chaotic world they now faced. The works of four men are featured in individual case studies in this theme: Eric Aldwinkle, Bernard Trotter, Siegfried Sassoon and Julian Gould. The artwork and poetry of other soldiers can also be found here.

Creative Dialogue Across the Ocean: Eric Aldwinckle’s Letters to Harry Somers

Eric Aldwinckle was working as a graphic design artist and as an instructor at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto when the Second World War broke out in Europe. A conscientious objector, he stayed away from the battlefront until he was appointed to the War Artists Group in late 1942. He set off for England in 1943, where he was attached to the Coastal Command and Fighter Command.

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McMaster University’s Own Soldier Poet: Bernard Trotter

In the fall of 1915, the British War Office contacted the University of Toronto for help in recruiting students for the officer corps of the British (Imperial) Army. One of the fifty young men who answered the call to service was Bernard Freeman Trotter, a twenty-five-year old graduate of McMaster University who was just beginning advanced studies at the University of Toronto.

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The Great Ones and the Great War: Siegfried Sassoon’s Bitter Poem, “Great Men”

For many British soldiers and civilians alike, the First World War had become hopeless and seemingly endless by the summer of 1918.

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Julian Gould: “Love, Order, Progress”

Julian Gould was the son of Mahalah Elizabeth and Frederick James Gould (1855-1938); his father was a teacher, author, socialist and secularist. Born in 1891 in London, Julian was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School and studied art at the Municipal School of Art in Leicester. He won the school’s silver medal for a shaded drawing of a man’s head from life, and in 1910 he went to Paris to sketch. Yet in the five years after that, Gould worked as a printer’s designer – he was pursing a career in art but only at the fringes.

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