In the interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s several books about World War I came out that have become seminal works in their own right. Among these is Goodbye To All That by Robert Graves, his autobiography written and published in 1929 that mainly covers his time as a British officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers on the Western Front during the war.
As opposed to other memoirs or semi-autobiographical accounts of the war such as Storm of Steel or All Quiet on the Western Front, Goodbye To All That is essentially an unvarnished account of what the war was like for an unconventional English gentleman. Graves was from the lower aristocracy and did not come from an especially wealthy family but he was a product of the English Public School system and went straight from school into the army at the outbreak of the war.
He became an officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and was back and forth between France and England from early 1915 until he was essentially invalided from active frontline service due to wounds and what we would today call PTSD but was then known as nervousness or shell shock.
He was different from the stereotypical English officer of the day in that he took an interest in the lives of his men and not just their physical welfare. He identified with, empathized with, and shared the trials and tribulations of his men. He did not always get along with his superiors and his attitude got him into trouble at times. Whilke the bookis not pro-war, it is also not anti-war it essentially is what it is, the story of one man’s somewhat irreverent service in the British Royal Army in World War I.
He writes in an easygoing style that is enjoyable to read and he brings the various other characters in the book to life in a way that many writers of the period do not. It is easy to see why this book became an instant classic upon its publication in 1929 and has remained in publication ever since.
The wonder is that it has not become required reading on the war in academic circles as it has faded and is now only read by academics for the most part. The book presents a much more realistic and human account of World War I than do other more famous works. This is a highly entertaining and readable book that I highly recommend to even the casual reader.