The concluding question of that highly amusing parody, 1066 and All That, asks half-seriously, ‘What price Glory?’ The phrase alone might be sufficient to date the book as a twenties publication, since it was a popular one deriving from a well-known war film of 1926.1 The title of Seliar’s and Yeatman’s book also alludes to Robert Graves’s best-selling autobiography of 1929. Yet the phrase itself might have been attributed to any of a vast number of war novels and memoirs which had appeared in the last four years of the decade. The literature of war published in the interwar years, but chiefly between 1927 and 1930, fundamentally affected the modern conception of war and of humanity engaged in it. This literature set out to destroy what romantic illusions remained of battle, and was especially savage towards conventional notions of heroic behaviour, of how and why men faced up to death in war. Just how effective this destruction was can be judged by comments from two writers, both holders of the Military Cross, who had done much to sustain the conventional notions. Writing in 1930, ‘Sapper’ remarked, ‘It is the fashion now, I know, to speak of the horrors of war; to form societies for the abolition of soldiers.’ And in 1931 Ian Hay, author of The First Hundred Thousand, wrote that ‘in certain eyes, the soldier is no longer a hero, or for that matter, a man’.2


Moral Understanding Conventional Notion Heroic Action Cultural Hero Social Heroism 
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© John Onions 1990

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  • John Onions

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