Ravaged battlefield, c.1916 (SHC ref 2332/6/5/3/3; courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

Ravaged battlefield, c.1916
(SHC ref 2332/6/5/3/3;
courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

On 4 September 1916 Sherriff was discharged from the Artists Rifles, having been granted a temporary commission with the East Surrey Regiment as a second lieutenant. After a brief stint with the 3rd Battalion at Grand Shaft Barracks in Dover, Sherriff was ordered to France. He landed at Boulogne on 28 September 1916, and reached the 9th Battalion at Estrée-Cauchy on 1 October 1916. His active service came to an end when he was wounded in action on 2 August 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres). He was sent back to England for treatment and never returned to France.

Officers of “C” Company of the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, c.1917. Sherriff is second from left, back row (SHC ref 2332/6/4/2/3/3)

Officers of “C” Company of the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, c.1917. Sherriff is second from left, back row (SHC ref 2332/6/4/2/3/3)

His letters from this period give detailed accounts of his experiences and responses to being on the front line. They chart his transformation from a fresh faced junior officer to an experienced veteran who carried out his duty in the face of countless traumatic incidents and a mounting sense of mental strain. They also show how he formed close bonds with his fellow officers and used humour as a coping mechanism to try to shield himself from the horrors of the war.

Download a pdf (PDF) copy of the original exhibition panel.

Click on the links below to see the exhibition text and images:

To Journey’s End and Beyond: The Exhibition

The Man Behind Journey’s End

R C Sherriff’s Family Background

Sherriff and Kingston Grammar School

Sherriff and the Artists Rifles

The Genesis of Journey’s End

A Star is Born

The Making of a Playwright

The 1930s: Sherriff’s Golden Decade

Man of Letters: Sherriff’s Later Career

The Curtain Comes Down