History GCSE / National 5: WW1 poetry, shell shock and Siegfried Sassoon

Jeremy Paxman explores the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon, mental health problems suffered by soldiers in the First World War, shell shock and the low morale caused by the huge British death toll.

Poet Siegfried Sassoon, a decorated war hero, expressed doubts about the purpose of the war, and the complacency of the commanders.

Instead of being court-martialled, he was declared mad and sent to Craiglockhart Hospital, a newly-established treatment centre for soldiers with mental health problems.

Paxman explains some of the treatments attempted by doctors who didn’t understand the condition. At Craiglockhart, the revolutionary idea of getting soldiers to talk about their traumatic experiences was tried.

We hear how Sassoon returned to the Front after three months out of solidarity with his men.

Teacher Notes

KS3: Use this clip to provide context for a study and analysis of war poetry.

KS4 GCSE: Use as a comparative tool in the study of medicine through time. Use as comparative evidence to be contrasted with the drawings of Otto Dix. Other examples too may broaden the analysis. Also useful to provide context about war poetry.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching History. This topic appears in at KS3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and OCR, Edexcel, AQA and WJEC/Eduqas GCSE/KS4 in England and Wales and CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland.

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