R. C. Sherriff was born in 1896. He was an officer in the East Surrey Regiment during the First World War. He was sent home when he was wounded in the battle of Passchendale in 1917. The play is based on real life experiences, mirroring the way that he and his companions lived.
He died in 1975 and “Journeys End” is what he is best remembered for. Before the First World War the world mainly controlled by two major alliances; Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy in the Triple Alliance and Britain, France and Russia in the Triple Entente.When Kaiser Willhelm was made leader of Germany he began to build up their forces. This made the other countries arm themselves as well. After a few years most of the countries in Europe had loads of weapons and men doing nothing. It was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinande, the heir to the Austrian throne, which started the war.
He was shot by Gabrilio Princip who was working for the Serbian Black Hand. Austria sent troops into Serbia, this meant that Russia supported Serbia, and Germany and Italy helped Austria.France was in the alliance with Russia, so Germany marched through Belgium to attack France. Before Germany went into Belgium, Britain could have stayed out of the war but a treaty with Belgium bound them. Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914.
Germany had an army of over a million advancing towards Paris. They got so near to the city that they could see the Eiffel Tower but in the battle of the Marne they were stopped. Both sides started to dig trenches to protect their positions. These trenches started on the coast of Belgium and finished in the Switz Alps.
For the next four years millions of men were sent “over the top” to push the enemy back and get an all-important breakthrough. Hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives and very little territory was gained on either side. The play is based in a small dug-out fifty yards from the front line. All the furniture they have is a small table in the middle of the room, a wooden frame covered in wire netting to serve a double purpose as a bed or a chair. By the table there is a wooden bench and two boxes for seats.
The other beds are in different rooms leading off from the main room.These beds have no wire netting and the men have to dangle their arms and legs over the sides to stay in. Bottles held the candles, Which is the only source of light. These are very basic furnishings and must have made it more difficult for the soldiers if they could not get a good sleep when they weren’t on duty. Because of the simplicity of the trenches there were millions of rats sharing the trenches with the soldiers. Mason in Act 1 describes the food and he is really guessing what it is because of the poor state it is in.This shows the stress well because the soldiers couldn’t even get a decent meal.
They also have to mix whisky with the water because the water tastes foul. This is caused by the disinfectant put in it. In the play this shows the audience that soldiers had to live without basic amenities that they take for granted. R.
C. Sherriff has a good range of personalities for his leading characters and shows how each one deals with the stress and fear of living near the front line. Osborne or Uncle as he is know by, is old and looks after the younger members of the company.He thinks the war is romantic and this helps him cope. “Osborne: .
.. Think of it as – as romantic. It helps.
” Hibbert does not cope at all well in the play and from the outset complains that he has neuralgia in his eye and is in a lot of pain. Stanhope believes that he is faking it and is trying to get sent home. Trotter copes with the stress by eating as much as he can and putting his mind to small things e. g. Filling in the circles every hour to pass the time.
I’ve got an idea! I’m going to draw a hundred and forty-four little circles…
Stanhope copes but openly admits that it is only because he is doped with alcohol most of the time. Stanhope has more to cope with than the others do because he has been on the front line for the longest amount of time, three years. Stanhope is completely different to how he was before the war. You can see this when Raleigh is talking to Osborne.
“Raleigh: … I remember once at school he caught some chaps in a study with a bottle of whisky. Lord! The roof nearly blew off.
He gave them a dozen each with a cricket stump. This is totally different to the Stanhope in the play. This re-creates the stress and fear well because it shows what the men were pushed into just to cope. At the end of Act 1, Stanhope is drunk and as Osborne is putting him to bed he asks him if he can be tucked in and given a kiss goodnight. I think he does this because he wants to go back to his childhood and feel secure and carefree. Throughout the play Raleigh is learning from the other officers on how to deal with the stress and fear of being on the front line.
A major similarity between the characters is the small talk about insignificant subjects but if you were living with the same people for months on end with nothing changing, then you would have to talk about small things to keep your spirits up. Overall R. C. Sherriff re-creates the stress and fear of the men on the front line effectively. I think that the characters personalities are well developed and true to how the men would have felt at the time because R.
C. Sherriff fought in the war himself and could put personal feeling and reactions into the fictional characters.