Cambridge's £1.25m bid for WW2 poet's archive

Siegfried Sassoon CBE is one of Britain's best known and best loved war poets, known for such poems as The Old Huntsman and Counter-Attack.

After winning the Military Cross during his Word War One service - and even being recommended for a Victoria Cross - he became highly critical of the war movement and wrote satirically in his poetry and, later, prose.

Now, seven boxes of Sassoon's writings are to be sold following the death of his son George in 2006. Since, there have been great efforts to keep the archive together and in the UK.

Cambridge University has been fundraising to try to achieve the necessary £1.25m. Now the National Heritage Memorial Fund has pledged £550,000 to the campaign, which brings the university within £110,000 of its goal.

Sassoon's bravery during his WW1 service is beyond question, even beyond sanity. His efforts, including endless sorties into danger to retrieve the dead and wounded as well as capturing a German trench earned him the nickname Mad Jack amongst fellow soldiers.

He joined up with patriotic enthusiasm, but refused to return to the front line after injury in 1917, accusing the authorities of prolonging the war unnecessarily in a text titled The Soldier's Declaration, which is in the archive.

Sassoon's refusal to return could easily have resulted in his being shot for cowardice; and he probably only survived because of his recorded valour, and after fellow poet Robert Graves persuaded him to declare himself a victim of shell shock.

The boxes include letters, drafts of poems (some unpublished), diaries, sketches and photos - some spattered with trench mud and candlewax. Aside from their memorabilia value, the books give some of the best descriptions of what World War I was like at the front line.

Sassoon's official biographer Max Egremont has described the collection as "extraordinary".

The response to Cambridge University's campaign shows a strong wish to preserve British heritage. Similarly, an 11ft Union Jack flown at the Battle of Trafalgar sold for an amazing £384k to an American buyer, last week.

Cambridge's Sassoon collection will become the greatest in the world, if their campaign is successful.

If you have a passion for war memorabilia, Paul Fraser Collectibles currently has two rare and prized artefacts which can be yours to own: a signed photo of Winston Churchill and a letter written by the legendary World War Two general George S Patton.

Featured products

Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Elvis Presley Authentic Strand of Hair
Sale price£399
In stock
Fidel Castro signed certificateFidel Castro Signed Certificate
Fidel Castro signed certificate
Sale price£2,995
In stock
King Henry VIII Autographed DocumentKing Henry VIII Autographed Document
King Henry VIII Autographed Document
Sale price£55,000
In stock