Thanks to Mary Grover for sending me this clipping from the Sheffield Telegraph, September 1939.
Their sardonic regular columnist P. G. Bond is foretelling that among the horrors of war will be a spate of war literature. Interestingly, he assumes that this will be just like the books and plays that came out of the previous war:
As satire the article is a bit heavy-handed. All Noise on the Siegfried Line is an echo of Remarque’s novel, famous for its frankness, but the point Bond seems to be making is that censors will stop novelists being frank.
The reference to ‘a dug-out on the Western Front’ shows that this writer, like many others at the time, expected the new war to be a repeat performance of the old one. there was an expectation, too, that the literature of this war would be just like the last. ‘Where are the war poets?’ asked commentators aggrieved that the new war had not yet produced either a Brooke or an Owen.
Where the article scores, I think, is in its parody of Journey’s End, with the banal conversation hiding a wealth of subtext.
This, of course, was a style that would greatly influence the literature of World War II – and the cinema especially. Sherriff himself contributed to scripts like The Dam Busters and The Night my Number Came Up, but his style was widely copied. Films were full of reticent pipe-smoking soldiers and sailors, speaking in clipped clichés that disguised their true depth of feeling.