soldier memoirs, Dieppe veterans, disillusionment with war, editorial influence
Soldier memoirs have been used as an historical source for centuries. Their factual accuracy is less than that of official reports and histories that incorporate a wide range of sources, but they have become valued as a means to gain insight into the mindset of soldiers and have some of their experience transmitted to the reader. The experience transmitted to the reader is altered vastly from what the soldier experienced directly, due to the nature of human perception, memory, and the process of writing down his or her thoughts. This paper proposes a conceptual framework to assist in tracking the amount of distortion from the original event. This model is called the six degrees of alteration, in which the reader takes an active role during the final stage.
This paper uses the memoirs written by Dieppe veterans to chart changes from the experience of battle, through the writing process, and ending with the reader. One memoir in particular, that of Clifford Sewell, provides the main vehicle for examining this process, due to the additional material accompanying it. Some of his handwritten notes, plus an interview with his daughter who transcribed it, allow for an especially in-depth analysis of the role played by the editor in shaping the final product. Although Clifford’s goal of warning future generations about the horrors of war remains evident, the message is made less effective due to the editorial changes. It becomes clear that when reading military memoirs, the message is not solely due to what the soldier chose to convey.
Master of Arts
Major Research Paper