Journey's End - How do the key scenes present a dramatic demonstration of R.C Sherriff(TM)s views on comradeship and heroism in World War One?

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“Journeys End” by R.C Sherriff

20th century Drama Coursework



How do these key scenes present a dramatic demonstration of R.C Sherriff’s views on comradeship and heroism in World War One?

          In 1928, ten years after the ceasefire of World War One, dubbed as “the war to end all wars”, the author R.C Sherriff wrote his most famous play “Journeys End” which reflected his personal experience in the involvement as an officer in the battles of Ypres.

          The play is set in the British dugout in St Quentin, Northern France. R.C Sherriff shows that war isn’t at all glorious and splendid as the press made it out to be, and that it is in fact careless, unnecessary and violent.

         The first scene that I have chosen to support my answer with is in act 3, page 78, from the Colonel saying “all right sergeant major” until the end of the scene. This extract contains a dialogue between the Colonel, Raleigh, Stanhope and Sergeant-Major.

         As soon as this key scene begins, the Colonel shows the sense of authority and respect between him and the enemy German Prisoner. The German’s actions at the end of his interrogation (‘the German boy, calm now, bows stiffly to the Colonel and goes away’.) shows that the soldiers don’t really want to fight with each other and that comradeship and heroism is found often in both sides of the war.

         The Colonel is clearly very pleased with the capture of the German boy as he mutters “splendid” to himself whilst reading through the Germans paybook and he also compliments Stanhope on his performance even though he had nothing to do with the German soldiers capture.

         Stanhope is appalled by the way the Colonel is happy without even discussing events with him; “Stanhope has given one look of astonishment at the Colonel and strolled past him. He turns at the table and speaks in a dead voice.” His hero, Osborne has been killed tragically, and Stanhope is too mournful to think about his own heroic efforts. He then says sarcastically; “How awfully nice – if the brigadier’s pleased.” This tells you that Stanhope is trying to make the Colonel feel embarrassed with irony.

         The Colonel, who has been brought back into reality stares at Stanhope in bemusement before suddenly collecting himself and stuttering; “Oh – er – what about the raiding-party – are they all safely back?” The Colonel is caught off-guard as he forgot to mention one of the biggest priorities of the mission. This proves that the Colonel does not care about the safety of the men; the Colonel is worried because he knows that he has been selfish and inconsiderate to the men.

      Then, Stanhope puts the Colonel in the spotlight a second time by asking “Did you expect them to be all safely back, sir?” Stanhope and the Colonel both know that the answer is ‘no’ but the Colonel does not want to say this because of Stanhope’s fury

The Colonel then stumbles “oh – er – what – er –” because he knows that Stanhope is upset and now he is waiting for the news of who made it.

         Next, Stanhope informs the Colonel that four men and Raleigh came safely back.  Initially the Colonel doesn’t realize who didn’t make it, until he works it out that Osborne is dead and then he understands why Stanhope is so frustrated.  He offers an immediate but useless apology to Stanhope who is still very upset after losing one of his most dedicated men, a man who showed a lot of quiet heroism through these times.

         As Raleigh turns up from the steps, the atmosphere in the room changes and the Colonel becomes more relaxed after his anxious conversation with Stanhope; ‘he turns to the

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boy with enthusiasm.’ The Colonel treats Raleigh as if he has no emotion over Osborne’s death but he is clearly wrong as the

Colonel says, “Very well done, Raleigh. Well done, my boy. I’ll get you a military cross for this! Splendid!” Raleigh however does not want to hear the Colonel’s words of praise, as he is too shell-shocked to say anything. Raleigh knows that he is not the one that deserves a Military Cross and that Osborne's death was incredibly heroic because he waited for Raleigh as he could have saved himself.

         The Colonel ...

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