In the poem, “Base Details,” Siegfried Sassoon expresses his great disgust towards the majors in the military. He is disgusted and appalled at the way the majors act while men are dying out in the battlefield. Sassoon is angered by the fact that the majors are living a life of luxury while sending young men “up the line” out into the battlefield.
The title of the poem suggests these ideas. “Base” indicates a military installation, but another meaning is morally low; and the word “details” can mean facts or assignment.
The poem is about morally vile majors at a base and the lowly assignments they give their men. Sassoon begins the poem by describing the majors as demanding, mean, and cowardly men. They are bald, out-of-shape and full of gluttony. Sassoon calls the majors as “scarlet majors,” signifying that they are shameful and morally apprehensible. Their faces have a bright redness from excessive drinking, eating, and yelling of anger. Scarlet” also represents the blood these majors have on their hands from speeding “glum heroes up the line to death” because they are willing to pick fights but won’t fight them. The majors “speed” the soldiers to the battlefield, doing it carelessly, demonstrating they don’t care if they die because they see them as replaceable objects.
These soldiers are being sent “up the line to death”, dehumanizing them because these men are in a line waiting for their death while the major are living their luxurious lives away from a war they started.Sassoon is sickened by the fact these men are “guzzling and gulping in the best hotel” while the soldiers are dying in battle. He describes how disrespectful the majors are with their “puffy petulant faces” from eating and drinking excessively. Sassoon describes how the majors are drinking and stuffing their faces while “Reading the Roll of Honor” in safe, luxurious hotels. The Roll of Honor is the list of men who have died in battle, and these majors do not take it seriously.They are reading this list as if it were a newspaper. They are barbaric and arrogant and show no respect for those who have died in battle.
The fact that these majors are like that sickens the reader. For this, Sassoon feels so contemptuous towards the majors for they are demanding, but hypocritical. Sassoon uses sarcasm in expressing the major’s speech, “Poor young chap, I’d say- I used to know his father well. Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap. ” The major refers to these horrific battles as “scraps. He does not care about the soldiers in these battles because he does not know how horrific these battles are. Sassoon uses the expression “youth stone dead” to show that casualties are high and an entire generation is lost during this war.
It also represents how those who survive lose their youth and their innocence. While the soldiers go through all that pain and suffering, the majors would “toddle safely home and die- in bed. ” The majors go back home still drunk and enjoy the money and wealth they have gained and die of old age or other causes.