At the outbreak of war, 18-year-old Robert Graves was vacationing in Wales. Though he had won a scholarship to St. John’s College, Oxford, he quickly enlisted as a junior officer in the Royal Welch Fusiliers (the closest regiment at hand).
Graves fought in the Battle of Loos (September-October 1915) and was injured in the Somme offensive in 1916:
On 20 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme – four days before his twenty-first birthday – Graves was struck by a shell fragment, a piece of which passed through his shoulder and chest, seriously injuring his right lung. He was taken to a dressing-station, and next morning was reported to have died. The Times even printed his name in the list of war dead, later correcting this when it became known that he had survived his wounds and was convalescing in England. Damage to his nerves and general health meant that his return to France in 1917 was not for long, and he spent the remainder of the war in various posts in England and Ireland.
WHEN I’M KILLED
When I’m killed, don’t think of me
Buried there in Cambrin Wood,
Nor as in Zion think of me
With the Intolerable Good.
And there’s one thing that I know well,
I’m damned if I’ll be damned to Hell!
So when I’m killed, don’t wait for me,
Walking the dim corridor;
In Heaven or Hell, don’t wait for me,
Or you must wait for evermore.
You’ll find me buried, living-dead
In these verses that you’ve read.
So when I’m killed, don’t mourn for me,
Shot, poor lad, so bold and young,
Killed and gone–don’t mourn for me.
On your lips my life is hung:
O friends and lovers, you can save
Your playfellow from the grave.