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Published just after the war, the protagonist, Harry Penrose is accused of cowardice and executed by firing squad. His story is one of heroics and, rather than cowardice, he is judiciously retreating to fight another day. Based on many of Herbert's own experiences, the book was the first novel to discuss execution for desertion and is said to have helped to alter the Army's policy. Lloyd George couldn't put it down and Churchill praised it.
Educated at Rugby and King's College Cambridge, Brooke was a member of the Fabian Society in Cambridge and one of the intellectuals of that era. He also studied in Munich. Brooke began to publish his poetry as early as 1905, at the age of eighteen. He travelled to Canada, the USA and the South Seas during 1913 and produced a number of poems during that time. In 1914, Brooke joined the Royal Naval Division and took part in the unsuccessful Antwerp campaign of that year. In February 1915, having joined the British Mediterranean Expiditionary Force, he sailed for the Dardanelles, but was later taken ill from blood poisoning and died aboard ship in the Aegean. He was buried on the island of Skyros.