To put this speech in context, it's important to note that Lewis's experience with wars began long before the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. He had served and suffered injury in WWI, and though he was 40 when war broke out again, he was still eligible for being recalled to active duty. He dreaded the thought, writing in a letter to a friend:
"My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service, to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil; pain and death, which is what we fear from sickness; isolation from those we love, which is what we fear from exile; toil under arbitrary masters. … which is what we fear from slavery: hunger, thirst, and exposure which is what we fear from poverty. I'm not a pacifist. If it's got to be it's got to be. But the flesh is weak and selfish, and I think death would be much better than to live through another war.""
Instead of serving at the front in WWII, Lewis served the Home Guard by patrolling Oxford, rifle on his shoulder, in the wee hours of the morning. But Lewis made a far greater contribution to the war effort with words. He was invited to speak to groups of soldiers, to students, and to his entire country via a series of BBC broadcasts. One of his best-known books, Mere ...