There has been a radio drama set in the First World War here recently, which I have been listening to with one ear (not literally, for reasons below), and it features a young soldier who has had the bottom half of his face blown off and is in a French, military hospital awaiting the basic reconstructive surgery available at the time.
His sweetheart and betrothed arrives from England to visit him, and is actually pleased that he has been wounded and not killed, but does not know the full extent of his injuries.
He refuses to allow her to see him, and believes that the possibility of their spending the rest of their lives together are now over, so he writes her a letter (he cannot talk) and gives it to the Sister in charge to hand to her.
In the letter, he tells her that he has found a new sweetheart who he has fallen in love with and intends to marry in her stead. He apologises for what has happened and says that he hopes that she will be able to find a new life without him.
As he watches the Sister read the letter, he asks, "Is that cruel enough?"
I have - in my youth - employed similar techniques when ditching girlfriends who have out-lasted their sell-by date, and I've always felt a bit guilty for doing so. Please don't get the wrong idea, because I was ditched as many times myself - but in these cases, I thought that for them to experience anger in the place of sadness would be better all round. Or at least, that's what I told myself at the time.
Looking back, I think that doing this was an act of cowardice, not compassion. It made it easier for me to deal with, but not necessarily her. Surely it would have been better to keep still and take the onslaught of abuse as she went through all the stages of logical and illogical grief that most people have to experience in order to come to terms with being dumped?
WW1 was so extreme, that it could almost be defined by the countless acts of 'bravery' and 'cowardice' that took place - for the most part, unrecorded - and the dividing line between those two qualities was very fine indeed.