Sword of Honour

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A trilogy by E. Waugh, published under this title in 1965.

Men at Arms (1952) introduces 35‐year‐old divorced Catholic Guy Crouchback, who after much effort succeeds in enlisting in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers just after the outbreak of the Second World War. Much of the plot revolves around his eccentric fellow‐officer Apthorpe, an old Africa hand who suffers repeatedly from ‘Bechuana tummy’, is deeply devoted to his ‘thunder box’ (or chemical closet), and dies in West Africa at the end of the novel of some unspecified tropical disease, aggravated by Guy's thoughtful gift of a bottle of whisky. Other characters include Guy's ex‐wife, the beautiful socialite Virginia Troy, her second husband, Tommy Blackhouse, and the ferocious one‐eyed Brigadier Ritchie‐Hook, who involves Guy in a near‐disastrous escapade.

Officers and Gentlemen (1955) continues Waugh's semi‐satiric, semi‐emotional portrayal of civilian and military life with an account of Guy's training on the Hebridean island of Mugg with a Commando unit, and of the exploits of ex‐hairdresser Trimmer, now Captain McTavish, which include an affair with Virginia and the blowing up of a French railway; the action moves to Alexandria, then to the withdrawal from Crete, with all but four of ‘Hookforce’ taken prisoner.

Unconditional Surrender (1961) opens with a frustrated and disillusioned Captain Guy Crouchback in London, working at Hazardous Offensive Operations Headquarters: he then injures himself learning to parachute, and on his sickbed is wooed by Virginia, now pregnant by Trimmer, and conscious that Guy has inherited his father's fortune. He remarries her out of a sense of chivalry and compassion, is transferred to the chaos and conflicts of Yugoslavia as a liaison officer with the Partisans, and there learns that Virginia has given birth to a son, then that she has been killed in an air raid. The baby survives, and an Epilogue informs us that Guy marries again, and has more children of his own.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Evelyn Waugh (1903—1966) writer

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