Brown on Resolution
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- For the first (1935) film of the novel, see Brown on Resolution (film). For the second (1953) film, see Sailor of the King.
Brown on Resolution is a 1929 nautical novel written by C. S. Forester. It is set during World War I. The hero of the novel, seaman Brown, is the sole able-bodied survivor of a sunken British warship, who is able single-handedly to discomfit its attacker, a German cruiser, long enough to ensure its destruction by its pursuers. The title is similar to the titles of legal textbooks, implying that the qualities shown by Brown are the epitome of "Resolution".
The novel opens with Brown, wounded and dying, on Resolution Island. The story is then told in flashback.
The first part of the story tells of Brown's birth, as a result of a liaison between his mother, Agatha Brown, and a Royal Navy officer, Lt Cdr Richard Saville-Samarez. It describes his upbringing, with Agatha as a single mother in Edwardian England, and her instilling into him of a sense of duty to the Navy and to his country. As soon as he is old enough, Brown joins the Navy, and on the eve of World War I is serving on the cruiser HMS Charybdis in the Pacific.
In the second half of the story Charybdis is sunk by the German cruiser Ziethen on a raiding mission in the central Pacific, and Brown, with 2 or 3 wounded men, is picked up by the raider. As the Ziethen was damaged in the exchange, her captain plans to pull into an isolated Pacific anchorage to try to repair his vessel. In the novel, he chooses (fictitious) Resolution Island, in the Galápagos Islands. The resourceful Brown escapes, steals a rifle and a small amount of ammunition, and makes his way ashore. Her captain having already careened his vessel, the vessel's main battery could not be brought to bear on Brown, and he was able to pick off exposed crew-members who are trying to repair her punctured hull plates. In Forester's description Resolution is an impenetrable tangle of scrub and thorn bushes, making it difficult for shore parties to run the hero to ground.
Brown is eventually mortally wounded by a lucky German shot. He never learns that his actions delayed the repairs long enough to ensure that the German vessel fails to escape her British pursuers. Ironically, the senior British naval officer of the force which sinks Ziethen and benefits from Brown's action, is none other than now Captain Saville-Samarez, Brown's father, although they do not know of each other.
As so often with Forester's novels, the action takes place against a background of carefully researched historical fact. During the early part of the Great War, Germany had a small squadron of modern vessels in the Far East. When war was declared, the larger vessels of the squadron set out to return to Europe. The light cruisers, Nürnberg, Leipzig and Dresden, on detached duty, rejoined after brief periods of raiding, while SMS Emden was detached to serve as a commerce raider. The fictional Ziethen is supposed to be on a similar mission. Most of the German squadron was eventually destroyed at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, but the British eventually found SMS Dresden anchored and essentially non-operational at an isolated Pacific island.
Parallels in Forester's work
This novel has some parallels to Forester's Death to the French. In both novels the hero is an enlisted man, cut off, and acting alone. In both, the protagonist's dogged and surprisingly effective actions stem from instinctive shrewdness rather than conscious planning.
The novel had been filmed twice. John Mills played the title role in the 1935 version, called Brown on Resolution. The 1953 version which starred Jeffrey Hunter as Brown, was called Single-handed in the UK and Sailor of the King in the US, and was set during the Second World War.