Officers and Gentlemen
|Series||Sword of Honour|
|Publisher||Chapman & Hall|
|Preceded by||Men at Arms|
|Followed by||Unconditional Surrender|
Sword of Honour trilogy
Officers and Gentlemen is the second novel in Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy, the author's look at the Second World War. The novels loosely parallel Waugh's wartime experiences. The first was Men at Arms (1952), the third was Unconditional Surrender (1961).
Sent back to the UK in disgrace at the end of the first novel, Guy Crouchback — heir of a declining aristocratic English Roman Catholic family—manages to find a place in a fledgling commando brigade, training on a Scottish island under an old friend, Tommy Blackhouse. Tommy is also the man for whom Guy's wife Virginia left him. Another trainee is Ivor Claire, whom Guy regards as the flower of English chivalry. He (Guy) learns to exploit the niceties of military ways of doing things with the assistance of Colonel "Jumbo" Trotter, an elderly Halberdier who knows all the strings to pull.
Guy is posted to Cairo, Allied headquarters for the Mediterranean and Middle East. He becomes caught up in the evacuation of Crete, where he acquits himself well, though chaos and muddle prevail. At this time he meets Corporal-Major Ludovic. (Waugh may have based the character of Ludovic on one or two real people: the soldier of fortune and novelist John Ludwick, and/or the future press tycoon and politician Lord Robert Maxwell.) With a few others they escape to Egypt in a small boat. Ludovic wades ashore in Egypt, carrying Guy. All the others in the boat have "disappeared"[the delirious sapper Captain who was in command disappears, evidently 'precipitated' by Ludovic, but there is nothing in the text to indicate that the rest of the 'small party' on the boat disappear]. Apparently a hero, Ludovic is commissioned as an officer.
In Egypt, Mrs Stitch, a character who turns up in other Waugh books, takes Guy under her well-connected wing. She also tries to protect Claire, who was evacuated from Crete even though his unit's orders were to fight to the last and then surrender as prisoners of war. She sends Crouchback the long way home to England, possibly to prevent him from compromising the cover story worked up to protect Claire from desertion charges.
Guy finds himself once more in his club, asking around for a suitable job.
Officers and Gentlemen was dramatised for television in 2001 along with the two other novels in the Sword of Honour trilogy, featuring Daniel Craig.
- Geoffrey Elliott, A Forgotten Man: The Life and Death of John Lodwick (2018). London; Bloomsbury. p. 115.
- Officers and Gentlemen at Faded Page (Canada)
- A Companion to Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour: Home Page
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