The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier

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"The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier"
AuthorArthur Conan Doyle
SeriesThe Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
Publication date1926

"The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" (1926) is one of 12 Sherlock Holmes short stories (56 total) by Arthur Conan Doyle in The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes first published Strand Magazine October 1921 - April 1927. This story is one of only two narrated by Holmes rather than Doctor Watson - the other one being "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane". Dr. Watson does not appear in either story.


In January 1903, at Baker Street, James M. Dodd sees Holmes about a missing friend, Godfrey Emsworth. Dodd and Emsworth served together in the Imperial Yeomanry in South Africa during the Second Boer War, which has only just ended. Emsworth was wounded during this war. Dodd has not seen him since the report of his injury leading Dodd to believe something is amiss.

Dodd tried writing to Colonel Emsworth, Godfrey's father, and was told in response that Godfrey went off to sea, however Dodd was not satisfied with this answer. Next, Dodd went to the Emsworth family home, Tuxbury Old Park, near Bedford. There were four people there—the Colonel and his wife, and an old butler and his wife. The Colonel was something less than a gracious host. He repeated the story about his son's world voyage, implied that Dodd was lying about even knowing Godfrey, and seemed irritated at Dodd's suggestion that he provide information that would allow him to send Godfrey a letter.

Dodd was still determined to ascertain Godfrey's fate. That evening, in the ground-floor bedroom, Dodd talked to the butler, Ralph, when he came to deliver some coal. When Ralph mentioned Godfrey in the past tense, Dodd began to suspect that his friend was dead. Ralph indicated that no, he wasn't, but that it might be better that way.

The mystery was further complicated when Dodd observed Godfrey's face in his window, finally proving that he was on the grounds and not at sea like the colonel had claimed. Dodd tried to chase him, but gave up shortly after hearing the sound of a closing door nearby.

Dodd contrived to stay another day at Tuxbury Old Park, and went looking about the property. He saw a well-dressed man leaving an outbuilding, whose suspicion was aroused somewhat, as Dodd was aware that he was watching him. Dodd was convinced Godfrey must be in this outbuilding.

Dodd went back to the outbuilding at night, and observed the well dressed man and another, who he assumed was Godfrey, through the window. Before he could investigate further, Colonel Emsworth appeared. Upset that Dodd would violate the family's privacy, he insisted Dodd leave immediately.

Dodd comes straight to Holmes to relate the story. Holmes needs only to ask about the publication that the man with Godfrey was reading, and although Dodd cannot be absolutely sure of it, Holmes seems satisfied with the answer.

Upon his arrival at Tuxbury Old Park, Holmes observes a tarry smell coming from the leather gloves that Ralph has just removed. The Colonel threatens to summon the police if Dodd and Holmes do not leave, but Holmes points out that doing this would cause the very catastrophe the Colonel wants to avoid.

Convincing the colonel that he knows the secret, Holmes receives permission to visit the outbuilding, where he and Dodd hear Godfrey's story right from his own lips. The night he was wounded in South Africa, he found his way to a house and slept in a bed there. When he woke up in the morning, he found himself surrounded by lepers. A doctor there told him that he was in a leper hospital, and would likely contract the disease after sleeping in a leper's bed. The doctor helped heal his wounds, and once Godfrey got back to England, the dreaded symptoms began to appear. His family's fear of their son being put in an institution, and possibly the stigma attached to leprosy, have forced them to keep his presence secret.

The story ends happily, however. Holmes has brought with him Sir James Saunders, a famous dermatologist from London. Dr. Saunders determines that Emsworth actually has ichthyosis, or pseudo-leprosy, a disease that is quite treatable.

Related stories[edit]

Holmes's investigation of the mystery is delayed because he is engaged in clearing up "the case which my friend Watson has described as that of the Abbey School, in which the Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved". The Duke of Holdernesse was the principal client in the case of the Priory School.

Publication history[edit]

"The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" was first published in the US in Liberty in October 1926, and in the UK in The Strand Magazine in November 1926.[1] The story was published with five illustrations by Frederic Dorr Steele in Liberty, and with five illustrations by Howard K. Elcock in the Strand.[2] It was included in the short story collection The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes,[2] which was published in the UK and the US in June 1927.[3]


The story was dramatised by Edith Meiser as episodes of the American radio series The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that aired on 2 March 1931 (with Richard Gordon as Sherlock Holmes and Leigh Lovell as Dr. Watson)[4] and 2 May 1936 (with Gordon as Holmes and Harry West as Watson).[5]

Meiser also adapted the story as an episode of the American radio series The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that aired on 19 February 1940 (with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson).[6]

Michael Hardwick dramatised "The Blanched Soldier" for the BBC Light Programme in August 1959 as part of the 1952–1969 radio series starring Carleton Hobbs as Sherlock Holmes and Norman Shelley as Dr. Watson, with Frederick Treves as James M. Dodd.[7]

The story was adapted for BBC Radio 4 in 1994 by Roger Danes as part of the 1989–1998 radio series starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams as Watson. It featured Robert Glenister as James Dodd, Hannah Gordon as Jean Watson, and Derek Waring as Colonel Emsworth.[8]

In 2014, the story was adapted for radio as an episode of The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a series on the American radio show Imagination Theatre, with John Patrick Lowrie as Holmes and Lawrence Albert as Watson.[9]


  1. ^ Smith (2014), p. 212.
  2. ^ a b Cawthorne (2011), p. 153.
  3. ^ Cawthorne (2011), p. 151.
  4. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 27.
  5. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 73.
  6. ^ Dickerson (2019), p. 90.
  7. ^ De Waal, Ronald Burt (1974). The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes. Bramhall House. p. 386–387. ISBN 0-517-217597.
  8. ^ Bert Coules. "The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes". The BBC complete audio Sherlock Holmes. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
  9. ^ Wright, Stewart (30 April 2019). "The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Broadcast Log" (PDF). Old-Time Radio. Retrieved 9 June 2020.