There is no classic orange-banded Penguin of Unconditional Surrender, as by 1964 Penguin had 'upped their game' by abandoning winning simplicity. When the groundbreaking UK publishing firm first got a chance to publish Evelyn Waugh's 1961 novel, Quentin Blake was designing the Waugh covers, and this is what he made of Unconditional Surrender.


The people on the cover are some of the 108 Jews, stranded in Croatia, that Guy Crouchback was trying to get moved to Italy at their own request.

The cover is the same design as used for the earlier books in the trilogy, suggesting geographical displacement in the confusion of war. Guy Crouchback was an Intelligence Officer and was relied on to put his commanding officer 'in the picture'. In the picture? In the picture as to where their own troops were, where they were going, where the enemy was, and what its intentions might be. Recipe for a shambles anyone?


The Men At Arms cover shows Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook watching manoeuvres, while the arrow-maps are of the places near the coast of southern England where Guy Crouchback received his training with the Halberdiers. The Officers and Gentlemen cover shows the debacle of the Allied army's retreat through Crete, which is where the map extracts are from.

In the '70s, Evelyn Waugh book covers were designed by Bentley/Farrell//Burnett. These were and remain elegant and stylish. And so for
Men At Arms we have Guy Crouchback, his mind full of illusions about honour, standing on the English coast. And for Officers and Gentlemen we have Ivor Claire, in Crete, about to desert his men and dishonour his regiment through putting his own survival first.


However, the cover for Unconditional Surrender has me a little confused, even though I've just read the novel closely enough to be able to write an essay about it. Who is the officer with the clipboard? I suppose it could be Gilpin, who Guy crosses swords with. It's not Major Ludovic at the parachute school, as the figure is not stout enough. Same applies to Jumbo Trotter. And what is the classical background alluding to?


Not Croatia, which was a war-torn mess. Not Bari in Italy, I don't think. Not London, though there is a superficial echo of Nelson's Column and St Paul's Cathedral. I may have to flick through the book…

I think it may be Bari, on the east coast of Italy, after all. In which case that's officious Gilpin standing there. Try this passage, which begins with Guy Crouchback:

'He walked to the office he had visited the evening before. The morning sunlight transformed the building. There had once been a fountain in the cortile, Guy now observed; perhaps it would one day play again. A stone triton stood there gaping, last poor descendant of grand forebears, amid spiky vegetation. The sentry was engaged in conversation with a dispatch rider and let Guy in without question. He met Gilpin on the stairs.

"How did you get in?"

"I'm attached here, don't you remember?"

But that's not really a very good fit. Let the flicking continue…

Guy flies from Bari to Begoy in Croatia, and the former spa town is described in this way:

'Hot water still ran in the bath house…The graded paths, each with a 'view-point', the ruins of a seat and of a kiosk, where once invalids had taken their prescribed exercise, still ran through boskage between the partisan bivouacs.'

In other words, the standing figure could be Guy Crouchback, who had to report on the number of displaced Jews in the district.

I'm still not convinced. All I can say is that the cover contrasts bureaucracy (clipboard) with classicism (columns); an old order with a modern one. That will have to do.

In the 1980s, the 'Sword of Honour' trilogy got a makeover. I suppose the idea was to attract readers that failed to bite when offered something supremely stylish. In other words, offer them something that looks as if it was designed to be on the front of a Tom Sharpe book. (Remember him? A popular author of farce in the 1970s and early 80s.)

Cover illustrations by David Hopkins. Thanks to Oli Beard for supplying it.

On the other hand,
Brideshead Revisited had been a great success on the telly in 1981, and you don't get any more stylish than that adaptation, starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.

The updated cover (see below) from 1981 of
Unconditional Surrender is as puzzling to me as the Bentley/Farrell//Burnett one is. Is that Guy Crouchback in his office at Hazardous Offensive Operations in Brompton? If so, it's not as described in the novel, where his desk sits in the Royal Victoria Museum, close to a model megalosaurus. The empty in-trays are all that is suggestive of that scenario. Where is the jig-saw that Waugh mentions in passing?

Cover illustrations by David Hopkins. Thanks to Ben McCrory for supplying it.

Clearly, that is St Paul's Cathedral in the background. The location is war-torn London. There is a cat hunting a mouse. There is unclean, chipped crockery (mentioned anywhere in the novel?) and a half-eaten sandwich. There are a lot of books and papers flying around. This may be alluding to the manuscript of The Death Wish that Major Ludovic was writing in Essex. Or the offices of Survival, though Everard Spruce certainly did not dress in an army uniform. Or are the papers just army bumf. Orders to embark here and to report there. Orders countering previous orders. Order, counter-order, disorder.

Next, comes what is unquestionably the finest
Unconditional Surrender cover. It is the reproduction of a painting by John Piper, who Evelyn Waugh knew and who I'll come back to soon enough. The cover is so stimulating that I've just ordered a copy of the book even though I've just read it. When it arrives I'll provide a better scan of the cover, but this will have to do for now:


Where does the arrow along the floor lead? Well, even though the building seems somewhat brutalist, I'm thinking of the Venetian-Gothic brick edifice that is the Royal Victorian Institute, HQ of HOO (Hazardous Offensive Operations) in Unconditional Surrender, with its 'labyrinth of ply-board partitions with which its halls are divided'.

If Guy Crouchback follows the arrow, perhaps he will get to 'Beaches'.

'Beaches was rather a jovial room. It housed an early Victorian locomotive engine, six sailors, and a library of naval charts….Next door to 'Beaches' there lived three RAF sergeants in what was called 'the studio'. Here beaches were constructed in miniature, yards and yards of them, reproducing from air photographs miles and miles of the coast of occupied Europe. The tone was egalitarian in an antiquated, folky way distantly derived from the disciples of William Morris…In their ample spare time these ingenious men were building a model of the Royal Victorian Institute.'

Come again? In a studio
next to 'Beaches' they were making models of beaches? And in their spare time they were making a model of the building in which this was all happening? Barmy - or what?

The beauty of this cover is that you can keep coming back to it…

So follow the line along the floor and you get to
Survival's office in a grand house on Cheyne's Walk. There are Professors of English Literature to talk to, but none of them speak English so you might be left to your own devices. No matter, one of Spruce's female helpers will seek you out and offer you a drink. Politely enquire what the drink consists of, just for the joke value, then refuse it…

So follow the line along the floor and this time you get to Ludovic's office at the parachute training place. He is writing
The Death Wish so there is paper everywhere, and a Pekinese lying quietly in its basket, knowing that the next mealtime can't be far away…

So follow the line along the floor and this time you get to where you have to sit for the parachute jump. You don't have to think. You just wait until it's the turn of your number (Guy was number 8), then when the instructor says '8', and drops his arm, you jump out of the plane…

When my copy of this fabulous edition arrives, I will want to know what it says on pages 58 and 241. Obviously. But do I need to wait? Perhaps Penguin didn't reset the type but simply reprinted the text as it had been in previous editions. So in my Bentley/Farrell/Burnett-covered Penguin, page 240 is the final page of text and there is no page 241. Perfect!

As for page 58, It's there that Guy Crouchback is interviewed regarding his suitability for an operation to take place in Italy. He's told:

'"The work we have in mind is, of course, secret. As you probably know, the advance in Italy is bogged down at the moment. We can't expect much movement there til the spring. The Germans have taken over in force. Some of the wops seem to be on our side. Call themselves "Partisani", pretty left wing by the sound of them. Nothing wrong with that of course. Ask Sir Ralph Brompton. We shall be putting in various small parties to keep GHQ informed about what they're up to and if possible drops of equipment in suitable areas. An intelligence officer and signalman are the essentials of each group. You've done Commando training, I see. Did that include parachuting?"'

"No, sir."

"Well, you'd better take a course. No objection, I suppose?"

"None whatever."

Which takes us to this cover, made for the edition that came out in 1991.


There hasn't been another cover design at Penguin since. Which probably means that there were too many of the above edition printed. Or that the edition didn't appeal to the public and the book remains on the shelves of bookshops.

Blast, I wish the aforementioned copy of the book, with mysterious John Piper cover would arrive. In the meantime, I have a book called
John Piper, The Forties and from this I can make a good scan.

John Piper. The Passage to the Control-room at the South West Regional Headquarters, Bristol, 1940

Such alienating architecture. Such passive aggression from the floor, the walls and the ceiling. I really think this is the atmosphere that Waugh was trying to get at when he was describing Guy Crouchback visiting various army offices. Back to that exchange with Gilpin in Bari:

"How did you get in?"

"I'm attached here, don't you remember?"

"But you haven't got a pass. How long will it take for those men to learn that an officer's uniform means nothing? They had no business to let you in without a pass."

"Where do I get one?"

"From me."

"Well, perhaps it might save trouble if you gave me one."

"Have you got three photographs of yourself?"

"Of course not."

"Then I can't make out a pass."

As I said, the painting is by John Piper. Evelyn Waugh met John Piper in the grounds of Renishaw in 1940, when he was visiting the Sitwells with his second wife, Laura. Waugh took to Piper, and five years later, when looking for an artist to illustrate a
deluxe edition of Brideshead Revisited, he had him commissioned for that job. Piper did the drawings, but wasn't happy with them and didn't submit them for Waugh's assessment. Waugh did use an existing Piper print for the cover of Scott-Wilson's Modern Europe.

Actually, I know where the arrow on the floor leads to. The clue is in the title of the above painting and the title of the next one:

John Piper. The Control-room at the South West Regional Headquarters, Bristol, 1940

This is an environment crying out for the presence of British officers from World War 2. Try this from early in Unconditional Surrender.

"What have you got there?"

"An Electronic Personnel Selector."

"Have we any electronic personnel?"

"It covers every contingency. For example, suppose I want to find a lieutenant-colonel who is a long-distance swimmer, qualified as a barrister, with experience in catering in tropical countries, instead of going through all the records I just press these buttons, one, two, three, four, and…" there was a whirring noise from the depths of the engine, a series of clicks as though from a slot machine telling fortunes on a pier, a card shot up. "You see - totally blank - that means negative."

"I think I should have guessed that."

Or this from later in the novel:

'Not very far away Colonel Grace-Groundling-Marchpole was studying a list submitted to him for approval.

"Crouchback?" He said. "Haven't we a file on him?"

"Yes. The Box-Bender case."

"I remember.
And the Scottish nationalists."

"And the priest in Alexandria. There's been nothing much on him since."

"No. He may have lost contact with his headquarters. It's just as well we didn't pull him in at the time. If we let him go to Italy he may lead us into the neo-fascist network."

"It won't be so easy keeping track of him there. The Eighth Army is not security conscious."

"No. It's a moot point. On the whole, perhaps, the noes have it."

He wrote: '
This officer cannot be recommended for secret work in Italy.''

But actually the ideal scenario for such a room is provided in
Officers and Gentlemen during the retreat from Crete. Guy Crouchback and Major Hound enter a temporary headquarters.

Inside a storm lantern and maps lay on the table. Two men were asleep, sitting on chairs, their heads in their arms on the table. Major Hound saluted. One of the men raised his head.


"Brigade Headquarters, Hookforce, reporting, sir, with orders from C-in-C ME."

"What? Who?" The face of the BGS was blank with weariness. "The GOC is not to be disturbed. We're moving in an hour. Just leave whatever it is you've got. I'll attend to it."

The GSO 1 slowly sat up.

"Did you say "Hookforce"? The GOC has been waiting for a report from you all day."

"It's very urgent I should see him."

"Yes, yes, of course. But not just now. He can't see anyone now. This is the first sleep he's had for two days and we've got to make our move before dawn. Is Colonel Blackhouse with you?"

Major Hound began to explain the situation, to put BGS and GSO1 in the picture. It was plain to Guy that they understood nothing. For Major Hound it was enough that the words should be spoken, the correct sounds made even into the void of their utter weariness.'

That exchange is one of the most chilling in the trilogy. Though I suppose there's a difference between unconditionally surrendering to sleep rather than to Hitler. Though I feel I should end by reminding the reader that Guy Crouchback didn't unconditionally surrender to anyone or anything. Except, perhaps, the illegitimate son of Trimmer and Virginia.

These terms sound so dated now. 'Illegitimate son' and 'unconditional surrender'. Things are not so idealistic or so binary today. At least I don't think they are.