It was in October 2018 that I wrote the
essay about the first half of Officers and Gentlemen. It's now August 2022 as I set out to write about the second half. Why the long gap? I thought I would inform my analysis of 'In the Picture' by travelling to Crete, where most of the action takes place, but I don't think that is ever going to happen. In the meantime, I have written lots of stuff about 'The Brideshead Festival' and On Kawara, so I haven't exactly been treading water.

Evelyn Waugh also paused in the writing of the book's two halves. He wrote 'Happy Warriors', the chunk set in Arran, from March 1953, but progress was slow and intermittent. Having abandoned the novel, probably mid-book, and not feeling at all well as another English winter set in, he made a troubled sea voyage to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) that he would later write up as
The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. But before writing that sublime piece of autobiography-cum-fiction, he returned to Officers and Gentlemen (another sublime piece of autobiography-cum-fiction) and finished the book between June and October of 1954.


So now that you are in the picture. Let's drill down into 'IN THE PICTURE', spring 1941. Though first there is an interlude set in Cape Town that I should remind you about, dear reader.


Having been trained in Arran (west of Scotland), the Commandos set off in several troop ships bound for the Suez Canal. First, they stopped at Scapa Flow (north of Scotland) for four weeks before steaming south and then around the huge continent of Africa. In his Diary, Waugh wrote:
'We stopped at Cape Town where the people treated all ranks with the most notable hospitality. Harry ill-treated the ostriches in the zoo. Randolph lunched with Smuts. Dermot got very drunk.'

How did Evelyn transform his Cape Town experience into an eight-page piece of fiction? A pair called Eddie and Bertie went to the zoo. They reported to Guy Crouchback, the book's protagonist:
'We persecuted the ostriches, tried to make them put their heads in the sand but they wouldn't. Eddie got into the cage and chase them all over the place with a black keeper pleading through the wire.'

In contrast to this mindless - albeit high-spirited - behaviour, Ivor Claire had been invited to spend the day at a ranch riding horses, which is what he excelled at. And Guy Crouchback had gone to an art gallery in the city where he'd seen two 'remarkable Noel Paton pictures'. My research hasn't revealed any Noel Paton paintings in Cape Town, but Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1900) was a Scottish painter, of the Victorian era that Waugh loved most, who specialised in fantastical figure compositions and seems to have been inspired by
A Midsummer Night's Dream in particular. I suspect Waugh was contrasting the civilised Ivor and Guy with the barbaric Eddie and Bertie. It remained to be see which part of the British character would come to the fore once the going got tough.

Ivor Claire:
"I know nothing of art."
Guy Crouchback: "
Nor did Noel Paton. That's the beauty of him."

In this interlude, we get the first mention of Corporal-Major Ludovic, who would go on to be an important character for the rest of the Sword of Honour trilogy. And one of the last mentions of Brigadier Ritchie Hook, who had apparently been lost in action.

The Interlude ends with Eddie and Bertie coming aboard the ship with a bottle of Kommando brandy. Lying in bed, Guy thinks admiringly of his fellow officer, Ivor Claire.
'He was quintessential England, the man Hitler had not taken into account.'

It's Easter, 1941, when the British get to Alexandria, which means their ships had passed through the Suez Canal without difficulty. Guy Crouchback, Intelligence Officer, gets up from his camp-bed in Sidi Bishr, on the edge of the city. The brigade is still called 'Hookforce' despite Hook being missing. Tommy Blackhouse, Guy's friend (just as Robert Laycock had been Evelyn Waugh's friend) was the Deputy Commander with the acting rank of full colonel. The Brigade Major was Major Hound.
'He had chosen a military career because he was not clever enough to pass into the civil service.' I will say now that the second half of this novel is going to be very hard on this officer.

Guy goes into the middle of Alexandria to find a Catholic Church in which to confess. After doing so (there is a sub-plot here concerning priests as spies, which parallels Waugh's own experience), he looks up Ivor Claire whose mysteriously injured leg means that he is in a nursing home overlooking the Municipal Gardens.

They are joined by Mrs Algernon Stitch, wearing linen and a Mexican sombrero. This Julia Stitch is, of course, based on Diana Cooper, and here she is (see below) in sombrero with another author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, who coincidentally found himself on Crete in 1941.


Elegant, beautiful, super-bright Julia is the wife of the English ambassador (Duff Cooper, Diana Cooper's husband, was ambassador to France after the war, he was not ambassador to Egypt during the war, so one suspects that Evelyn was partly making this up from where he sat writing at Piers Court in the mid-fifties) and she invites Guy to lunch. First, she wants to buy shoes and she drives Guy through town in much the same way she drives her car through Mayfair in the opening pages of
Scoop. That is, with complete disregard for the law and other road users.

'Off she drove, darting between camels and trams and cabs and tanks, down the Rue Sultan, spinning left at the Nebi Daniel, stopping abruptly in the centre of the crossing and saying: "Just look. The Soma. In the days of Cleopatra the streets ran from the Gate of the Moon to the Gate of the Sun and from the lake harbour to the sea harbour with colonnades all the way. White marble and green silk awnings. Perhaps you knew."

"I didn't."'

In the map below, I've marked Guy's barracks with an orange circle in the top right corner. In the above scene, Julia and Guy are 'Downtown' and I've marked where with a purple circle. The lake referred to, and the sea, are obvious.


She stood up in the car and pointed. "Alexander's tomb," she said. "Somewhere under that monstrosity."


At the bazaar they drive along narrowing streets until the car gets stuck and they have to climb over the windscreen and slide down the hot bonnet. Julia buys shoes for a few
piastres and they take a taxi back to the Stitches villa at Ramleh, beyond the camp at Sidi Bishr.

After lunch, Guy is driven back to camp in the Commander-in-Chief's car. The Brigade Major sees him arriving.

'"Oh, it's you back at last, Crouchback. Thought for moment that was the C-in-C's car?"

"Yes. It was."

"What was it doing here?"

"Gave me a lift."

"The driver had no business to fly the C-in-C's flag without the C-in-C being inside. You should know that."

"He was inside."

Hound looked hard at Guy.

"You aren't by any chance trying to pull my leg are you, Crouchback?"

"I should never dare. The C-in-C asked me to apologise to the Colonel. He would have liked to stop but he had to get on to Cairo."'

From this passage we conclude that Major Hound, is a stickler for army regulations. But the whole purpose of an army is for it to be able to effectively fight the enemy. Watch this space.


The novel then reverts to London, where Ian Kilbannock (a lord) is working for General Whale. Between them, they come up with plan to boost the nation's morale. They will make Trimmer (aka Captain MacTavish) into a hero by setting up an operation called Popgun.

A complication is that Kilbannock's wife, Kerstie, knows Virginia, who Guy Crouchback was once married to and who Trimmer has had a fling with in Glasgow. Virginia has fallen on hard times; Kerstie employs her to work in the Transit Camp canteen she runs. And so Trimmer and Virginia run into each other again, Virginia rejecting his advances this time.

Operation Popgun begins at Portsmouth. The force consists of Trimmer, his Sergeant, five men and Ian Kilbannock, who is there to write up the operation. They get into a submarine and head off for the unpopulated island in the English Channel that they intend to claim for the allies. Due to fog, there is much difficulty finding the island. But eventually they land and Trimmer goes into action. They are looking for a tower…

'"We ought to be able to see the place on the skyline," said, Trimmer rather plaintively. "It all seems much flatter than the model."

"Very flat Norfolk," said Ian in an assumed voice.'

That is Kilbannock - who has been drinking in the submarine - quoting Noel Coward's
Private Lives. After further difficulties working out where they are, he goes on to quote again in his Noel Coward voice: '"Moonlight can be cruelly deceptive, Amanda."'

The fact is, they have landed in occupied France, and a French farmer's wife takes a shot at them, inciting a rapid retreat. Trimmer's pistol goes off accidentally. Then, when they cross a railway line, one of his men takes the opportunity to blow it up.

'"For God's sake, come on," said Trimmer from the boat.

"I'm coming. Be of good comfort, Master Trimmer, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England as I trust shall never be put out."'

That is Kilbannock quoting again. Though it sounds like it might be from
Henry IV, it's actually what the sixteenth century Protestant bishop, Hugh Latimer, is supposed to have said immediately before being burnt at the stake with his friend, Nicholas Ridley.

At the end of the scene, General Whale reads what Ian Kilbannock has written by way of official citation re Captain MacTavish's 'heroism'. The most ironic lines are
'On landing he showed a complete disregard of personal safety which communicated itself to his men.' Equally good is: 'Throughout the later phases of the operation he showed exemplary coolness.'

Trimmer cum MacTavish. Another man who was quintessentially England? Another man who Hitler had not taken into account?


The impact of Captain MacTavish's heroic exploit spreads. Guy Crouchback's father, spending the day umpiring a boys cricket match in Matchet, Devon, hears about it and is taken in. Tommy Blackhouse in Sidi Bishr is impressed, and wishes he had a few more officers like McTavish under his command. The ladies of Eaton Terrace (meaning Ian Kilbannock's wife and her friends) are impressed too, though Virginia isn't. And nor is Ivor Claire. This sophisticate can spot a set-up a mile away.

Major-General Whale and Ian Kilbannock realise that the politicians are taking an interest in McTavish's case. In other words they have overdone it with their hyperbole. But Kilbannock has a plan. He's observed that McTavish has sex appeal, and this can surely be used to boost civilian morale and Anglo-American friendship. MacTavish should be promoted - given a higher rank - and taken out of London. This last because these days he's always hanging around Ian's house looking for Virginia.


In the third week of May, 1941, Guy Crouchback hears from Julia Stitch, an utterly reliable though unofficial source, that Hookforce will be used in the defence of Crete. Major Hound seems unwilling to take this on board. Corporal-Major Ludovic writes in the journal of
pensées that he is keeping: 'Major Hound seems strangely lacking in the Death-Wish'.

The ship that takes them from Alexandria to Crete is so decrepit that it has to turn back. Guy drinks a quart of wine while dining with Tommy Blackhouse during their bonus night in Alexandria. This contributes to Guy feeling sea-sick on the replacement ship the next morning, and for the colonel to fall on deck, breaking his leg. Waugh had his reason for not wanting the figure that most resembled his own commanding officer get to Crete, and this will be explored in due course.

Why are there so many allied troops on Crete? Because the Allies had lost the fight against the Germans in Greece and had retreated to Crete where the had been in control. Thousands of them.

'The sea abated as the ship rounded the eastern point of Crete and steamed along the north coast. When they came into Suda Bay it was quite calm.'


The landing of Hookforce takes place amid the pandemonium of allied soldiers fleeing from Suda Beach, the Germans having pursued them there, primarily with Stuka planes. The ship would return to Alexandria full of wounded and shell-shocked men. On shore, Major Hound tries to piece together what's been happening. The leader of B Commando has been killed by the enemy. His second-in-command hasn't received any orders from anyone for twenty-four hours. Major Hound tries to keep calm. He asked where Creforce HQ is, and is told that it's in monastery not far away. So Guy and Hound commandeer a truck and head off towards it. It's 2.30A.M. when they arrive. This next scene needs to be appreciated in all its subtle detail:

'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."

(I imagine that's Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, dear fellow, non-military reader.)

"What? Who?" The face of the BGS was blank with weariness.

(BGS is Brigadier General Staff.)

"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."

(GOC is General Officer Commanding.)

GSO 1 slowly sat up.

(GSO 1 is General Staff Officer.)

"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 extract puts over the horror of war, does it not? Have you ever been too tired and/or stressed to think? Do you understand how difficult it would be to think clearly and consistently in this kind of situation?

They drive off and come across some New Zealand soldiers that they give a lift to. The soldiers are heading for the south coast, Sphakia, which is where any subsequent ships will be evacuating allied troops from. Suda on the north coast is no longer an option. After three miles travelling south, the truck reaches the high ground which is as far as it can take the men; the map reference where Major Hound had arbitrarily sited his headquarters during the first meeting in the harbour.

Guy makes his bed behind a boulder among thorny sweet shrubs. But he can't sleep. After all there's a war on.

Joseph Noel Paton, Satan Watching the Sleep of Christ

At dawn, Major Hound's first thought is of food. He hasn't eaten since they'd set out to sea the previous day. The following conversation takes place:

'"I say, do you mind if I call you "Guy".

"Not particularly."

"My friends usually call me Fido."



"Oh. Yes, I see."

A pause.

"I don't altogether like the look of things, Guy."

"Neither do I, Fido."

"What's more, I'm damned hungry."

"So am I."'

A little later, Fido comes across a few men, one of whom has a tin of bully beef and a few biscuits that he's about to eat.
'Fido stood at the parting of the ways. Behind him lay a life of blameless professional progress; before him the proverbial alternatives: the steep path of duty and the heady precipice of sensual appetite.' He asked the soldier for food. The soldier suggested that he could have some, but only in exchange for fags. 'The deal was done. Fido took his price of shame in his hand, the little lump of the flaky, fatty meat and his single biscuit. He did not look at Guy, but went out of sight to eat. It took a bare minute. Then he returned to the centre of his group and sat silent with his map and his lost soul.'

At the end of this harrowing chapter, I don't know who I feel more sorry for. Ravenous Fido or the sleep-starved GOC. I bet, dear reader, you've forgotten already what GOC stands for. Well, it's General Officer Commanding. I won't be issuing that information again. Dismissed.


That morning, Guy's 'servant' brings him breakfast. A mess-tin containing cold beans, biscuits and jam, food which another soldier had found when searching the quay at Suda. Good things come to those who wait?

After thinking affectionately about a Major in his old regiment, Major Tickeridge appears. He explains that the Halberdiers had come out of Greece without firing a shot. The Major is there to attend a meeting at Force HQ at 8a.m. That would be with the exhausted officers that Guy and Fido had seen the night before. Guy and Fido and Major Tickeridge go to the meeting together, well before 8am, which is when the German planes get going.

The GOC informs those present that the island is to be abandoned. Hookforce and the Halberdiers are the only units now capable of fighting so they will be defending the retreat. By 9a.m. Guy and Fido are back with their men. A search for rations is required so Guy and Ludovic get a driver and go off in search. They drive to Suda and in a warehouse come across boxes of provisions. Ludovic chooses a cheese, two boxes of ice-cream cornets and a case of sardines. Those and wine were useful without the aid of fire.

When they get back to their base, Stukas fire on them. Major Hound finds this very difficult to bear:

'One after another the aeroplanes roared down

"What on earth are they after?" Guy asked.

"For God's sake keep quiet," said Fido.

"They can't possibly hear us."

"Oh, do keep quiet."

"Fido, if we stuck a Bren on a tripod we couldn't miss."

"Don't move," said Fido. "I forbid you to move."

"I'll tell you what they're doing. They're clearing a way for their infantry to come round our flanks."

"Oh, do shut up."'

Actually, Waugh prepares the ground for this scene in the novel with something similar in his Layforce Diary, where he puts it this way:

'I took him (Colvin aka Hound) to Bob (Laycock). He showed no inclination to go back to his battalion but could still talk quite reasonably when there was no aeroplane overhead. Soon they came back and he lay rigid with his face in the gorse for about four hours. If anyone stretched a leg, he groaned as though he had broken all his limbs and was being jolted. "For Christ's sake keep still."'

This bombing (in the novel) goes on for hours. After that, Guy decides to get some sleep. Is it night again then? Let's see:

'Guy moved away and found a place with few thorns. He lay looking up into the sky. The sun was not yet down but the moon rode clear above them, a fine, opaque, white brush-stroke on the rim of her disc of shadow. Guy was aware of the movement round him, of the Greeks and the lorry and Ludovic, and then was deep asleep.'

Joseph Noel Paton. A Dream of Latmos

Fido shakes him awake, wanting to know the time. Guy is not pleased but consults his watch. It's 9.30pm. Later, Fido wakes him again, wanting to know what the time is. Guy is exasperated. Why didn't he wind his watch the last time? It's 10.15. At midnight, Guy wakes for a third time to find Fido on his feet organising a move for the men. He claims that the enemy are closing in on the road from both sides. So off the troop march into the night.

This echoes what Waugh says in his diary.
'When I suggested a stop, Colvin said, "We must find cover." Nothing but daylight would stop him. The moment that came he popped into a drain under the road and sat there.'

By dawn in the novel, Guy, Fido and the men have managed to cover twelve miles of the road to Sphakia, leaving another 20 miles to go. Was that where they were heading? It's where Fido was heading.

Apologies that what follows is not a great copy of a map. Google Maps place names are in Greek and the word 'Sphakia' is not to be found, nor any word like it. This map is taken from the book
Crete: The Battle and the Resistance by Antony Beevor, published in 1991.


Hookforce couldn't march south by day, not with German planes firing ion anything that moved. Fido washes his feet in a stagnant pool. He spots a culvert which is wide, clean, dry and inviting.
'He found the curve of the drain comfortable to his aching back; like a hunted fox, like an Air Marshal under a billiard table (a reference to the opening scene in Officers and Gentlemen), he crouched in torpor.'

In the diary, Waugh does some reconnoitring before returning with Bob Laycock, the commanding officer. About Colvin ('Hound'), Waugh notes: 'A number of his battalion had got together there but he was still in his drain. Bob as politely as possible relieved him of his command saying, "You're done up. Ken will take over from you."'

In the novel, Waugh takes the breakdown of Hound even further. The Germans stop bombing early that day. By evening Fido's need for food and orders sees him on the move. He comes across a vehicle with three New Zealand officers in it, one lying injured over the back seat, and demands a lift from them, on the basis that he has an urgent personal report for the GOC. So the haggard and exhausted driver has to give up his place in the car. The New Zealander who takes over the driving is described in this way: '
Fatigue had brought the Brigadier to a condition resembling senility, in which comatose periods alternated with moments of sharp vexation.' From my own experience, that's an astute observation.

At one point, after listening to meaningless drivel, the Brigadier realises that Hound has tricked them into giving him a lift, and he shouts
"Get out, bastard!" But then he reverts to not having any energy or will to argue, and not caring. Fido only gets out when the vehicle can't go any further due to a stream of motionless trucks. But it's not far from the sea now, so he can walk the rest.

Creforce HQ is found in a line of caves on the shore. Fido finds the barely functioning senior officers ('
the head men of the defeated tribe'), but they can't possibly help him. Fido is beyond helping. Soon he sleeps: 'Sage and thyme, marjoram and dittany and myrtle grew all about Fido's mossy bed and, as the sun mounted over the tufted precipice, quite overcame the sour sweat of his fear.'

Joseph Noel Paton. Puck and Fairies

In the morning, Fido wakes to find a Cretan looking down on him. 'His bearing was patriarchal, his costume, to Fido's eyes, phantasmagoric - a goat-skin jacket, a crimson sash stuck full of antique weapons, trousers in the style of Abdul the Damned, leather puttees, bare feet.' The man doesn't respond to Fido's patronising greeting given in English. Instead, he hooks Fido's pack and draws it towards himself. After having taken possession of everything in the pack, the Cretan realises that Fido is pointing a pistol at him. Poor Fido can't shoot though. The Cretan realises this and gently takes the gun from him and sticks it in his sash. Fido weeps.

I think we can say that Major Hound has reached bottom, if you'll forgive the
Midsummer Night's Dream pun. Fido stays where he is all morning. When he finally gets going again, he hears someone approaching and panics. '"I surrender. I am unarmed. I'm a non-combatant. Don't shoot."' But it's Corporal-Major Ludovic, who seems pleased to see his Brigade Major. He treats him to some refreshing wine and promises to help him walk towards dinner.

By the way, let me help the non-military reader again with some of the ranks being mentioned. A Corporal-Major in a regiment of household cavalry is the equivalent to a Sergeant-Major in an infantry regiment. A Brigade Major exists on an altogether higher plane, and can be called to heel simply by snapping the word: "Fido!" Clear? It will soon become so.

While eating in a cave with a motley crew of men, mostly Spaniards, Ludovic puts Fido in the picture:
'"There was what you might call a shambles last night in the dark. Men looking for officers, officers looking for men. That was why I was so particularly pleased to see you today. I was looking for an unattached officer….With your help we shall get off very nicely, I believe."

"What you're suggesting is entirely irregular, Corporal-Major."

Ludovic regarded him softly. "Come, come Major Hound, sir. Don't you think we might drop all that? Just between ourselves, sir. Tonight when we embark our party, later when we get back to Alex - it will be quite appropriate then; but just at the moment, as we are here, after what's happened, sir, don't you think it will be more suitable," and his voice changed suddenly from its plummy to its plebeian mode - "
to shut your bloody trap."' My emphasis.

Could it be that in Corporal-Major Ludovic we have finally hit on the man who was quintessential England, the man Hitler had not taken into account?


For the reader, it feels like a relief to be done with Major Hound. Perhaps for the author too:

'Guy…was in good heart, almost buoyant, as he tramped alone, eased at last of the dead weight of human company. He had paddled in this lustral freedom on the preceding morning… now he wallowed.'

Compare those words with this extract from Waugh's Layforce Diary:

'It was always exhilarating as soon as one was alone; despondent troops were a dead weight on one's spirits and usefulness.'

By day, Guy is walking back the miles that he had walked two nights before with Fido. In a Cretan village, a young woman draws his attention to a dead soldier. There is nothing Guy can do for him except take possession of the red identity disc and give instructions to the villagers to bury the body.

Guy keeps going, and again comes across the Halberdiers. He is put in the picture. The Halberdiers are to hold their present position
till midnight and then fall back behind Hookforce to the beach perimeter. After spending a few hours with his old regiment, Guy turns round and walks south again. 'Night fell. The road filled with many men. Guy found the remnants of his headquarters where have had left them. He did not inquire for Major Hound. Sergeant Smiley offered no information. They fell in and set out in darkness. They marched all night, one silent component of the procession of lagging, staggering men.'

The novel then cuts to London for an update on Trimmer. He is in love, God help him, with his own idea of Virginia who is now desperately trying to avoid him. Ian Kilbannock introduces Trimmer to three American journalists, Scab Dunz, Bum Schlum and Joe Mulligan. Scab, Bum and Joe are cynical guys who expect to be drinking heavily by the end of the morning. Ian has difficulty getting lovelorn Trimmer to feed them the kind of story he knows they will respond to. But as the journos get drunk, they find they can make it up themselves. However, when Trimmer downright refuses to say helpful things about the attractiveness of the 'homey' American women he met while cutting hair on cruise ships, Ian pulls the plug on the interview. Trimmer wants to go back home with Ian, as he suspects that's where he will find Virginia. To get rid of him, Ian pretends that he is going to HOO HQ.

'Trimmer followed as far as the Tube station, then broke off without a word and descended, a sad little song in his heart, to a platform lined with bunks where he waited long for a crowded train.'

Back to Crete: 'On 31 May, Guy sat in a cave overhanging the beach of Sphakia where the final embarkation was shortly to begin.'

Hookforce was deployed on the ridge above, holding the perimeter against an enemy who since sunset had fallen silent. Guy wakes from a doze to find Ivor Claire in the mouth of the cave. He has come to discuss ethics.

"Guy what would you do if you were challenged to a duel?"


"Yes, of course."

"What made you think about that now?"

Ivor was thinking that honour is something that evolves over time. In the next war, he thinks it will be absolutely honourable for officers to leave their men behind in certain circumstances. And with that, more or less, he leaves.

Once the last ship has taken away the Halberdiers, it's said that food has been left on the beach for Hookforce. Guy's lot decide to eat before surrendering. After eating, Guy decides to bathe.
'Guy stripped and dived and swam out in a sudden access of euphoria; he turned on his back and floated, his eyes closed to the sun, his ears sealed to every sound, oblivious of everything except physical ease, solitary and exultant.'

Not long after, on a rock, he meets Corporal-Major Ludovic. The reader is put in mind of how Ludovic turned up out of the blue when Fido was in a very different state of mind to Captain Crouchback. Guy asks:

"Have you seen Major Hound?"

"Oh, yes, sir. I was with him until - as long as he needed me, sir."

"Where is he now? Why have you left him?"

"Need we go into that, sir? Wouldn't you say it was rather too early or too late for inquiries of that sort?"

Ludovic then says something that Waugh asks of himself in his Diary. He wonders if a theologian would think it would be suicide to swim out to sea in the fanciful hope of reaching Egypt. They wander back to the beach where one of the soldiers has got a boat that is seaworthy. The sapper reckons they have a one-in-ten chance of being picked up at sea, and a one-in-five chance of making it on their own. Guy decides to accept these arbitrary odds. He invites Ludovic to join them: 'You can be confident that no moral theologian would condemn this as suicide.'

As they sail out of the picture, Guy's '
last thoughts are of X Commando, of Bertie and Eddie, most of all of Ivor Claire, waiting at their posts to be made prisoner.'

In other words, Guy doesn't know that Ivor Claire had been on the last scheduled ship back to Alexandria, leaving his men to be prisoners of the Germans, but saving himself.


What happens on the little boat? We don't learn directly, only from Guy's thoughts in the hospital bed where he lies, in silence, recovering from his ordeal at sea.

Tommy Blackhouse is also in the hospital, in a nearby room. After all he broke his leg just a few days before Guy's ordeal in the small boat began.

Guy goes over what happened in his mind. At one point, the soldiers in the boat thought that they had definitely been spotted by an RAF plane. But no ship arrived to pick them up that day, or the next. An enmity grew up between the sapper and Ludovic. Either the sapper was becoming paranoid with thirst and hunger, or he had good reason to suppose that Ludovic intended to kill him. Guy doesn't know which. One night, the sapper woke Guy and insisted that he hand over his pistol. Instead, Guy dropped the weapon over the side of the boat. And that night, between moonset and sunrise the sapper disappeared.

Joseph Noel Paton. Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

Guy lies in hospital. He won't speak to anyone. Not the nurses. Not the Chaplain. And not the chatty colonel. But then one day Julia Stitch turns up and speaks to him in Italian and Guy feels compelled to speak right back. That's the Stitch Service.

It's while talking to Julia that Guy realises Ivor Claire got away too. He asks if it was in a boat like him. But, no, it was more comfortable than that. Guy learns that Ivor got away in the last ship, leaving his men behind. Guy can't understand how Ivor could have done that.

Guy tells Julia that he talked with Ivor on the last evening in Crete. Julia is keen to hear that all was confusion, and that there were no clear orders. Guy tells her that there were clear orders all right, and that he has a written copy of them. Julia's splendid eyes explore the room and she asks if they are in his locker. Guy replies that he supposes they are but that he hasn't looked.

After she goes, Guy gets up and walks along the corridor to where Tommy Blackhouse is lying with his leg raised and in plaster. Tommy is delighted to see him. The colonel reveals that Ludovic carried Guy ashore at Sidi Barrani. He suggests that Ludovic was as strong as a horse, only needing to stay in hospital for two days . Tommy has put him up for a commission.

They talk about Ivor. Tommy doesn't believe his version of events, and reveals that Julia doesn't either. He feels relieved that it's not up to him to do anything about it.

Later that day, Guy is transferred to Mrs Stitch's villa. Days pass. Algernon Stitch brings news that the Germans have invaded Russia and that there is now an alliance between Britain and Russia. This utterly depresses Guy. It's at this point that he burns his pocketbook, which contains the only proof of Ivor Claire's dishonourable conduct. However, Julia doesn't know that he's done this.

Colonel Tickeridge is invited over for an evening. He tells the company that Brigadier Richie Hook is still alive. Julia asks about this man who had been nominally in command of Tommy's force all the time. The Major tells her about a soldier who brought dishonour to Richie Hook's regiment in the last war.
'"Ben never let up on him. He hounded him down and got him broken. It's the big-game hunter in him."' Julia asks him to confirm that Brigadier Ritchie Hook is due in Egypt before the end of the week. Which Major Tickeridge does.

Two days later, Guy gets an official letter telling him to return to Britain immediately. He has been assigned a berth on a ship that takes eight weeks to do the journey. He goes into GHQ Cairo to try and sort things out, as he wants to stay with Major Tickeridge and the Halberdiers. He's told that this shouldn't be a problem, but then receives a call saying that the arrangement for him to return to the UK comes from right up at the top. It can't be got out of. Guy doesn't realise that Julia is behind this, via her high-ranking hubby, but that's meant to be assumed by the careful reader.

While packing, Guy comes across the red identity disc of the dead soldier on Crete and puts it in an envelope marked 'GHQ ME'. Before leaving her house, he asks Julia if Algie could get one of his staff to deal with the envelope, get it to the right person. She asks what it is and he tells her it's just a bit of unfinished business from Crete.

'Mrs Stitch took the envelope. She noted the address. Then she fondly kissed Guy.

As he drove away she waved the envelope; then turned indoors and dropped it into a waste-paper basket. Her eyes were one immense sea, full of flying galleys.'

Nice image that. Eyes being likened to an ocean. But an ocean full of ships of war.

However, Julia has got it wrong this time. The envelope does not contain written proof of Ivor Claire's court martial behaviour. Not that it matters.

Where does Guy Crouchback stand in all this? After all he was an officer too. Shouldn't he have stayed on Crete and surrendered to the Germans and been a prisoner for the rest of the war? I think their cases are different. Ivor had a company of men serving under him. Guy was intelligence officer to the commanding officers (Tommy Blackhouse and the Brigade Major). So his case was different. Talk about a free agent! - Guy was always on the move throughout his time on Crete. Always trying to suss out what was going on in order to keep himself and his battalion in the picture.

Maybe the only soldier that could really have expected a kind of loyalty from Guy was Ludovic. And Guy did encourage Ludovic to get into the small boat. It could even be said that Corporal-Major Ludovic is as much Evelyn Waugh as Guy Crouchback is. Three times in section III of 'In The Picture', Major Hound asks Guy to warn Ludovic that it is strictly against army regulations to keep any sort of written journal when going into an operation. That was what Waugh did himself, secretly keep a diary while being a serving soldier. Naughty Ludovic. The dark side of Guy Crouchback. His Puck-like twin.

But in the end it's Guy Crouchback one has to admire. Brave. Honourable. Independent. A necessary link between the highest ranking officers and the despondent mass of private soldiers. Truly,
Guy was quintessential England, the man Hitler had not taken into account.

But hang on a minute. Let's step back from the detail for a second. (For the beginning of this next bit I'm indebted to Philip Eade and his
Evelyn: A Life Revisited, where he pulls together a convincing overview of the contrasting opinions of history writer, Anthony Beever and Waugh scholar, Donat Gallagher.) What actually happened in late May, 1941, was that Layforce, led by Bob Laycock, with Evelyn Waugh and Colonel Colvin, and a ship full of men, went to Crete. What they found there was a mess, but Evelyn and Bob Laycock dealt with things as best they could, showing bravery and resourcefulness throughout. Then at the end they both got the last ship out of Crete, leaving the majority of their men to surrender to the Germans. Now this last thing is a big deal, not just a matter of empty honour, and here it's me talking. Because when you are a prisoner of war, it must help if your leaders and your intelligence officers are still around to make decisions, offer advice, cope with difficult circumstances, etc. However, apparently Evelyn, so brave in action, expressed a deep fear of the idea of being captured. Also, there is an argument that it makes sense if your best fighting troops can be saved for further action. It's more important that the best organised soldiers, the bravest fighters, and the leaders, are confronting the enemy. And it doesn't matter so much, in the wider scheme of things, if those taken prisoner are left leaderless.

Given that this, roughly, was the situation in reality, what changes did Evelyn make in writing
Officers and Gentlemen? Well, he pushed and pulled his raw material quite a lot.

Colonel Colvin became Major Hound. That was straightforward enough.

By not letting Tommy Blackhouse (effectively Bob Laycock) put a foot on Crete, he couldn't be blamed for what subsequently happened. Indeed,
Officers and Gentlemen is dedicated to Major-General Robert Laycock.

Instead, let Ivor Claire (a fictional character, or a composite of several originals) take the full brunt of the dishonour on his shoulders. But by not having Tommy Blackhouse (Bob Laycock) on Crete, meant that Guy Crouchback (Evelyn Waugh) comes across as a much more independent and decisive person than he would have had to be in reality.

Moreover, Evelyn Waugh did not get back to Egypt on a makeshift boat via a risky operation, as Guy Crouchback did. Instead, he was on the last scheduled Royal Navy ship with Bob Laycock. Guy's adventure at sea was based on what happened to Pattison of the intelligence section, which Waugh writes up as point 14 of his 'Layforce Memorandum', in order words his Diary.
'Pattison took refuge in an MLC (Military Landing Craft) with an assorted party of Australians and marines; they set out at dusk with petrol for about fifty miles, some tins of water and a few tins of food. They landed at the island south of Crete and left behind two or three men who despaired of the attempt. An Australian private soldier took charge of the party, all of whom started the voyage in extreme exhaustion. When petrol was exhausted they hoisted a sail made of blankets. They had no map or compass and steered by the sun and their memory of the map. They were nine days at sea and at the last gasp. One man had died and one shot himself. They held a religious service and sang 'God save the King'. An hour later they sighted land and drifted into a sandy beach near Sidi Barrani.'

Sidi Barrani was the place that Guy Crouchback was carried from the boat by Corporal-Major Ludovic. Perhaps because Evelyn hadn't actually experienced the voyage, it had to be recounted by Guy, in no great detail, while recuperating in hospital.

The changes made, in going from reality to fiction, deftly bring out more drama. Bravery (Guy's) is juxtaposed with cowardice (poor Fido's). Honour (good Guy) is juxtaposed with dishonour (bad Ivor). Guy comes out of the whole affair pretty well, it has to be said. On this occasion, Evelyn was not hard on himself. Though I for one can't wait to see how the Ludovic/Crouchback relationship culminates in book three of Sword of Honour.


Yes, there is an epilogue, set in London, though really nothing of significance happens in it. Guy goes to Bellamy's Club to have dinner with Arthur Box-Bender, his cautious, selfish brother-in-law. Which takes us back to the opening pages of
Men At Arms, just as the mention of Bellamy's takes us back to the beginning of Officers and Gentlemen. They discuss Box-Bender's son, Tony, who is asking for religious books to be sent to him in prison, and the entrance of Russia into the war. To avoid spending more time with a bore (not Box-Bender, but another member of the club who has already joined them for dinner) Guy escapes to the company of Ian Kilbannock, who tells Guy that Trimmer is the nation's hero and that Virginia has reluctantly taken up with him again. Trimmer is doing a tour of northern cities. Poor Virginia 'was as sick as mud to have to accompany him to Scunthorpe, Hull, Huddersfield, Halifax…'

I think this picture by Noel Paton sums up Trimmer and Virginia's relationship and respective charms.

Joseph Noel Paton, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Next day, Guy reports to the Halberdier barracks. A senior officer mistakes him for Apthorpe (the comic centre of
Men At Arms). He spends the afternoon, by his own choice, being drilled relentlessly on the square. The last line of the book sees into Guy's mind, and reads: 'All right, Halberdier Colour-Sergeant Oldenshaw. All right.'

What do I think of this novel? I mean, given that we do not live in a moral universe, what do I think of
Officers and Gentlemen?

More than all right, Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh. More than all right.