MEN AT ARMS (2)


INTRO


It could be said that it took Evelyn Waugh a long time to write Men At Arms. After all, the events on which it is based are laid out in his diary of 1940, when he was 36. But it was 1951 before he wrote up the novel as a 47-year-old. An older and less idealistic man than the Royal Marine pictured below?

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Evelyn Waugh in 1940. Unknown photographer.

It could be said that it took me a long time to write about
Men at Arms. After all, my diary reveals that I read it in 1975, when I was 17 and into Monty Python's Flying Circus. Below is the elegant cover of the Penguin edition that I read back then. Looks like Graham Chapman or John Cleese about to say: "And now for something completely different."

menatarms
Penguin cover design by Bentley/Farrell/Burnett.

But it was 2014, nearly 40 years after my adolescent reading, before I got down to writing up my thoughts. Or, rather, researching Evelyn Waugh's thoughts and actions. And even then I only got as far as the 'Prologue' to
Men At Arms, which amounts to almost a quarter of the novel. That can be read here.

I'm now (September, 2018; aged 61) about to blast through the book's three principle quarters. That's 'Apthorpe Gloriosus', 'Apthorpe Furibundus' and 'Apthorpe Immolatus'. No mention of Adolf Hitler, you'll note, as there is in that other great war book:
Hitler: My Part in His Downfall, by Spike Milligan. For the most part this is going to be an inward-looking war fought by ex-public school boys.

I should mention that
Men At Arms has been written about already by several commentators. It's easy to get bogged down in the material. I think I have four or five advantages. One: I'm able to use pictures and maps, which should help with visualisation and perspective. Two: I intend to place the book at the time of it's writing as well as the period being written about. Three, I won't lump it in with the two subsequent volumes of what became the Sword of Honour trilogy. Four: I intend to be clear about army routine and jargon. Five: I'll be interviewing Evelyn circa 1951. Six: In said interview, I will retain the element of surprise: "No-one expects the Scottish Inquisition!"


PART ONE OF THIS ESSAY

BOOK ONE: Apthorpe Gloriosus

I

First stop, the regimental headquarters of the Royal Marines (aka the Halberdiers in
Men at Arms).

Screen shot 2018-09-10 at 14.44.10
Image sourced from Kent History Forums.

Waugh opens with Guy and Apthorpe drinking in the officers mess before lunch. It's early November and Guy Crouchback is enjoying living in relative comfort in the regimental barracks of the Halberdiers. He was one of twenty probationary officers of whom he introduces us to four or five. The same handful of Royal Marines that Waugh discusses in his diary and letters? Sort of. A large, red-faced wine merchant called Hedley is in some ways the progenitor of Apthorpe. But Apthorpe, with his obscure African pedigree and ludicrous self-esteem, soon outgrows any original.

Basic training involves hours of drill in the morning, drill and instruction in the afternoon, with evenings off for dining in barracks.

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Chatham Division Royal Marine Light Infantry on parade at the Royal Marine Barracks, Chatham. Print available from National Museum of the Royal Navy

One lunchtime, a regular captain commiserates with Guy and Apthorpe that it must have been cold in the square that morning. They agree, and so the captain suggests that great-coats can be worn in the afternoon. They thank him but other members of the Corps soon point out that this means they must go to their quarters and get changed leaving no time for coffee or a fag.

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Royal Marines Barracks. Aerieal view, 1936. Image sourced from Kent History Forums.

PT was the aspect of army life that Waugh didn't like. Crouchback ditto. A bit much for a 36-year-old - the real man or the fictional character - to be throwing himself around after a ball or doing repetitive exercises.

But at 6.30pm they could pack up and go to the officers mess where old world courtesy was the rule, and drink flowed. The officers, both trainees and regulars, ate well. After which, port and snuff were passed around. Overall, Evelyn loved being a Royal Marine; Guy clearly loves it in the Halberdiers.

II

On Saturday at noon there was a mass exodus from barracks. Evelyn Waugh was part of that exodus (he would spend weekends with his wife, Laura, in London) but Guy Crouchback wasn't. Being unmarried and not having much money, Guy would stay in barracks. Which means that he is invited to the brigadier's house for lunch. This allows Waugh to introduce his novel's other main character, the fierce, practical trick playing Ben Ritchie-Hook. Apthorpe is absent from the afternoon of introductions, as - having played golf and spent the evening drinking with his golf partner on the Saturday - a spot of 'Bechuana tummy' prevents him getting up on the Sunday.

III

Just before breaking up for Christmas, there is a guest night. Apthorpe invites 'Chatty' Corner, some kind of alternative, jungle fighting expert. Chatty turns out to be a shy, morose man who doesn't say a word all evening to anyone other than Apthorpe and is the only person to get drunk. Guy's guest is his nephew, Tony Box Bender, who has already seen action in France. Lots of classy ritual and high class dining in the officers mess is enjoyed by all. Though Guy injures his knee during some boisterous play towards the end of the evening.

IV

Guy spends some of Christmas leave at the Box-Benders' house (effectively Piers Court, as set out in
this essay) lying on a bed in the library with his leg bandaged stiff. After Boxing Day, he returns with his brother-in-law, Arthur Box-Bender, to London and stays in a hotel. This allows Guy to bump into Tommy Blackhouse, the man who his wife left him for. Tommy and Guy are friendly enough these days (so Waugh has forgiven John Heygate?) and in fact Tommy tells Guy that their ex-wife, Virginia, is in London and has been asking after him. Guy and Virginia meet and chat and he thinks there is sexual chemistry between them.

The fact that Waugh bumped into Teresa Jungman in London at exactly this time - December 1939, January 1940 - would have greatly helped with the setting up of this plot-line. Teresa was not Waugh's first wife, but he had loved her (his feelings were not reciprocated) after leaving She-Evelyn, and Waugh must have associated rejection almost as much with Teresa as with She-Evelyn.

V

Guy and his trainee officers are moved to a village on the Kent coast for further training alongside another batch of officer recruits. Waugh calls the place Kut-al-Imara House, Southsand-on-Sea, which had been a prep school, with dormitories called the names of lost battles from the first World War. (Indeed, Al-Kut is in itself a reference to a disastrous First World War defeat for British forces in Iraq.)The fictional place was based on Kingsdown House, Kingsdown, near Deal and Walmer, a few miles from Dover. Waugh spent several weeks there with the Royal Marines in early 1940. The photo below shows the beach at Kingsdown, looking south towards Dover.

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Kingsdown House had been a holiday camp before the war and it would revert to that thereafter. Waugh describes it in a letter to Laura of February, 1940. Writing from Deal and Walmer Union Club (the equivalent in the novel is the Southsand and Mudshore Yacht Club) he says:

'
Kingsdown is lousy. It is a hideous, derelict Victorian villa without carpets, curtains or furniture, one bath, one w.c without a seat and another without a plug.'

Screen shot 2018-09-10 at 11.23.49
Thanks to traninsandstuff for posting Kingsdown Holiday Camp images to a Flickr album. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

'Surrounding is a collection of huts built of one thickness of asbestos for use in the summer as a holiday camp. The cold is intense.'

Screen shot 2018-09-10 at 11.24.57
Thanks to traninsandstuff for posting Kingsdown Holiday Camp images to a Flickr album. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

'We eat in an asbestos extension built out. There are three or four easy chairs, and a number of little hard ones, but everyone stamps up and down the bare boards to keep warm. I am in a bedroom in the house with four others and nowhere to hang an overcoat.'

In that same letter, Waugh mentions going out with Hedley, finding the Deal and Walmer Union Club and becoming members, as much because of the bathroom facilities as anything. It's only at this stage that Waugh first mentions the brigadier (he's mentioned earlier in the novel to establish him as a character from the off), describing Brigade Major Albert St, Clair Morford as
'looking like something escaped from Sing-Sing and sounding like a fourth form schoolboy'.

After describing the condition and regime at Kut-al-Imara House (reveille at 7am, parade and instruction in the morning, parade and instruction in the afternoon, nothing to do in the evening) Waugh writes on Guy's behalf:

'Well, he reflected, he had not joined the army for his own comfort. He had expected a grim initiation. Life in barracks had been a survival from long years of peace, something rare and protected, quite unconnected with his purpose. That was over and done with; this was war.'

VI

Apthorpe was late in joining the rest of the men on the Kent coast, because of an accident involving his knee over Christmas, which meant that he was limping in the same way as Guy. Already both called 'Uncle', they are now gleefully mocked by their comrades.

Guy realises how much gear Apthorpe has. It hadn't been so noticeable at the regimental barracks, here it seems like a vast accumulation of boxes, trunks and cases, all bound about with straps and buckles.

VII

A chapter devoted to shooting at Mudshore rifle-range, ten miles distant. In fact, the Royal Marines had a rifle-range in Kingsdown so Waugh would not have had to travel as far as Guy does to make a fool of himself through missing the target. They both had poor eyesight.

VIII

It's in this chapter that Apthorpe and Guy find the Southsand and Mudshore Yacht Squadron, a solid villa on the sea-front, the club of which they become members as Waugh had once done at Deal Union Club. They also found an Italian restaurant on the front, as did Waugh. Apthorpe opens up to Guy, talking about his time at prep school. Apthorpe's schoolboy sense of self-importance is further established in this exchange:

'"To tell you the truth I never made much mark at Staplehurst. It's strange looking back at it now, but in those days I might just have passed for one of the crowd. Some men develop late."

"Like Winston Churchill."

"
Exactly."'

IX

Waugh tells us that it was cold that January; both in his 1940 diary and in his novel. Waugh moved out to the Swan Hotel where he lived with Laura. Similarly, Guy moves out to the Grand Hotel where he lives on his own.

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As we'll see, Laura dutifully followed Evelyn around through the early months of his army career. Waugh spent weekends with her and even weekday evenings, when he could. Though this is entirely left out of
Men At Arms to leave space for the ex-wife thread, the touching husband and wife scenes between Alastair and Sonia Trumpington in Put Out More Flags, Waugh's first book concerning the war, surely echo Evelyn and Laura's time together.

Sonia is understanding of Alastair's boyish enthusiasm for the army.

"I was pretty good with the Bren this morning," said Alastair. "Only one mistake."

"Darling you are clever."

"And I managed to shirk P.T."


Like Evelyn and Guy, Alastair is 36 and doesn't like the physical training.
Put Out More Flags was written in 1942, quite close to 1940 itself, and drew on that experience. Though Waugh did not have his 1940 diary to hand when he was writing the book, coming the long way back to England from the Middle East, around Africa.

OK, back to
Men At Arms. The wild dog brigadier arrives at camp and is not impressed. He doesn't like the fact that no-one is eating in the canteen at Kut-al-Imara House in the evening. And the firing practise he watches is a shambles. Something must be done.

X

Before coming up with a major reorganisation of training, Ben Ritchie-Hook gives the trainee officers a few days leave. Guy decides to stay in Southsand though most of his fellows go up to London. A theological discussion reminds him that in the eyes of the church he can still sleep with his ex-wife. He changes his mind, goes up to London and waits around until Tommy Blackhouse heads off to Aldershot. Then Guy attempts to seduce Virginia. He makes some progress in this, but is interrupted by a phone call from Apthorpe who is wondering if Guy would like to meet up. Guy gets rid of him, renews his seduction of his ex-wife, whose eyes are wide and amorous by the time the phone rings again. Apthorpe has met some interesting chaps and wants Guy to join them. Guy tersely declines the ill-timed invitation and gets back to Virginia. But her ardour has cooled and she insists on ordering a meal via room service. After the meal, when Guy tries again, Virginia twigs that Guy is making love to her because the Catholic Church sanctions the act. Or, as she puts it with tears of rage and humiliation flowing:

"I thought you'd taken a fancy for me again and wanted a bit of fun for the sake of old times. I thought you'd chosen me specially, and by God you had. Because I was the only woman in the whole world your priests would let you go to bed with. That was my attraction. You wet, smug, obscene, pompous, sexless, lunatic pig."

The phone rings for a third time. Apthorpe has made a citizen's arrest and needs some advice about army law from Guy. In his drunkenness, Apthorpe insists he is making an official request for assistance, but Guy hangs up on him anyway.

End of Book One: 'Apthorpe Gloriosus'. I wonder if this was as far as Waugh got with his novel before being visited by Graham Greene in early September, 1951, as detailed in this
essay. Unlike 1940, Waugh was not keeping a diary at this time. However, if only in passing, he was mentioning his work-in-progress to his usual correspondents.

August 2, 1951 (to Diana Cooper):
'My book gets fatter. Though I have a sad suspicion that it is very dull – all detailed descriptions of military training and mess tippling. A dry prig of a hero.'

August 24, 1951 (to Nancy Mitford):
'My novel is unreadable and endless. Nothing but tippling in officers messes and drilling on barrack squares. No demon sex. No blood or thunder.'


That is self-deprecation. There will be a little blood. There will be thunder of sorts. The novel is developing nicely, being carried along by camaraderie and characterisation. I can just imagine Waugh writing the botched seduction scene before GG and his lover turned up at Piers Court. Good time to relax with your buddy, Evelyn. And I don't mean Apthorpe,


BOOK TWO: Apthorpe Furibundus

I

In reality, Waugh and his fellow trainees were posted on to Bisley on Februray 16, 1940, where the training regime was more successful and they were back living together six to a room. In the novel, it's Ben Ritchie-Hook that welcomes them back to a reinvigorated Kut-al-Imara on that date. Good idea to stick with the same surroundings, it turns out. The school backdrop is entirely appropriate.

They play Bingo, which is good for morale. Guy discovers that he's good at map reading and at coming up with solutions during training exercises. Which is also something Waugh says about himself in his diary. Guy and his fellow Halberdier trainee officers return to the firing range and the brigadier briefly puts himself in the firing line, grinning madly.

II

Now the fun starts. One Sunday in March, Apthorpe turns up at Kut-al-Imara House with a large square object, an addition to his gear, which he needs somewhere to store. He looks in the shrubbery but finds it too open. But what is the thing? Apthorpe is coy at first but really he is eager to show off his thunder-box to Guy. It is a brass-bound oak cube. Lifting the lid reveals
'an earthenware pot of solid Edwardian workmanship'. On the inside of the lid is a plaque bearing the embossed title 'Connolly's Chemical Closet'.

Of course, this is a reference to Cyril Connolly who set up the magazine
Horizon shortly before war. Indeed in April 1940, Waugh told his agent to send the book (Work Suspended) that he'd abandoned at the start of the war to Connolly, so that an excerpt could appear in Horizon, which duly happened in 1941.

IMG_0268

Waugh would inscribe Connolly's copy of Men At Arms with the words: 'To Cyril, who kept the home fires burning'. A possibly facetious tribute from serving soldier to office-bound editor.

But why does Apthorpe need his own personal toilet? Because he is scared of picking up a sexually transmittable disease from using the same toilet that the other trainee officers use.

Waugh didn't draw a diagram in 1951, so I will in 2018. Would-be officer picks up clap from sleeping with a London prostitute during leave. While sitting on the loo, his poisoned penis flaps against the front of the toilet seat, infecting it. Next would-be officer comes along, doesn't realise that the seat is dirty, or doesn't manage to properly clean it of its invisible bacteria. Now if the end of
his penis touches against the front of the toilet seat, he might pick up the aforementioned infection. Oh, those Halberdiers and their floppy dicks.

Could that really happen? Who knows. Apthorpe believes it could. That is sufficient.

Why is such scatological material included? After all, this develops into the biggest set-piece in the novel. I suppose the scene reflects the importance of rank in any army, the unfitness of the British Army to take part in a war back in 1940, and the childishness of supposedly adult men. But the Devil is in the delicious detail, so let's carry on with that.

Apthorpe is up at first light on Monday. He explores the outbuildings and discovers an empty shed where the school perhaps kept bats and pads. Waugh is restraining himself here. In his fiction, the place was a school. In reality, a deserted holiday camp where the grounds looked like this:

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Francis Frith Collection. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Any number of places to safely hide the thunder-box!

For several tranquil days, Apthorpe enjoys his own personal toilet. But two days after the fall of Finland, Apthorpe's troubles begin. (Just as he did in his diary, Waugh has been giving regular reports of Finnish resistance against Russian troops, recognising from the outset of the war that Russia was just as much the free world's enemy as Germany.)

To begin with, Apthorpe thinks Guy has been using his thunder-box, though Guy denies it. But after posting himself in the bushes near the shed for two days, Apthorpe is able to accept that it's the brigadier that's been using it. Guy innocently asks Apthorpe if he suspects Ben Ritchie-Hook has got clap. Apthrope thinks he's too much a man of the world for that, but objects to what's happening on principle. On hearing Apthorpe's intention to report the matter to another senior officer, Guy strongly suggests Apthorpe does not make an ass of himself in this way.

After a few days of dual sharing of the thunder-box, Apthorpe reports that there has been a development. He takes Guy to the hut which has a notice on it that reads: '
Out of bounds to all ranks below Brigadier'.

Apthorpe asks for Guy's help in moving the thunder-box. Guy takes it out of the sports shed and together they move it fifty yards to a potting shed. (Very handy for Evelyn's imagination, the infinite shed options of his Kingsdown memory!)

Screen shot 2018-09-10 at 11.25.36
Thanks to traninsandstuff for posting Kingsdown Holiday Camp images to a Flickr album. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Apthorpe is so grateful for Guy's help that he gives his fellow Halberdier permission to use the thunder-box. A touching offer, respectfully declined.

III

'In full retrospect all the last weeks of March resolved themselves into the saga of the chemical closet.'

First, the notice is taken down from the now empty sports hut. Apthorpe feels he has won. Next, a flower pot full of earth and a geranium falls on his head when he's on the toilet. In describing the incident, Apthorpe reveals that wearing his steel hat saved him from serious injury. Guy wants to know if Apthorpe always wears his steel hat when he goes to the loo. And at what time he puts it on.

The answer is that Apthorpe puts the hat on just before pulling down his trousers. But (and this is a question that Guy doesn't ask, but I'm asking), in that case, what triggers the falling of the pot plant? I can only imagine the flower pot falling when the door of the shed is opened.

Guy and Apthorpe's next move is to transfer the thunder-box back to the sports hut. However, the brigadier appears at first parade and tells the men that an antiquated field latrine - a plain square box - has been hidden in the grounds, and that it is their task to find it.

Apthorpe acts as a decoy, the brigadier following him towards the area of coal bunkers. While Guy diverts anyone who comes close to the games shed by claiming that he's already searched it.

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Francis Frith Collection. Reproduced with the forbearance, I hope, of the copyright holder.

Again the brigadier seems to have lost the battle of wits, but the next day the 'Out of Bounds' notice is back on the door of the sports shed.

Undaunted, Apthorpe moves the thunder-box to a corner of the playing field, unhoused but well hidden between an elm tree and a huge roller. For three days of Holy Week, Apthorpe enjoys
'undisputed rights of property'.

Next morning comes the denouement. Apthorpe goes off to evacuate his bowels. Within five minutes an explosion rocks the windows of the house.

'Guy buckled his belt and hurried out to what he knew must be the scene of the disaster. Wisps of smoke were visible. He crossed the playing field. At first there was no sign of Apthorpe. Then he came upon him, standing leaning against the elm, wearing his steel helmet, fumbling with his trouser buttons and gazing with full horror on the wreckage which lay all around the roller.
"I say, are you hurt?"
"Who is that?" Crouchback? I don't know. I simply don't know, old man."
Of the thunder-box there remained only a heap of smoking wood, brass valves, pinkish chemical powder scattered many yards, and great jags of patterned china.'

A subtle detail (and a double entendre) is that Apthorpe is observed putting a hand up to his shoulder to check that his two pips are still in place. (He's recently been promoted.)

They retreat towards the house. On the steps, Apthorpe pauses once and looks back. Then he uses a version of the schoolboy's word that the brigadier is always saying in connection with the enemy: "
Biffed."

The fictional denouement may be based on something that Evelyn witnessed in May 1942, when he had been transferred to the newly formed Commandos, based in Largs. He wrote to Laura that local big-wig, Lord Glasgow, had wanted an old tree stump blown up for him. The soldier given the job had accidentally put ten times the correct amount of explosive into the stump. Consequently, the tree flew 50 feet into the air along with the young plantation that Lord Glasgow had been concerned with. His lordship walked back to his castle to find every window broken. To hide his emotion, he went to the lavatory where the entire ceiling, loosened by the explosion, fell on his head. Poor Lord Glasgow. Poor, poor Apthorpe.

Waugh updates his regular correspondents with work-in-progress:

September 19, 1951 (to Nancy Mitford):
'I am scribbling away hard at my maximum opus. I think it is frightfully funny. A bad sign.'

October 9, 1951 (to Diana Cooper):
'Book gets longer and more and more facetious. Practical jokes now and chemical closets and clap.'

A natural place for Waugh to pause and take stock?

Those thunder-box scenes have been popular with readers of
Men At Arms from the start. Waugh sent John Betjeman a copy of his book in 1952. A year later, Betjeman, a friend of Cyril Connolly's as well as Evelyn's, gave Waugh an extravagant present. Not an Edwardian toilet but a Victorian washstand. I discuss it more when it comes into its own at Piers Court in 1954, here, but below is an image of it. 'Betjeman's Bathing Box,' shall we say. Though in the Waugh family it was known as 'The Betjeman Benefaction'.

Burges Narcissus Washstand large

Why did John Betjeman do that? Waugh had dedicated
Helena to Penelope Betjeman, his wife, and in 1950 John had written to Evelyn thanking him for the book and complimenting him on its contents. In response, Waugh wrote that it was 6 or 7 individuals that he wrote for and whose opinion he valued. Maybe that begins to explain such a generous gift.


PART TWO OF THIS ESSAY

Even though I've begun to analyse a new section of
Men At Arms ('Apthorpe Furibundus'), I'm going to change tack. The extended thunder-box episode was fictional (as far as we know), but after that Waugh largely returns to what actually happened to him in 1940. So let's run through Waugh's fast-moving 1940 diary before seeing how he treated the material in retrospective fiction.

In March, Waugh and his Royal Marines were training at Bisley. Every weekend he was going up to London to see Laura at Fleming's Hotel. But this (combined as it was with eating at the Ritz) proved too expensive, so at the end of March, the Waughs moved to Russell's Hotel for their weekend meets. Laura would have returned to her children and extended family at Pixton during the week.

At the end of March, the company lists came out. The end point of the officer training, as it were. Waugh hoped to be given a company, but expected to be made second-in-command of one. Instead, he didn't even make that, and was given a platoon in B Company. (A battalion might have 400 men, divided into four companies of 100 men, divided into four platoons of 25 men. Rough figures only.)

In April, Waugh kept no diary. In
The Letters of Evelyn Waugh, there is a single letter covering the period March to August, inclusive. And that was a short one to Laura who had given birth to Mary, their third child. Evelyn sympathises with Laura's suffering and urges her to show, over the coming year, the patience and other qualities that he knows she possesses. Alas, Mary died after just a few days, and this may account for Waugh giving up his diary for a few weeks. It's known from other sources that Evelyn was promoted and became commander of D Company.

In May (or before) Waugh was no longer living in camp but locally at 'Street's Cottage'. Laura stayed with him there some of the time. As I've said, Guy Crouchbaack is alone throughout his army training, but not so Alastair Trumpington in
Put Out More Flags. After a day of tactical training in Surrey, much of which was a 'shambles', with people constantly being 'put in the picture' and/or 'getting a rocket' from a superior, he manages to slip out of camp to meet his wife.

Sonia was outside the guard room, waiting for him in the car. "Darling, you smell very sweaty," she said. "What have you been doing?"

"I put down smoke," said Alastair, proudly. "The whole advance was held up until I put down smoke."

"Darling, you are clever... I've got a tinned beefstake and kidney pudding for dinner."

After dinner, Alastair settled in a chair. "Don't let me go to sleep," he said. "I must be in by midnight."

"I'll wake you."

"I wonder if a real battle is much like that," said Alastair just before he dropped off.


That is both funny and touching, I reckon.

Laura left Surrey and went back to Pixton, his wife's family's home in Somerset, for a week in the middle of the month. That's where their children, Teresa (aged 2) and Auberon (aged 1) were being looked after by nurses and family members. However, in addition to sharing Street's Cottage some weeks, Evelyn also enjoyed a few nice weekends with Laura at the Swan Hotel in Alton.

Time for a map:

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Map One: Evelyn Waugh's training with Royal Marines (also showing the location of his and Laura's accommodation).

The red dots show where Waugh was based, first at regimental HQ in Chatham (east of London), then just south of Deal at Kingsdown (on the Kent coast), then at Bisley (south and west of London, near Woking in Surrey). Marked in purple are the places Waugh stayed with Laura, either at weekends or during the week. That is, Fleming's and Russell's Hotel in London, the Swan Hotel in Kingsdown, and Street's Cottage, in or near Bisley. Lastly, Swan Hotel in Alton (near left edge of map).

The troops (by this time the officers had been joined by their men) were posted to Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire in June.
'D Company secured the drill hall and were the best housed of the battalion.' Promoted captain, Waugh's natural competitiveness asserted itself. 'Training came to an end and we settled down to a delightful ten days.'

Wives were given permission to join the officers, so Waugh telegraphed to Laura who stayed at the Castle Hotel. However, Waugh couldn't see much of her so he
'sent her back' to Pixton.

In the middle of July, the battalion moved to Double Bois, Cornwall, where their task was the defence of Liskeard. Though no-one could work out why the Germans might want to attack it.
'Summoned Laura to join me but have seen very little of her.'

The word 'summon' brings to mind a third scene involving Alastair and Sonia in Put Out More Flags:

'That night Alastair summoned Sonia by telephone and she came next day, taking rooms in the hotel. It was a simple and snug hotel and Alastair came there in the evenings when he was off duty. They tried to recapture the atmosphere of the winter and spring, of the days in Surrey when Alastair's life as a soldier had been a novel and eccentric interruption of their domestic routine; but things were changed. The war had entered on a new and more glorious phase.'

After ten days in Double Bois, the battalion was moved to the Cornish coast. D Company being given four miles of coast to defend. Alastair's battalion was given seven miles of coastline to defend. And, as we'll see, Guy's company was given six miles. But first...

At the end of July, Waugh had a short leave. He went to Pixton then on to London where he met Brendan Bracken (Winston Churchill's right-hand man) and found out about the formation of Commandos. As the Commandos were supposed to be an elite force, drawn from regular regiments such as the Royal Marines, Waugh put in for a posting. This would eventually happen, but first Waugh's time with the Marines would play out, giving us
Men At Arms.

In August, D Company had to relieve A Company at Downderry. The routine was to be one of keeping watch and making patrols during the night, resting during the day.

The following map summarises Waugh's movements in the summer of 1940 in the South West of England and Wales, before things really got going. First to Haverfordwest, south West Wales. Then to Double Bois (inland Cornwall). Then to Whitesands Bay (at the tip of Cornwall). Lastly to Downderry (near Plymouth and just a few miles from where they'd been at Double Bois).

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Map Two: Movements of D Company of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Marines under the command of Captain Waugh

Being a Captain and a company commander had its responsibilities, some of them onerous. While still at Bisley a man who Evelyn had told to expect promotion to corporal committed suicide by shooting himself. And in mid-August, Waugh, at a court martial, unsuccessfully defended a marine in his company who had fallen asleep at his sentry post.

In late-August, the battalion travelled north to Birkenhead by train and got on a
'magnificent, new' troopship called the Ettrick. What an unforgettable experience that must have been. They had to wait hours before they could embark. They were fed late at night but then enjoyed a day of great comfort and conflicting rumours. That first full day on board, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders embarked as well, meaning the boat was at 400 per cent capacity. The Highlanders then disembarked leaving the Marines to enjoy an evening of heavy gin drinking. Picture Evelyn being sick over the side of the ship. Well, no, this is one company commander that could hold his drink.

Screen shot 2018-09-18 at 12.39.39

A few days later the ship sailed north to Scapa Flow, in the Orkneys, as part of a convoy. But before that happened, Evelyn lost his company, if not his rank. Second Brigade Headquarters had been broken up and a Major Ross was seconded to the battalion. He became the new commander of D Company and Waugh was given four choices. One. Transfer to Commando straight away. Two. Become brigade intelligence officer. Three. Become battalion intelligence officer. Four. Become second-in-command of D Company.

Waugh tells us in his diary that he didn't want to be transferred to the Commandos just then, as the Royal Marine battalion was about to be employed in actual fighting. He didn't want to become second-in-command of D Company, as that would mean the current second-in-command being demoted. He tells us in a later letter to Laura that he preferred battalion to brigade intelligence, as it was the former rather than the latter that was going into action in the immediate future.

What to say about Evelyn Waugh as a company commander in the Royal Marines? No doubt he was brave. No doubt well-organised. But did he have enough respect for his men and
vice versa? John St John, one of his fellow trainee officers who ended up with a platoon in B Company, says in To the War with Waugh that Evelyn treated his social inferiors - whether above or below him in rank - with scorn. Oh, dear. Perhaps if Waugh had got on better with his men then it would have been one of the other company commanders that Major Ross replaced.

So at the end of August, Waugh got to Scapa Flow on the
Ettrick, and began duties as an intelligence officer, which involved a dangerous climb along Swanbister Pier at low water with the Colonel and Adjutant. Then he went in a cartload of pigs to Kirkwall where he arranged transport for an exercise. At Kirkwall he met the presiding General and told him the Royal Marines had arrived. The General was pleased that the Ettrick had avoided the mines, a reminder of the dangers that were now all around. Waugh got a lift back to the ship in the General's launch. I can't help thinking that Evelyn would have made a good intelligence officer. First, because of his general brightness. Second, because he could talk with authority to authority.

A few more days of training exercises followed, then on the last day of August, 1940, the ship - indeed the fleet - set off for West Africa. I'll get back to that soon enough, but let's see what Waugh made of the equivalent stages in
Men At Arms.

Where were we again?

BOOK TWO: Apthorpe Furibundus

I've just re-read this section in its entirety. Much of it is fiction, pasted between two sections largely based on fact: 'Apthorpe Gloriosus' and 'Apthorpe Immolatus'. But let's take it slowly from where I left off:

IV

Guy visits his father at Matchet over Easter. Meanwhile in London a secret file is started based on faulty intelligence that the Italian restauranteur has provided re a politician called 'Box'. All based on overhearing conversations between Guy and Apthorpe about the thunder-box.

V

The brigade forms at Penkirk, twenty miles from Edinburgh. Why there? I have an answer to that, but will save that for later in this essay, as it's important (in my opinion) and needs to be discussed in depth. The officers mess was a mid-Victorian castle. The officers sleep in the castle for two days before setting up camp in its grounds.

In those first nights under canvas, Guy shares a tent with Apthorpe and some of his gear. Apthorpe reckons this will be temporary as he is bound to be given his own company, which means a tent of his own. Guy ruminates about what a rum character Apthorpe is.

VI

It is the 1st of April. The 'men' are due to arrive the next day. The brigadier (Ritchie Hook) is in charge, though he often seems aloof in the castle. Next in command is Colonel Tickeridge who reads out his list of appointments. Apthorpe is indeed given a company, the headquarters company which is twice as big as any other. To his bitter disappointment, Guy is not even given a second-in-command. He is made a platoon leader in D Company. (This echoes Evelyn's original ranking, when at the end of March, 1940, he was made platoon leader of B Company in the Marines.)

Did Crouchback (and by extension Waugh) do badly? There is a whole page in
Men at Arms devoted to these 'exam results'. Apthorpe is the only new officer who gets a company. A character called Leonard gets a second-in-command. In Companies A, B and D (C is not mentioned), seven new officers are made platoon commanders. In other words, Guy did averagely. But it was typical of Evelyn Waugh to be obsessing on the (often tiny) minority that did better than himself.

The first thing Apthorpe does with his new power is abuse it. The conversation in the tent with Guy goes like this:

"Crouchback," he said, "there's something I have to say to you. I never want to hear another word about that happening in Southsand. Never. Do you understand? Otherwise I shall have to take action."
"What sort of action, Apthorpe?"
"
Drastic action."
Rum. Very rum indeed.

VII

Army Training Memorandum No.31 War. Issued April 1940 is discussed. Waugh clearly had it to hand in 1951 as he wrote this chapter as there are several direct quotes from the booklet. Guy ponders the following quotes, minded to do his duty as platoon commander.

Are you trying to make yourself competent to take over the job of the next senior man to you?

Guy is sure he could do a better job than the man who had been made second-in-command of D Company. However, the company commander had told Guy that he has been marked out for company commander but that Ritchie Hook doesn't want anyone commanding a company in battle who hasn't been in charge of a platoon.

Who runs the platoon - you or your platoon sergeant?

Guy realises he is dependent on his sergeant major. It is down to Guy to give the orders. His sergeant will make sure they are carried out. However, they are not simpatico.

How many men have you earmarked in your mind as possible candidates for a commission?

Guy's sergeant. But only because Guy wants him out of his platoon for his own peace of mind.

How many of your men do you know by name and what do you know of their characters?

Guy knows them all. He likes these thirty men and believes he is rather liked by them. He wishes them well, indeed he would die for them. 'For his platoon and company and battalion and for all Halberdiers everywhere he had a warmer sentiment than for anyone outside his family.'

What are we fighting for?

Guy feels he is fighting for a just cause and with a chance of victory. At night he clasps the medal he wears round his neck, symbol of his Christian faith.


VIII

Back to Apthorpe. On getting his captaincy he buys everyone a round of drinks. On a whim, Guy salutes Apthorpe as if he was a senior officer. This soon leads to Apthorpe trying to insist that he should be saluted in this way by all his fellow junior officers of slightly lesser rank. This is a non-starter as it has already been made crystal-clear who should be saluted and when. The incident marks out Apthorpe as decidedly odd. But then we know that already thanks to the thunder-box episode.

IX

Perhaps Apthorpe's wildest aberration is his one-man campaign against the Royal Corps of Signals. In limited ways, he has authority over the signallers in the batallion. But this doesn't apply to the signallers of the Royal Signals Corps. Through audacity, he actually comes out of an extended skirmish with a lieutenant in the RCS quite well.

It should be said that Evelyn Waugh was, in his own way, as peculiar a soldier as Apthorpe. John St John includes several telling anecdotes in
To the War With Waugh, but two might usefully be mentioned here. First, shortly after a shambolic training exercise, the commanding officer was tearing a strip off the trainee officers for seeing to their own comfort rather than the men's, when Waugh piped up with: "Wouldn't you agree, sir, that it would be ever so much nicer if there were no Marine soldiers and everyone could be an officer?"

Second, when his company was visited by a pompous senior officer, Evelyn innocently asked if it were true that in the Rumanian army no-one beneath the rank of major was permitted to use lipstick.

Let me reply on behalf of the visiting top brass: "There are thre things to remember about the Rumanian Army, Captain Waugh. First, there are no men, only officers. Second, no officer under the rank of major is permitted to use lipstick. And third, no officer under the rank of brigadier is allowed to have his own personal toilet."

X

May 17. (On May 17 in 1940, Waugh was training with the Royal Marines in Surrey, not Scotland.) Colonel Tickeridge explains that regulars are going to France but that the new officers and troops are staying behind. In these circumstances, Guy is given a company in one of the battalions of the Halberdiers that are staying in Britain. Apthorpe is made second-in-command of Y Battalion, also staying put. (That is a promotion from being in charge of 100 troops, to second-in-command of 400.)

X and Y Battalions are still in Penkirk. They have to guard against enemy landing by parachute at night. So it's an uncomfortable time, with little rest. Then they are given orders to move south by train. At Woking they disembark and are told there has been another change of plan. Things are going so badly in France (Dunkirk is approaching) that everyone is needed as fighting troops.


BOOK THREE: Apthorpe Immolatus

As I say above, in this third 'book' we come back to echo closely Waugh's actual experience in the war, in particular the places he served.

I

Guy is in charge of D Company of the Second Battalion of the Halberdiers. Just as in May, 1940, Evelyn was put in charge of D Company of the Second Battalion of the Royal Marines. The rumour is that they are going to Pembroke Docks in south Wales. (Which is where Waugh did go.)

II

Guy and company are at a seaside hotel in Cornwall. (In fact, Evelyn and his Royal Marines only went to Cornwall
after Wales.) The Halberdiers go to Pembroke Dock where the officers are given maps of Limerick in Ireland. But they have to stay on board, in dock, experiencing discomfort. 'Beastly food, responsibility in its most irksome form, claustrophobia.' Lectures are organised in the boat, as are concerts and boxing matches. Anything to keep minds and bodies occupied.

Another change of plan. Instead of going to Limerick, the battalion travels back by rail to Cornwall.
'Two miles of cliff to defend against invasion.' Waugh is not specific, he seems to have been thinking of the various Cornwall locations he stayed in when he put together his fiction. But the mention of hearing land mines - 'Plymouth probably', is suggestive of Downderry.

III

August. Guy is sitting in his company office in the hotel. I believe Waugh was thinking of the Whitesands Hotel where his D Company were stationed in August 1940, overlooking Whitesands Bay.

Screen shot 2018-09-19 at 15.18.03

Two captains of the Loamshire Regiment turn up and claim they're men are taking over from the Halberdiers. Guy knows nothing of this and suspects them to be fifth columnists (because of the endless propaganda of the time). It's suggested that they go and bathe in the sea while Guy confirms his orders. He has a sergeant train a bren gun on the pair all the time they are on the beach. With orders to shoot if they do anything suspicious.

Screen shot 2018-09-19 at 15.18.35

But it is duly confirmed by HQ that the Loamshires are to take over. Just as in Waugh's case, the Warwicks took over from the Royal Marines at Downderry. In
Men at Arms, it says: 'Second Battalion will hand over the positions to Fifth Loamshires and concentrate forthwith at Brook Park.' In the diary, the order is to 'concentrate at Bake House forthwith'.

IV

As in Waugh's case, in late summer Guy and his battalion go by rail to board a ship (the fictional equivalent to the Ettrick is unnamed) in Liverpool (rather than Birkenhead, though both are on the Mersey). However, Waugh doesn't take the Halberdiers north to Scapa Flow. Instead, the fleet sets off south from Liverpool.

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 19.50.50
Map Three: Movement of the Royal Marines from Birkenhead to Scapa Flow then to Freetown and Dakar.

This is a slightly strange decision, as it was in Scapa Flow that the troops spent a week getting used to using landing crafts. And, after all, the mission is to go to the West African coast and take Dakar with the Free French for the Free French. (A big chunk of West Africa being under the control of France's Nazi controlled puppet-government.) The idea is to use Freetown, in the British colony of Sierra Leone, as a base for operations.

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 19.56.50
Map Four: Possessions of European Powers .

In Men At Arms, Waugh names a few of the ships of the fleet, but not the whole list as appears in his diary.

In the diary, Waugh mentions the battalion disembarking at Freetown and going on a day's march, for exercise and acclimatisation. Ex-Royal Marine, John St John, mentions this too in his memoir,
To War with Waugh.

In
Men At Arms, there is a different sort of landing. Brigadier Ritchie Hook breaks it to the men that the mission to free French West Africa is off. The War Cabinet has decided that the odds are against it succeeding, for various reasons. Basically, the land defences are stronger than was predicted, and fog has delayed the British/Free French assault, allowing German/French ships and subs to get to the area. However, the brigadier wants to take the opportunity of having a little unofficial 'fun'. Guy volunteers to lead a dozen men to take a launch and go to Beach A to see if it really has been wired. Official scrutiny of the aerial photographs suggests it has. The one-eyed brigadier reckons it hasn't.

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 19.51.52
Map Five: The Ettrick and other British ships anchored at Freetown, both before and after the Dakar mission.

V

All the men have blackened faces. Guy imagines that an extra man drops into the launch after him. It's an hour's run to the beach, where they find there is indeed wire. The extra man cuts through the wire and shots ring out. After a certain amount of confusion, the troops are back in the launch and ready to return to the ship. Guy holds them up long enough to make sure the extra man - who has been shot in the leg - gets on board. The extra man is the brigadier, of course, and the 'coconut ' he is holding is the decapitated head of a French-African soldier.

It could be said that the two main fictional incidents in the book - involving the thunder-box and the Dakar landing - culminate in wanton and futile acts of violence by Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook. The suggestion may be that this British warrior is half-child, half-barbarian. This does not sit comfortably with Guy Crouchback's motivating values and his idea that he's conducting an honourable defence of civilisation.

VI

Where is Apthorpe while the Dakar raid is going on? Well, he's in his cabin on the unnamed ship, and Guy considers depositing the gruesome 'coconut' there. But instead he slips into the Operations Room and puts it in the Brigadier's 'In' Tray. Decent Colonel Tickeridge and Guy discuss whether Ben Ritchie-Hook will get away with what he's done (disobeying orders), and they conclude that, as he's neither an
enfant terrible any more, nor a national figure, he won't.

VII

Three weeks later (Waugh means October, 1940, but he doesn't say so in the novel), Guy discovers from the new brigadier that he'd been made a Captain at some point, but that it was only an acting rank while he had a company, and that he would be losing his captaincy for the time being. Guy takes the news philosophically.

Meanwhile, since docking again at Freetown, there have been disturbing bulletins from and about Apthorpe. He had taken some leave up-country (being a self-claimed African expert) but had got sick. When he reappears '
he was slung in a sheeted hammock between two bearers like a Victorian woodcut from a book of exploration.'

Guy visits Apthorpe in army hospital. Apthorpe is feeling very sorry for himself and is pleased that Guy has brought with him a bottle of whisky. They drink together and Apthorpe confesses a few things, revealing more of his strange personality. Finally, he requests that, if he dies, Guy makes sure that everything goes to 'Chatty' Corner, and not to his aunt, because
'I don't want High Church boy scouts playing the devil with my gear'.

VIII

Apthorpe does die, having drunk the rest of the bottle of whisky in one session. Guy is blamed by the new brigadier and is told he'll be posted out of the brigade as soon as they return to England. Apthorpe has left a debt of nine shillings to a signaller in the Royal Signals Corps. Still the honourable man, Guy pays it out of his own pocket.

A plane is laid on to take Guy and the recuperating Ben Ritchie-Hook back home.
'The flying-boat made another turn over White Man's Grave and set its course across the ocean, bearing away the two men who had destroyed Apthorpe.'

Everything is still in the balance then, wild warrior and Guy Crouchback side by side, as the war enters its next stage minus one overgrown (or do I mean glorious?) schoolboy. Which Waugh will begin to write about in 1953.


PART THREE OF THIS ESSAY

I have been really looking forward to interviewing Evelyn Waugh about
Men At Arms in his library at Piers Court. In preparation for the interview I've even prepared this table:

Screen shot 2018-09-20 at 19.32.24

For me it confirms how
Men At Arms, early in the novel and towards the end, is very much based on what actually happened to Waugh in 1939/40. But it also shows (in red) that there is a middle section where Waugh goes to town with Apthorpe's thunder-box and introduces a fictional posting to Scotland.

The maps below show the places where Evelyn Waugh (left map) and Guy Crouchback (right map) spent at least a month of winter 1939 to summer 1940:

Screen shot 2018-09-23 at 13.50.33.Screen shot 2018-09-23 at 13.46.44

So why the aberration? The interview I thought I'd set up at Piers Court with Evelyn, can now no longer take place due to unforeseen circumstances. Apologies to everyone who had their hopes up for this. As I did.

I need to plough on alone. On 19 October, 1951, Waugh told Peters that he had 52,000 publishable words of
Honour, the original title of Men At Arms. I calculate that this would have taken things, roughly, to the end of the thunder-box incident.

Now a couple of days before, on 17 October, Evelyn had written to Bruce Cooper thanking him for his very kind invitation to stand for the Rectorship of Edinburgh University. In this letter, Evelyn goes into his Scottish ancestry. He mentions the Waughs as being of unmixed lowland Scot until the late mid-Eighteenth Century, and that Alexander Waugh, his great, great, great grandfather on his paternal side was Doctor of Divinity at Edinburgh. On his mother’s side, a rather more illustrious g.g. grandfather was Henry Lord Cockburn of Edinburgh, author of
Memorials of His Time. Lord Cockburn was painted by Henry Raeburn and his image appeared on £1 notes of the Commercial Bank of Scotland.

Other people standing for the Rectorship in autumn 1951 were John Cameron, a Scottish Nationalist, Sydney Goodsir Smith, a poet, Sir Andrew Murray, a businessman, and Jimmy Logan, a popular comedian. All Scots. But Waugh thought he was in with a chance. I have not seen the whole of Waugh’s address to the students (Cambridge University Library can't find it), but Martin Stannard quotes the following from it:

‘I am asking you to give me an honour. Why I want it should be plain enough. I am a Scot of the diaspora. Less than two-hundred years ago my great great grandfather took part in that most successful action of Scottish Nationalism – the conquest of England by peaceful penetration. Since then we have always looked on ourselves as Scots. However kind strangers may be, a man looks to the place of his origin for the recognition he values most.’

A hand-out was distributed to promote Waugh's candidacy. I only have a black-and-white reproduction of this, but the Penguin copy of Put Out More Flags from the same year gives a clue as to the colour scheme.

IMG_0271IMG_0270

Having researched his candidacy in October, it seems Waugh wanted to add somewhat to his Scottish connections by taking the action of
Men At Arms up to ‘Penkirk’, a fictional place ‘twenty miles from Edinburgh’. Not convinced? I trust you soon will be.

In November 1941, shortly after that part of the diary that feeds into the second book in the Sword of Honour trilogy,
Officers and Gentlemen, Waugh found himself back in the Royal Marines (he’d been seconded to the Commandos for about a year) and posted to Hawick, about fifty miles south of Edinburgh. Life there was grim: ‘Weary, wet, lonely, cold,’ he concluded a letter to Peters, his agent. ‘There is no-one here with any sense of humour,’ he complained to Laura, ‘but they never stop laughing.’ Out of the action, disillusioned by what had happened with the Commandos in Crete, Waugh's belief in all things officer-class British was at a low ebb.

Then, in January 1942, Waugh was invited to a company commander’s course at Bonaly Tower, five miles south of Edinburgh. He recognized the Cockburn coat of arms on the staircase and realised, to his delight, that he was in his great, great grandfather’s house. The coat of arms involves the cockerel, and the bottom left window in the image below may be the one in question. It's from an estate agent's particulars.

Screen shot 2018-09-23 at 16.30.38

As I say, this must have given Evelyn huge pleasure. Didn’t Evelyn go on, ten years later, to begin his war trilogy symbolically, by having Guy Crouchback run his finger down the sword of Roger of Waybroke, a knight of the crusades who was buried in a church close to the Castello Crouchback, the house that his grandparents had built for themselves on the Italian Riviera? Guy was fighting for civilisation itself, as represented by centuries of European culture.

Here is a photograph of Bonaly Tower, rebuilt in this way by Evelyn Waugh's great, great grandfather in 1839, and the place that Evelyn went every day for a month in 1942 as a captain in the Royal Marines.

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 10.36.01

Not only was the baronial castle on the edge of Edinburgh a gem, his ancestor had installed a superb library certain aspects of which are still recognisable today...

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 10.36.32

...and had put together a collection of sculpture in the ten acres of gardens that included a statue of Shakespeare. That too is still
in situ, I believe.

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 10.40.59

So in October 1951, at about the mid-point of Men At Arms, Evelyn was cheered by the invite to stand for Rector of Edinburgh University, and surely reminded of that time back in 1942 when he, a Royal Marine, fighting for 'the ascent of man', stood in the inspiring house of his own ancestor.

Roger of Waybroke, 1149; William Shakespeare, 1600; Henry Cockburn, 1839; Evelyn Waugh, 1940. Only connect!

Screen shot 2018-09-22 at 10.52.42
David Roberts (1796-1864), Bonaly Tower, Edinburgh.

But Evelyn was nothing if not restrained in his fictional
Men at Arms. Bearing in mind his Hawick and Bonaly experience from 1941/42, he wrote:

'They reassembled from Easter leave at Penkirk, a lowland valley some twenty miles from Edinburgh, covered in farm land and small homesteads. At its head stood a solid little mid-Victorian castle. It was there they met and there they messed and slept for the first two days.'

The castle is not mentioned much thereafter, just occasional references. No doubt because the nuanced events that Waugh wanted to write about had actually happened when he was camping with the Royal Marines, officers and men together for the first time, at Bisley in Surrey. Evelyn Waugh, a proud craftsman, was careful and subtle when putting together any piece of writing, but especially his novels.

And so Waugh wrote on, keeping some of the personal inspiration behind his fiction largely to himself. He did have individuals he communicated with about his work. But, I would suggest, not at this level of detail; not at this emotional depth.

November postcard (to Nancy Mitford):
'I wrote 4000 words yesterday.'

Did Evelyn get the Rectorship? No. Alexander Fleming and the Aga Khan entered the race at the last minute, and Evelyn came a creditable fourth out of seven. I think it was creditable anyway. Evelyn probably cursed the three who beat him for the rest of his life. Or perhaps not. Because he said in a November letter to Nancy: 'I haven't been elected Rector of Edinburgh. It was just a joke that didn't come off.'

As far as I'm concerned, placing several chapters of 'Apthrorpe Furibundus' near Edinburgh was a 'joke' that came off big-time. As you'll soon see.

December 24, 1951(to Diana Cooper):
'My novel is very near its end and I am sick to death of it. I think that is a good sign perhaps.'

January 8,1952 (to Nancy Mitford):
'I have finished that novel – slogging, inelegant, boring – and what little point it has will only be revealed in the 4th volume at least four years hence. Still there were some dunderheads who didn’t like Helena. Perhaps they might like it.'

I love
Men at Arms, Evelyn. Does that make me a dunderhead? I don't mind if it does. Here is one of my favourite passages from the novel. A passage that immediately precedes the first mention of Penkirk. Humour at every turn, I make it three LOL moments in less than a page.

'Once Guy saw a film of the Rising of '45. Prince Charles and his intimates stood on a mound of heather, making a sad little group, dressed as though for a Caledonian Ball, looking, indeed, precisely as though they were a party of despairing revellers mustered in the outer suburbs to meet a friend with a motor-car who had not turned up.
An awful moment came when the sun touched the horizon behind them. the prince bowed his head, sheathed his claymore and said in rich Milwaukee accents: “I guess it’s all off, Mackingtosh.” (Mackingtosh from the first had counselled immediate withdrawal.)
At that moment, suddenly, a faint skirl of pipes rose and swelled to an unendurable volume, while from all the converging glens files of kilted extras came winding into view. “’Tis Invercauld comes younder.” “Aye, and Lochiel”, “And stout Montrose”, “The Laird of Cockpen”, “The bonnets of bonnie Dundee”, “The Campbells are coming. Hurrah, hurrah…” until across the crimson panorama the little bands swept together into one mighty army. Unconquerable they seemed to anyone ignorant of history, as they marched into the setting sun; straight, as anyone knowledgeable in Highland geography could have told them, into the chilly waters of Loch Moidart.'

Monty Python eat your heart out! Don’t tell me Evelyn wrote that at any time other than when he was excitedly (and ironically) investigating his Scottish roots for purposes of being elected Rector of Edinburgh University.

But wait. The bagpipes may have been rendered silent by the all-encompassing waters of Loch Moidart, but what have we here? A latecomer? Why 'tis McLaren of McLaren, fresh from the braes o' Balquidder. His appearance delayed by his bearing, single-handedly, a thunder-box under one arm and an extra large coconut under the other. Rest yersel’ on the heathery hillside, laddie, and work out what it is that ripples the surface of Loch Moidart. Ye’ve smoothed far rougher waters in the past.
Aye, sit down on the thunder-box and check yer pips are still there, if it helps. Sherlock is as Sherlock does, as we say up the glen. No, I said: 'pips' not 'pipes'. Leave yer bloated bag in the thunder-box, Dunc, I'll sing unaccompanied if ye don't mind:

Bonnie Evelyn's gone a-Waugh
Safely o’er the friendly main;
Many’s a heart will break in twa,
Should he ne'er come back again.

Will ye no come back again?
Will ye no come back again?
Better loved ye canna be
Will ye no come back again?



One last thing. As already noted, Graham Greene came to stay at Piers Court for a week in August 1951, when Evelyn was a couple of months into the writing of
Men at Arms. He is alluded to in this sentence from 'Apthorpe Immolatus', when Guy and his Halberdiers are exploring Freetown in the aftermath of the Dakar fiasco.

'Later, when he came to read Heart of the Matter, Guy reflected, fascinated, that at this very time 'Scobie' was close at hand, demolishing partitions in native houses, still conscientiously interfering with neutral shipping.'

Greene published Heart of the Matter in 1948. It deals with a life-changing moral crisis for Henry Scobie, a British intelligence officer in Freetown, Sierra Leone. That is a neat connection with Waugh's wartime world, so why did Evelyn remove the line from the book when he went over the entire manuscript of Men At Arms, Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender for the publication of Sword of Honour as a single book in 1965? Possibly, because Greene didn't actually name Freetown or Sierra Leone in Heart of the Matter, and so Waugh was relying on personal acquaintance with the author, a personal acquaintance that a reasonable reader would assume that Guy Crouchback would be most unlikely to have had.

Waugh couldn't resist writing the line in 1951, the year of Greene's much enjoyed visit. But restrained himself in retrospect.

Men at Arms: 1940, 1951, 1965 and 2018. Waving not drowning.




Notes:
1) Quite a long quote from
Men at Arms is used towards the end of this essay. Hopefully, the copyright holders will accept that the thrust of this article (and of that quote in particular) is likely to generate interest in Waugh's own writings. Reading this essay is no substitute for reading Men at Arms, one of Evelyn Waugh's most important novels. A scholarly edition of Sword of Honour, edited by Max Saunders and published by OUP, will be appearing shortly as part of the CWEW project. (I'll add the date when I know it.)

2) Philip Eade's biography,
Evelyn, A Life Revisited, mentions the Bonaly Tower episode, while Martin Stannard's Evelyn Waugh: No Abiding City discusses Waugh's attempt to become Rector of Edinburgh University.

3)
In the Picture: The Facts behind the Fiction in Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour by Donat Gallagher and Carlos Villar Flor doesn't try to explain the Penkirk scenario. However, it's Chapter One is good for putting Waugh's war in the context of what was going on in Europe in 1940, something Evelyn Waugh was very much bearing in mind when he was writing Men At Arms. Additionally, it's an authority on what happened to Waugh later in the Second World War.

4) My own copy of Penguin's '
Sword of Honour' is not the final version, just the original books bundled together, so I've ordered a copy of the Chapman and Hall edition and will check to see what other changes Waugh made in going from his 1951 polished gem of a novel to the 1965 revision.