|CHAPTER 6||CONTENTS||Unconditional Surrender|
A Companion to Evelyn Waughs Sword of Honour
Officers and Gentlemen
319 Officers and Gentlemen
The equivalent chapter in OG is called In the Picture. In making the recension EW presumably did not wish altogether to lose the title of the second book of his trilogy. In any case he toned down the many references in this chapter to being in the picture, a phrase he meant to have an ironical significance in OG but which he wished to moderate in SH.
319 Holy Saturday 1941
i.e. 12th April.
short form of A.C.I.G.S., the Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff, the second man in the British Army after C.I.G.S.
319 Benghazi had fallen the week before.
This was as a consequence of Rommels spectacular and imaginative campaign in Cyrenaica. The British withdrew from Benghazi, captured from the Italians only two months before, on 1st April 1941.
319 the Australians in Greece had
been attacked on their open flank
Preparatory to the invasion of Russia, Germany felt the need to secure the flank from hostile forces in the Balkans. Yugoslavia had recently been turned from friendliness towards Germany into a neutral and possibly hostile power by a coup détat, and Greece had successfully resisted Italys invasion of late 1940 to the extent of capturing Italian-held Albanian territory. Germany first secured Romania by treaty and by stationing forces there, and then frightened Bulgaria into becoming an ally. The invasions of Yugoslavia and Greece began on 6th April 1941. The Yugoslavs capitulated after 11 days. The whole of the Greek mainland and islands (except Crete) were in German hands by 11th May. British forces which had landed in Greece to help the Greeks were evacuated with difficulty, leaving behind the heavy armour. Even so the Germans captured about 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers as prisoners of war.
319 Future of Special Service Forces in
This was a real issue at this period. A lot of training had gone into preparing an elite force that did very little and could not help in the main theatres of war, or so it seemed, and which was accused of growing ill-discipline (a criticism with which EW agreed); and the special consideration they received galled the officers of the regular regiments. Part of the problem lay in the fact that senior officers in the Army did not appreciate the distinctive qualities and services that the special forces were supposed to provide, and in the exigencies of warfare (for example in North Africa) they were unable or unwilling to provide them with the necessary supplies and transport.
319 D.S.D., A.G., Q.M.G., D.P.S.
I think that these are the Director of the Signals Division, the Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff (again), the Quarter-Master General and the Director of the Personnel Services. Angus Calder in his splendid notes to his edition of SH suggests also that D.P.S. might be Defence Planning Staff. Judging from what this individual says later, I think Personnel more likely.
The point of this plethora of initials is to suggest the dead weight of bureaucracy in the army.
319 a hanging jury
General Whale knows that these men are determined to end the special concessions made to the Special Forces, and if possible to terminate their existence.
319 No one seems to have found any use for them in
This was as true of the real 7 and 8 Commandos and Layforce in real life as of X Commando and Hookforce in the novel. M.E. is the Middle East.
320 broken up and used as replacements
This is of course what the foxy brigadier and others who thought like him wanted, and what Hookforce (Layforce) and the Commandos in general were desperate to prevent happening.
320 I have one officer and twelve men
i.e. Trimmer and the sappers.
320 in the cathedral, whose tower could be seen from the
This is the Cathedral Church of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, or Westminster Cathedral as it is better known; it is the Catholic cathedral for London north of the Thames. Its striking brick tower and indeed the whole of the cathedral were built in the Early Byzantine style from 1895 to 1903.
320 the Easter fire
See my note to page 216.
In OG these are gangmen!
320 Frankly, sir, I dont think the D.P.S.
This spokesman for the Director of Personnel Services puts concisely and almost unarguably the case against the Commandos.
321 recommending that no steps were desirable with
regard to Special Service Forces
Those experienced in the language of committees will recognise that this is an invitation to C.I.G.S. to pronounce a death sentence. No steps means no support.
321 the Exultet
A song of praise to the Lord God for his great mercy to the human race and of exultation in its redemption which is sung immediately after the procession into the church on Holy Saturday. The word is sometimes spelt Exsultet. Its opening lines are :
|exultet jam angelica turba caelorum||Let all the heavenly choirs now rejoice;|
|exultent divina mysteria||let the divine mysteries show forth that exultation;|
|et pro tanti regis victoria tuba insinet salutaris||and let the sacred trumpet declare the victory of the Sovereign King.|
|gaudeat et tellus tantis irradiata fulgoribus||Let the earth rejoice bathed in the rays of such a light,|
|et, aeterni regis splendore illustrata,||and may the brightness of the eternal King, which shines upon her,|
|totius orbis se sentiat amisisse caliginem||make men perceive that the world has been delivered from darkness.|
Radio Direction Finding, an early name for what soon became known as radar. Radar had given the British a technological edge in the Battle of Britain of 1940. The Germans knew perfectly well about the existence of radar and in fact were ahead of the British in implementing it in the late 1930s; but they relaxed their efforts in 1940 and 1941 since the war seemed won and never caught up on the lead the British gained through concentrated research. In 1940 the British disclosed to the Americans their invention of the cavity magnetron oscillator which gave extremely high power and extremely high frequencies and led to superior radar (and, incidentally, to the microwave oven).
The muezzin is the official who calls Moslems to prayer from the minaret or tower of the mosque.
322 Sidi Bishr
one of the army camps in Egypt, lying between Cairo and Alexandria
322 G.H.Q. Cairo
i.e. General Headquarters, situated in the capital city of Egypt
322 red tabs
the red gorget patches worn by full colonels (and higher officers) on the collars of their jackets
EW here has the task of introducing a man who will turn out to be entirely unfit for his post. He does it by describing his military career as one which displays no aptitude for anything other than administrative competence.
323 prizes at Bisley
Bisley is the premier firing-range in Britain and is situated in Surrey near London. These prizes therefore are for shooting. The National Rifle Association (itself founded in 1860) had set up the ranges at Bisley in 1890; the Army often arranges its peacetime competitions at these ranges.
EW gives Hound this area of excellence in order to explain how he had made such progress in his army career. Ability in shooting would, in the minds of some senior officers, compensate for deficiencies elsewhere.
Toggle ropes are characteristic Commando gear. They are six-foot lengths of rope with an open loop at one end and a toggle or peg inserted crosswise into a closed loop at the other. Thus a toggle rope can be carried around the waist or over the shoulder of each soldier and a long rope created by linking individual ropes together.
323 and tommy-guns.
After this EW excised a sentence from OG which said a little more about B Commando and its perfectionist Colonel Prentice : B Commando was ruled by a draconic private law and a code of punishment unauthorized by Kings Regulations.
323 Free Spaniards
These men really existed. They were refugees from Spain who had fought on the republican side in the Civil War, which had ended in 1939. They had fled to France and were serving in Syria when France fell. Reluctant to support the Vichy regime that the Syrian authorities decided to back, they escaped to Palestine. In real life they were placed in No. 50 (Middle East) Commando and for technical reasons enlisted into the Queens Regiment.
EW uses the word anarchy to describe them; probably they had been philosophical and political anarchists at home. EW implies that their military value was nil, but there is no doubt that he was influenced by his dislike of them : they boasted about having been murderers of priests, violators of nuns and pillagers of Church property in Spain. In fact, despite their ill-discipline in camp, they were superb guerrillas : they were famous for being able silently to surprise and capture any British patrols sent out on night exercises.
323 Turf Club
favourite haunts in Cairo of British expatriates in Egypt. Since Egypt had been in effect ruled by Britain since 1882, many places had been created for the comfort of British officials. Shepheards was a remarkable Victorian hotel which boasted a famous terrace, a Moorish Hall, a Long Bar and Ballroom (featuring pillars modelled on Karnak), and an elegant Dining Room. It and the Turf Club, a centre supposedly for the sporting set, were destroyed, along with the Cooks Agency nearby, by spontaneous anti-British rioters on 26th January, 1952. 17 mainly elderly Britons were killed. This event was part of a pattern of violence that was later that year to lead to the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy and the creation of the republic under General Neguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser.
A pale facsimile called Shepheards Hotel exists today for credulous tourists, but in a different place.
EW may be remembering a skit of a poem that was soon current :
We never went West of Gezireh
We never went North of the Nile
We never went past the Pyramids
Out of sight of the Sphinxs smile.
We fought the war in Shepheards
And the Continental Bar
We preserved our punch for the Turf Club lunch
And they gave us the Africa Star.
324 obliques of Badger
Badger is the name of an exercise or operation which is no longer under consideration. (It is mentioned on page 308.) The obliques are photographs of the target area taken at an angle from the air and intended for use in the plans for the operation.
325 typing his journal
We learn from this, and from the entry he makes, that Ludovic has artistic tendencies. He should not have been keeping a private journal at all (as it might be a security risk, especially if he were captured with it in his possession) but he cares so little about such prohibitions that he writes up his entries while on duty and in clear sight of the Brigade Major.
Such embargoes did not fluster EW, either. Throughout the war he kept his own diaries or journals, and he later used them to good effect in writing the novels which make up SH.
325 obvious anomaly
Guy is carrying out the drill for piling arms (see my note to page 38), and comes across the problem that he has too few men in his section to do it properly. (He has only five, plus Sergeant Smiley.)
Royal Army Medical Corps
326 the Cecil
The Cecil Hotel was a smallish but luxurious hotel in Alexandria favoured by British visitors to the country in peacetime. It had a striking view of the Eastern or Great Harbour. During the war it had a suite reserved for British Intelligence.
326 Easter duties
i.e. the minimal obligation on Catholics to confess and to receive Holy Communion once a year, during the Lent or Easter seasons.
326 Excusez-moi, mon père. Y a-t-il un
prêtre qui parle anglais ou italien?
Excuse me, Father. Is there a priest here who can speak English or Italian? (French)
326 Je veux me confesser, en français si
cest nécessaire. Mais je préfère beaucoup anglais ou
italien, si cest possible.
I want to make my confession, in French if necessary. But Id much prefer English or Italian if that is possible.
English That way.
327 He was shriven.
He had already been absolved of his sins.
327 seal of confession
A priest is bound by his vows never to reveal to anyone what a penitent says to him in confession. This resoluteness has occasionally led to anti-Catholic outbursts in the British press on the theme of priests harbouring murderers and terrorists. Guy has realised that now that the priest has granted absolution, the confession is technically over and anything he says to him can be freely reported. He therefore suspects the priest of being a spy, probably for the Vichy French in Syria but quite possibly for the Germans.
328 Guy turned away.
Guys hopeless quest to find the priest brings an intriguing incident to a comic ending. In real life EW did suspect a priest in Egypt of being a spy and had him arrested - something he does not allow Crouchback to do.
328 ophthalmic eyes
Ophthalmia is a general name for inflammation of the eye. Egyptians notoriously tended to have inflamed and infected eyes, presumably because of sand and dust and wind and, possibly, the Nile.
329 Algie has some kind of a job keeping his eye on the
Algie is Mr Stitch. His original, Duff Cooper, never had an official position in Egypt, and in fact he and his wife did not arrive there until January/February 1942, on their way home from Singapore. (They left Singapore just before it fell to the Japanese.)
Nevertheless their presence in Cairo coincided with a concerted British effort to cow the 21-year-old Egyptian King Farouk into submission. He favoured politicians who were at the time unacceptable to British susceptibilities. He was forced, by the presence both of soldiers and a ship ready to bear him into exile if he proved obdurate, to appoint an acceptable Prime Minister. Out of this incident (which both Duff and Diana built up into fascinating anecdotes for their friends and guests) EW derives Algies job here in SH.
329 They walk out with the Vichy French
This seems a surprising statement since the Vichy government cooperated with the Germans, and one would expect their sailors to be prevented from landing in Egypt. But Britain was not at war with Vichy France, and so these men were tolerated even though their presence was irritating and there were many spies operating on behalf of the Syrian Vichy authorities (and through them for the Germans).
330 Tony is having a bad time.
Tony is the colonel in command of X Commando and is therefore one of Blackhouses unit commanders. We later learn that his surname is Luxmore.
Guys next two speeches show how, as Commando soldiers found themselves little or ill utilised, demoralisation set in and requests to be returned to their fighting units multiplied. Most of their struggles seemed to be with thieves and harlots rather than Germans.
330 Gyppy tummy
See my note to Bechuana tummy on page 49.
330 at Oran
Oran, in Algeria, was the scene on 3rd July 1940 of the deliberate destruction by the Royal Navy of the French Mediterranean fleet. France had surrendered to Germany on 25th June and the British were desperate not to let the French Navy fall into German hands, an outcome which was certainly possible. Negotiations failed because the French commanders and officers felt that their duty was still to the French government at home, now the Vichy regime. Over one thousand French sailors were killed in the attack.
The incident soured Anglo-French relationships for years afterwards though it is difficult to decide what else the British could have done in the circumstances, other than trust in the resoluteness of the French officers to defend their navy from foreign take-over. In fact when Germany occupied the whole of France in November 1942 as a response to the Allied landings in North Africa, Admiral de Laborde ordered the scuttling of the whole fleet at Toulon to prevent its seizure. No less than 64 major ships were scuttled, blown up or set on fire as the Germans ordered their surrender from the dockside.
330 her true blue, portable and compendious
i.e. her eyes. This remarkable phrase seems to have such little relevance to the context that I suspect it of being a private joke between EW and Lady Diana Cooper, the original of Mrs Stitch. She certainly had clear blue eyes which watered very easily.
The phrase comes from the poem The Weeper by Richard Crashaw (1613-1649), and is intended to demonstrate Mary Magdalens repentant distress and grief as she follows Christ in his wanderings through Palestine. The whole stanza reads :
And now whereer he strays
Among the Galilean mountains,
Or more unwelcome ways,
Hes followed by two faithful fountains,
Two walking baths, two weeping motions;
Portable and compendious oceans.
The image, which used to be pointed out as an example of high metaphysical art though it is much closer to the characteristic style of Continental baroque literature, is generally held to be too ludicrous to have its intended effect today. Certainly my reaction is to laugh at it, and I once taught Metaphysical Poetry!
The novelist E.M. Forster (1879-1970) lived in Alexandria for three years while doing civilian war work during World War I. He wrote two minor masterpieces about Alexandria, both of them mentioned here. His Guide (published 1922) is a superb example of the species though original editions are hard to come by since most of them were destroyed in a fire, while Pharos and Pharillon (1923) is a collection of essays on Alexandrian themes, ancient and modern; it was a favourite book of EWs. In an article on Literary Style (Books on Trial, October 1955) he wrote that Forster, particularly in the first half of Pharos and Pharillon, set a model for lucidity and individuality in which the elegance is so unobtrusive as to pass some readers unobserved. In this book Forster introduced the west to the poetry of Constantin Cavafy, who is mentioned on page 334.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was the great lighthouse, the Pharos, which stood on the eastern end of an island of the same name guarding the eastern harbour of Alexandria. It was certainly around 440 feet (135 metres) high, though legend makes it higher still. It was constructed of three stages : a box-like lower level, an octagonal tower in the middle, and a cylindrical top. At the very top were a statue of Poseidon, a fire and a large mirror which could send out a beam of light discernible thirty miles out at sea. The lighthouse was still standing and functional in the twelfth century A.D., 1400 years after it was built. Many earth tremors weakened the structure, though it was usually repaired, until a great earthquake entirely destroyed it in the early fourteenth century, perhaps in 1326. In 1477 the sultan Qait Bay used some of its stones to build a fort near the site which has itself since disappeared. In the 1990s archaeologists found stones from the Pharos in the nearby waters of the harbour, including the great 12-metre (40 feet) high doorway and parts of the giant statues which guarded the entrance.
Pharillon is the name Forster gives to a later lighthouse in the same area which was much smaller and lasted for only a short time.
331 Take it, fool.
This peremptory and decisive tone was characteristic of Lady Diana Cooper. She used it to her beloved friends (who were used to it) as much as to those she esteemed less.
331 Rue Sultan
Gate of the Moon
Gate of the Sun
the lake harbour
under that monstrosity
These are places in Alexandria.
The Soma is now an area of Alexandria, surrounding what is often stated to be the site of the tomb of Alexander the Great. The Soma was originally the tomb or mausoleum itself, sema meaning tomb and soma meaning the Body in ancient Greek. Despite Mrs Stitchs indication, the actual site of Alexanders tomb has been lost for at least seventeen centuries, though in legend it is thought to lie under the mosque an-Nabi Danyal (Mrs Stitchs Nebi Daniel), which is therefore the likeliest candidate for her monstrosity. Recent archaeological investigation has thrown doubt on this identification. Many theories abound as to the true location of the mausoleum.
The two gates Julia Stitch mentions were at either end of a central street, the Canopic Way (now al-Hurriyah Avenue - probably!), which runs east to west through Alexandria. The Gate of the Moon overlooked the Western Harbour, and the Gate of the Sun at the eastern end was on the road to the ancient city of Canopus. The Municipal Gardens that Mrs Stitch mentions are in the vicinity of the Gate of the Sun, though nothing remains intact of either gate or of the colonnades that bordered the two main streets of ancient Alexandria. Small parts of the fallen and shattered columns have been tentatively identified among local debris.
Alexandria was built between the sea (with two partially-enclosed sea harbours) and an inland lake known as Lake Mareotis (Mariout). The road crossing the Canopic Street at right angles therefore joined the Eastern harbour (where Cleopatras palace was) to the lake harbour.
i.e. Royal Army Service Corps
332 its not policy to like him much
This was because King Farouk favoured politicians who advocated an approach independent of the dominant British. These politicians ultimately wished to see the back of them.
Hypatia (about 355-415) was the first woman known to have made a distinctive contribution to mathematics and astronomy. She was the daughter and pupil of Theon, the last director of the ancient Museum in Alexandria. Hypatia herself became the head of the neo-Platonist school in the city in about 400, lecturing on mathematics and philosophy. She seems to have had admiring Christians in her classes.
The traditional view of Hypatias murder until very recently (a result of the accounts of Gibbon and Voltaire) was that as she was a Hellenist and a pagan she was attacked by a mob of Christian monks, dragged into a church, stripped and had her flesh hacked away. Latest research indicates that she was hardly a defender of paganism, but rather a supporter of the Christian Prefect of Alexandria, Orestes, who earned the enmity of the supporters of Patriarch Cyril in an internal struggle for power in the city. She was indeed attacked and killed by Saint Cyrils supporters but they were not monks but a kind of guard.
The belief that she was murdered by being attacked with oyster-shells is a misunderstanding of the original Greek : the word ostrakois does mean oyster-shells but was also used to mean the brick tiles used on the roofs of houses. So Forster was right. Mrs Stitch probably got her ideas on the subject from reading Charles Kingsleys novel Hypatia, which was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Hypatias murder signalled the end of Alexandrian eminence in the arts and sciences. Scholars tended to pack up and leave, and the academies to decline and close down.
or hookah, a pipe for smoking tobacco or marijuana. The smoke is drawn up through a tube which is immersed in a container of cooling water.
333 Hot sit-upon
This is baby language for a seat which has been kept warm by a previous occupant.
333 Alpes Maritimes
i.e. the department of France which includes the French Riviera and such prestigious resorts as Nice, Cannes, Menton, Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. It also surrounds the independent principality of Monaco.
In a letter of 23rd October 1954 EW asked his friend Nancy Mitford for some advice on the French phrases he puts into the novel at this point. She lived in Paris and spoke fluent French. He wanted the language to be suitable for a Levantine woman to utter. She made a few small changes to his suggestions. I have based my translation on EWs English original.
333 Ah, chère madame, ce que vous avez
lair star, aujourdhui.
Oh, dear madame, you really look like a film star today!
334 Je crois bien que vous navez pas
trouvé cela en Egypte.
I bet you didnt find that in Egypt.
334 Chère madame, quel drôle de
Dear madam, what an amusing shopping basket.
334 Ça, madame, cest
Madame, thats brilliant of you!
i.e. the commander of all British forces in the Middle East. At this time he was General Archibald Wavell (1883-1950). Wavell had won the campaign against the Italians in North Africa, but now seemed to be on the point of losing the one against Rommels Germans. He was to be replaced in July 1941 and sent as Commander-in-Chief to South-East Asia, where he was to preside over the loss of Malaya, Singapore and Burma to the Japanese. He then became the penultimate Viceroy of India.
In later life and after his death Wavell was most honoured for his wonderful anthology of poetry Other Mens Flowers, which he published in 1944. It combines a judicious choice of well-known poems with splendid lesser-known ones and heart-warmingly ingenuous comments on them. Wavell was famous for an extensive repertoire of poetry that he had learnt by heart and was willing to recite at any opportunity.
334 a roving English cabinet
This politician, who we soon learn is able to quote the poems of Cavafy and Callimachus in the original, is reminiscent of Harold Macmillan, the future Prime Minister and Earl of Stockton (1894-1986), who in 1942 was to be appointed British Minister Resident at Allied Forces Headquarters, Mediterranean Command. He would not have been in Alexandria in 1941, however, though EW would not have cared much about that in writing his novel. Macmillan was a member of the publishing family and a lover of both Classics and Literature.
In his book A Waugh Companion Paul A. Doyle suggests that this politician could be Anthony Eden (1897-1977), also a future Prime Minister and Earl (in his case, of Avon). He also had a love of the classics and as Foreign Secretary actually was in Egypt, though briefly, in 1941.
Constantine Cavafy (or Konstantinos Kafavis), the Greek poet, ever to be associated with the city of Alexandria where he was born, lived and died (1863-1933). He was a modern sceptic whose poetry was realist and personal. His most famous poems are probably those where he retold familiar stories from history with a modern gloss and several layers of meaning.
335 They told me, Heraclitus, they told me
you were dead
The original poem is a fragment by Callimachus (about 305-240 B.C.). Wavell is quoting from the translation by W.J. Cory (1823-1892), a popular poem in his youth. The complete poem reads :
They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
I wept as I remembered how often you and I
Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
And now that thou art lying, my dear old Carian guest,
A handful of grey ashes, long, long ago at rest,
Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;
For death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.
(The famous Heraclitus (or Heracleitus), (about 540-480 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher - from Miletus rather than from Caria - who attempted to give a reasoned explanation of the universe. He taught that despite change there is a persistent unity in nature. We know little about his life, and what we do know is merely what later authors wrote about him. Callimachus could not have known him, so his Heraclitus must be another person.)
335 My country is being murdered.
This is of course Greece. See earlier for information on the German occupation.
335 the passes of Thessaly
Thessaly is a level, low-lying area of northern Greece. It was a strategically important region in the myriad conflicts of the region over thousands of years.
The meaning is that the Commander-in-Chief is captured for the moment by the romance of ancient Greek history and myth.
335 Im afraid you fellows have got rather left out
of things. Shipping is the trouble.
Wavells estimate as given by EW is extremely accurate. Historically, Layforce did little before the Battle of Crete and began to grow demoralised as a result; and one of the main problems was finding naval ships to carry the Commandos along the coast on raids behind enemy lines. The Navy was very reluctant to engage in what seemed dangerous manoeuvres for very little advantage and no permanent gain.
337 Lenten fast
Strict Catholics at that time always gave something up during Lent, the period of forty days before Easter Sunday, and many people still do today. This observance was a relic of the ancient practice of not eating at all in the day-time during Lent. (See the next entry.)
337 broke his Lenten fast
Mr Crouchback has followed the recommendation of the Church at this time in marking the period of Lent. People fit enough to do so were required to fast every day except Sundays and to abstain from meat during this period. The trial that may be thought to be imposed by this regulation was tempered by the fact that fasting was defined as having just one main meal a day, and that at about mid-day.
The Churchs rules about fasting have been largely mitigated since the 1960s. The only days now marked out as fast days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
337 a chaplain under close arrest
perhaps a joke by EW, though he did have a priest in Egypt (not an army chaplain!) arrested on suspicion of spying.
337 Point by point
Before this there was in OG a sentence which gave a little further information about the personality of Kerstie Kilbannock :
There were nuances in her way with men which suggested she had once worked with them and competed on equal terms.
338 Dorchester Hotel
The very expensive and prestigious hotel in Park Lane, opened in 1931 on the site of the demolished Dorchester House.
338 Eaton Terrace
The Kilbannocks live in Belgravia, one of the superior neighbourhoods of London.
338 a packet of Players
a popular brand of cigarettes
340 G.S.O. II (Planning)
the General Staff Officer responsible for planning operations
An Alsatian is a person who comes from Alsace, a province of France which has historically been a bone of contention between France and German states since the sixteenth century. The people still speak a dialect of German though their culture has been heavily influenced by their links with France. From 1870 to 1918 it was part of Germany, and after the defeat of France in 1940 the Germans had once again incorporated the province.
346 placed virtually under close arrest
so that an idle word in public would not alert anyone to the nature of their prospective operation
346 D.L.F. H.O.O.
Director of Land Forces at Hazardous Offensive Operations. This is General Whales title.
346 tube train
in what the British call the Underground and the Americans the Subway
Third hand is the recognised term in maritime circles for the officer who is third in the hierarchy on board a ship or submarine. He assists the mate (or second hand) in dealing with the crew.
346 a specific against carbon dioxide poisoning
I have not ascertained what this substance is. I think it may simply be a sleeping draught.
348 gibbous moon
The moon (or a planet) is gibbous (pronounced with a hard g) when more than half of it is visible from earth, i.e. from half-moon to half-moon a fortnight later. The word gibbosus means hunchbacked in medieval Latin.
348 only mist
After this phrase EW originally wrote curling into the flats, but eliminated these words because Trimmer and his platoon are supposed to be landing in an area notorious for its cliffs and rocks.
349 a fag
a cigarette (British slang)
349 Very flat Norfolk, said Ian
in an assumed voice.
This is a famous line from Noel Cowards play Private Lives. It is perhaps the most characteristic of many elegant, world-weary utterances in the play. The assumed voice is that of Coward himself (1899-1973), who is still regularly imitated more than thirty years after his death. In fact Coward himself could never have said the line on stage though he wrote nearly all his leading parts for himself - it is uttered by the heroine, Amanda.
Norfolk is of course the eastern county of England jutting into the North Sea. Much of it is only just above sea level.
a whispering sound (from the Latin)
350 Moonlight can be cruelly deceptive,
Amanda, said Ian
Another line from Private Lives, this time from the leading male character, Elyot.
351 Sales Boches!
Filthy Huns! (French)
353 at zero plus sixty
i.e. an hour after they landed
353-4 Be of good comfort, Master Trimmer, and play the
man. We shall this day light such a candle by Gods grace in England as I
trust shall never be put out.
Substituting Ridley for Trimmer, these are words attributed to Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) as he and Nicholas Ridley (about 1500-1555) stood bound to the stake suffering execution by burning for treason, a charge they had incurred through having Protestant views and opposing the agenda of the Catholic Queen Mary I.
Kilbannocks comparison of Operation Popgun with a martyrdom deriving from a fervent faith is startling for its inappropriateness and cynicism. He already knows what false capital he is going to make out of the story.
Military Medal, a distinguished honour for gallantry in war awarded to non-officer ranks from 1916 to 1993.
See my note on page 252. General Whale makes the fact clear that the D.S.O. is the superior award.
an official document stating the merits of the actions of a fighting man with the intention of drawing that mans deeds to the notice of authority and, generally, hoping to elicit an award for him
355 Captain McTavish trained
The whole paragraph is a breathtaking example of falsehood undertaken with a concealed agenda in mind.
EW himself was not averse to writing something similar; he produced an article on the commando raid on Bardia of the night of 19th and 20th April 1941 (in which he took part) with the aims of extolling commando courage and resolution and stiffening public appreciation of the force. The raid had actually been a monumental blunder bordering on disaster, for the Commandos had lost 67 men taken as prisoners even though they had found no opposition when they landed. (They just lost their way and could not be taken off in time.) Moreover an officer was killed by his own jumpy men. EWs article was published in Life in November 1941.
355 Not out
This is a phrase from the game of cricket. Aficionados will need no instruction, but basically, for those who do not know the game, what has happened is that Mr Crouchback, who is umpiring (that is, refereeing) in the match, has paid no attention to the action and cannot therefore fairly judge whether a batsman has been dismissed or not. No umpires other than schoolmasters in their own schools would long survive admitting that they were just not looking.
355 no ball
In cricket bowlers must bowl the ball from behind a line (or rather, the foot must not wholly cross the line in the bowling action). If they step over this line the delivery is declared a no ball and must be bowled again; at least one run (point) must be added to the batting sides score, the exact number depending on how successful the batsman has been at dealing with the ball.
Mr Crouchbacks leisurely manner, so suitable for most phases of a cricket game, is responsible for his dereliction here. If the boy did step over the line before releasing the ball, he had bowled a no ball and Mr Crouchback ought to have shouted the words out in time to let the batsman have a free hit at it. Once he had failed to indicate the no ball, the easiest thing to do and say was nothing.
a position in cricket of some responsibility and danger, for this is the man (or in this case boy) whose job it is to stop the ball if it goes past the batsman unhit. He is well padded and protected. He would also have the clearest view of whether Mr Crouchback had been right or wrong to give the batsman not out with the penultimate delivery.
356 junker class
Mr Crouchback is referring to the aristocracy of Prussia, who were supposedly obsessed about the maintenance of military traditions in all phases of life. In Britain they were thought to be responsible for the efficiency, arrogance and supposed inflexibility of the German army.
356 French name
EW here left out a remark of Mr Crouchbacks : odd trade for a highlander, you might think. This deletion was probably because even Trimmer would not have passed himself off as a Scottish highlander : the deceit would quickly have been discovered.
357 Seen it dozens of times.
In OG, EW devotes a short sentence to Ivor Claires reaction when he hears about Trimmers supposed triumph : When Ivor Claire heard the news he merely said: Some nonsense of Brendans, obviously.
(Brendan is undoubtedly Brendan Bracken (1901-1958), a friend of Winston Churchills and Minister of Information from 1941. He had a reputation as a clever manipulator of news items.)
358 Ty. Lt. A/g Capt. McTAVISH. H.M.C.
i.e. Temporary Lieutenant Acting Captain McTavish, His Majestys Commando.
358 Daily Beast
This newspaper and its proprietor appear in two of Waughs novels. Though there are elements of other papers and people, most commentators agree that the Daily Beast is the Daily Express and that Lord Copper is Lord Beaverbrook (1879-1964). It is Lord Copper of whom his minions are so afraid that when he is wrong they say Up to a point rather than No in answer to his suppositions and questions.
Beaverbrook was certainly an advocate of opening the army to talent from the rank; he was also given to expressing intemperate condemnation of officers from upper-class backgrounds, though whether through conviction or a desire to sell his newspapers is a moot point.
358 the chairman
This gentleman is probably the officer who was chairman at the meeting of the committee which tried to destroy H.O.O. (page 319) and therefore is A.C.I.G. himself.
360 Ministries of Information, Supply, Aircraft
Production and the Foreign Office
These ministries all existed during the war. The Ministry of Information dealt with the war of words, both at home and abroad, and would better have been called the Ministry of Propaganda.
the French word for thoughts, but used in English to indicate elegantly-expressed reflections on artistic or philosophical matters not always intended only for private cogitation
360 The defeat in Greece
See my note on page 319.
360 only fighting troops in Alexandria.
After this sentence EW cut a sizeable passage from OG. It reads :
They found themselves called on to find guards for government buildings and banks. They were assigned a role in the defence of the city in the event of a German break-through. Early in May Tommy Blackhouse, Major Hound and Guy drove out to with a Brigadier from Area Command to inspect the sandy ridge between Lake Mariout and the sea where they were expected to hold Rommels armour with their knives and toggle-ropes and tommy-guns.
Whats to stop him coming round the other side? asked Tommy.
According to the plan - the Gyppos, said the Brigadier.
He laughed, Tommy laughed, they laughed all four.
The British had no faith in the fighting qualities of the Egyptian army, and these reactions are certainly true to life. (In a letter to Ann Fleming of 7th November 1956, the time of the Suez crisis, EW stated Any troop of Boy Scouts can defeat the Egyptian army.)
361 Country Life
a weekly periodical, still extant, which caters for those living in the countryside in easy circumstances and for those envying them, containing portraits of houses of some elegance and their owners, fascinating advice on civilised living, and advertisements for products which might sell to its readers
361 officers mess
After this sentence EW cut out another reference to B Commando and its colonel : B Commando dined as punctually and solemnly as Halberdiers in barracks, with Colonel Prentices great-great-grandfathers sabre displayed on the table.
361 the Lido
the beach resort of Venice
361 Mrs Stitch was about
A paragraph omitted here was :
Guy set his intelligence section to make a map of the camp, for Major Hound had returned from one of his trips to Cairo with a case labelled intelligence stores which proved to contain a kindergarten outfit of coloured inks and drawing materials. He fought a daily battle with Major Hound to preserve his men from guard-duties.
The political decision had been made to hold onto Crete, the Greek island 60 miles (100 Km) to the south-east of the mainland.
362 this brigade hasnt the equipment for defensive
Hounds observation turns out to be only too true, as was the case in real life with Layforce.
The death wish was a common talking point among the articulate and up-to-date in the 1930s and 1940s.
It arose out of Sigmund Freuds investigation of human aggression. He postulated that there existed a death instinct - the deep wish to return to the inanimate, to destroy life and to break links. This wish, he stated, can be witnessed in many psychic states, from psychopathic destructiveness to despair to self-destructiveness. In a classic form of displacement the death instinct was frequently manifested in forms of aggressive behaviour. This aggression could often be safely channelled into socially acceptable activities such as sports.
Freuds views are not widely accepted today : modern theories of aggression are often social in emphasis.
It is not clear that Ludovic has any meaning for death wish other than a rather fin-de-siècle enervation of spirit. EW increasingly reveals Ludovic as a man prey to all the fashionable vogues of the time, especially in US. Ludovics first novel is going to have the title The Death Wish.
364 We shall be back in Alex in an hour.
Exactly the same thing happened in real life. The ship carrying Waugh and Layforce to Crete was unable to land them because of rough seas. Alex is of course Alexandria.
365 another destroyer in Alexandria.
EW leaves out a response by Hound and an answer by Blackhouse :
I should rather doubt that, Colonel, said Major Hound. The navy is fully committed.
Were one of their commitments. Ive made a signal to Prentice on board the cruiser putting him in command until we turn up. Ive told him his main job is to keep the brigade intact as a formation. The danger is that theyll try and lump the units into the general reserve of Creforce. Then therell be trouble trying to winkle them out and getting them together again for our proper role. I hope Prentice is up to it. He hasnt much experience of the tricks of G.O.C.s.
366 Everything in Crete is under control
its in the bag.
This is entirely false. The Germans (though suffering heavy casualties) were using parachutists and glider forces and, having succeeded in securing the airfield at Maleme near Canea, were making steady progress. Already many British forces were in disorganised retreat.
Brigadier, General Staff
366 last decent meal
Some time someone (not I) is going to write a learned monograph on the importance and meaning of exotic meals in EWs writing. This one is based on true life : EW and his friends had such meals in Alexandria at this time. In a letter to his wife Laura (7th May 1941) he wrote we live on quails and prawns and wood strawberries. He wrote this at a time of rationing and increasing privation in Britain.
367 Juno copped it
The destroyer H.M.S. Juno had been sunk by direct hits from three bombs on the morning of May 21st.
367 Tommy Blackhouse fell
For the significance of this event, see my section on Waugh, Crouchback and Crete in the Introduction to OG.
368 B.M. and I.O.
Brigade Major (Hound) and Intelligence Officer (Guy)
368 L of C
Lines of Communication
368 G.O.C. Creforce
General Officer Commanding Creforce. Creforce was the name given to the British and Commonwealth forces on Crete.
Blackhouses orders have remarkable cogency considering his semi-delirious state. He is determined to land his battalion, to preserve the special commando tasks he has been told to expect to do (and to have them carried out), and to prevent the Commandos from becoming a mere reserve to the regular army forces. His fears that things will go wrong prove only too just.
The Commanding Officer in Crete was General Bernard Freyberg V.C. (Lord Freyberg, 1889-1963), whose New Zealand Brigade put up excellent resistance to the German attacks though hampered by odd decisions by their officers.
Some confusion arises if you study the history of the Battle of Crete. Though Freyberg was in command, the general in charge of operations in the Suda Bay area was General E.C. Weston of the Royal Marines. Weston had actually been G.O.C. Creforce for four days at the end of April, and showed his displeasure at Freybergs appointment in his place by retaining all the Headquarters Staff for his own office. When Laycock and EW went to find the commanding officer on Layforces arrival in Crete, it was to Westons headquarters that they went. This visit is fictionalised on page 375.
In SH EW deals with the problem of there being two commanders by simply making them one man.
368 Suda Bay
A natural bay formed by the mainland of Crete and the Akrotiri Peninsula, this was the main disembarkation area for the British troops before the German presence grew too hot. It is on the northern coast of the island and well within range of German aircraft.
368 The officers of B Commando
Having already decided to eliminate Colonel Prentice, EW decided here to eliminate the names of individual officers of B Commando whom he began in OG to mention at this point. In OG, Captain Slimbridge is named in this sentence and Captain Roots in the next. In SH, EW just calls them by their rank titles, Roots for example being the Staff Captain. EW also decided not to give the name of Guys sergeant, who frequently appears in the narrative; it was Smiley (who has been mentioned already on page 325).
The result of EWs decision is that there are many little changes in this chapter from now on which I shall not bother to mention.
369 a laggard, unshaven, shuddering
This unlucky individual did come aboard and say these things, according to EW in his Memorandum on Layforce in Diaries (page 499) and the accounts of other officers of Layforce.
Embarkation Staff Officer
Military Landing Craft.
Hounds rule-book finickiness seems doubly ludicrous in the circumstances; but in fact Hookforces landing would have been much easier and more complete if things could have been done his way.
370 Passengers off the car first,
This phrase was used by conductors on trams and buses. The idea was to get passengers off before allowing their replacements on.
371 The signallers began throwing their wireless sets
It seems difficult to believe that it is Hookforce who are doing this, but EWs Memorandum on Layforce (Diaries, page 499) makes it clear that this really did happen. It seems the signallers, disoriented by all the unexpected chaos about them and trying to find some way of getting their equipment off the boat when there was obviously no order imposed on the disembarkation, took this amazing course of action. The official reason given later was that they were clearing space on decks. The lack of contact that resulted from the absence of radio communications was to be of great importance in the next five days for Layforce and for EW (and therefore for Guy). Moreover, few stores of any kind were landed so that the Commandos quickly began to go hungry.
372 you pongoes
Naval men refer to soldiers as pongoes, and the Air Force followed suit in World War II. Serious-minded scholars postulate that the term probably comes from the original use of the word to mean a large ape like a chimpanzee or gorilla. More frivolous people think it comes from the well-known fact that soldiers sometimes cannot bathe for days and so have a prominent smell. (Where the army goes, there the pong goes.) The most likely explanation is that it comes from the character Pongo the Dog in Punch and Judy shows at around the turn of the twentieth century; he wore a forage cap much like a soldiers. (All three explanations could have a bearing, of course.)
372 Colonel Prentice
EW kills Prentice off here, though his model (Colonel Pedder) died a few weeks after the battle for Crete (see my note to page 315).
See my notes on Waugh, Crouchback and Crete in the Introduction to OG for the way EW swapped around the commands of the real officers on Crete to suit his needs in OG and SH.
373 We havent had any orders from anyone for
As the story progresses, we find we can believe this incredible statement. In his Memorandum on Layforce (Diaries, page 502) EW states We did not once, in the five days action, receive an order from any higher formation without going to ask for it.
Senior Naval Officer
the seaside port on the south coast which the British troops used for the evacuation from Crete. Today it is called Khora Sfakiou. It is far too small to conduct an evacuation efficiently, as is clear from SH, but commanders felt there was little choice.
373 42nd Street
This was the nickname given to a sunken track south of Canea near which was a peasant farmhouse which acted as General Westons headquarters. It was not easily found by soldiers looking for orders or trying to report.
These famous dive-bombers were very accurate in their near-vertical strikes and accompanied their descent with a frightening note on a siren. The plane was technically a Junkers JU-87. They had been used with remarkable success in all the German campaigns of the war so far, but were in fact very vulnerable to good fighter aircraft, as later campaigns were to prove. Unfortunately the British had no planes to spare to mount an effective resistance to the Luftwaffe in Crete; any Hurricane or Spitfire would have dealt with a Stuka easily enough. The result was that air supremacy was a vital factor in ensuring German success in Crete.
Wrong way, mate.
Canea is the main town of north-eastern Crete, on the north coast to the west of Suda Bay and at this time under increasing pressure from German troops. The withdrawal to Sphakia on the south coast is well under way.
In reality this soldier was not Freyberg, who was G.O.C. Creforce, but General Weston, Commander of the Royal Marines on the island, who was G.O.C. in charge of the rearguard. See my note to G.O.C. Creforce on page 368.
376 a New Zealand officer
New Zealand soldiers had borne the brunt of most of the fighting in the Maleme-Canea area and had initially had considerable success in opposing the German airborne troops. They would have had more success had their senior officers been sufficiently intelligent or independent to take immediate action against the invaders as they arrived.
EW leaves out at this point some of the conversation between Hound and the New Zealander. It is as follows :
I dont know where the A.D.S. is, said Major Hound.
Nor do I. These are men from the Canea hospital. The Jerries turned them out.
That hardly sounds likely.
Well, here they are.
(The A.D.S. is the Advanced Dressing Station.)
376 as they were thrown about.
A considerable piece of OG is missing here :
Guy was being painfully pressed against the backboard. He dug forward with his knees and the man in front edged forward, then turned and peered at him in the darkness. A curious sound emerged.
Sorry and all that. Bit on the tight side, what?
It was a preposterous accent, the grossly exaggerated parody of the hot-potato, haw-haw voice; something overheard from Christmas charades. Guy flashed his torch and discerned a youngish man incongruously clothed in service-dress, Sam Browne, and the badges of a Lieutenant-Colonel.
Are you wounded? Guy asked.
Hardly. Jolly sporting of you to give me a lift.
Where are you going?
Following the jolly old crowd, dont you know. Its sauve qui peut now, as the French say.
Do they? Is it? May I ask who you are?
Im O.C. Transit Camp. Or rather I was, what? Nothing we could do, dont you know? Our orders are to find our own way to the coast.
The lorry slowed among another block of walking men. Guy began to wonder about this man next to him. It was a device of German parachute troops, he had been told, to infiltrate in enemy uniforms and spread subversive rumours.
Was it part of your orders to tell everyone its sauve qui peut?
Major Hound was separated from them by half a dozen hunched and prostrate men. Guy crawled and pushed towards him.
Whos this chap at the back? he whispered. Do you think hes all right?
I dont know why not.
Hes got a very odd way of speaking and hes saying some very odd things.
He seems perfectly normal to me. Anyway this is as far as we can take him.
EW did meet such a character in Crete.
376 Get out. Everyone out, said Major
After this Sergeant Smiley enforces the order in OG :
Sergeant Smiley joined in.
Move to it, he shouted.
377 But he did not sleep.
In OG Guy too tries to snatch some sleep and comes to a conclusion about the odd officer which EW himself adopted in regard to the real case he had come across :
Guy made his bed behind a boulder among thorny sweet shrubs. He too lay awake. That strange man in service dress, he decided, was not a German paratrooper; merely a private soldier who had stolen officers uniform the better to effect his escape.
377 many cases of men shooting officers
In my researches, I have not come across any authenticated cases of this happening in Crete. This is not to say, of course, that it did not happen.
One reason offered by some of his commanders (e.g. Lord Lovat) for not giving EW command of a company was that he was so unpopular his men would shoot him in the back at the first opportunity. But some of the men themselves have said that he was not so much unpopular as bemusing; his eccentricity and irony puzzled them.
378 Does Ludovic strike you as peculiar?
In OG Hound asks Guy if he thinks Ludovic queer. Though the homosexual meaning of the word was well understood before 1941, it had taken a stronger hold by 1964 and it is understandable that EW wished to avoid ambiguity. (However, Ludovic is certainly homosexual, as we learn in US.)
379 silent quattrocento heaven
Quattrocento is the name given to the early Renaissance art of Italy (in the fifteenth century, the fourteen-hundreds). The skies are often of a strikingly clear but full blue created by the use of a pigment derived from lapis lazuli.
379 You cant move on, not in daytime.
This was a characteristic attitude on Crete. Without much defence being offered by the R.A.F., soldiers saw themselves as easy targets for German planes, initially sent from Greece but soon operating from captured airfields on Crete itself. Transport was picked out and shot up so soldiers had to march on foot and found it safer to hide and rest during the day and to move at night.
EW seems to have considered this practice to be a form of cowardice. He himself was notorious for moving about freely even when German planes were strafing the area. He was never hit.
379 the moment of probation
i.e. the moment of supreme testing. Now Hound either maintains his authority and integrity by controlling his animal cravings (as Guy manages to do), or he succumbs to them and is ruthlessly stripped of human dignity.
381 28/6/41. Adv. Bde. HQ
Since these events historically took place (and EW elsewhere agrees that they took place) in late May and early June, this date should read 28/5/41. Guy is referring to the establishment of Advanced Brigade Head Quarters.
381 Manual of Small Arms
Before and during World War II the War Office (and the manufacturers) produced many pamphlets dealing with all aspects of maintaining and using small arms, i.e. weapons which single soldiers could easily operate by themselves. Usually each pamphlet would deal with the handling of a single weapon, but some of them dealt with general matters. The instructions given in this manual recall the Judging Distance classes that Guy had attended a year earlier (page 94).
382 Punctually at eight the sky filled with
The Germans do seem to have operated by the rigorous schedules which are suggested in SH.
382 sauve qui peut
Let him save himself who can (French), a phrase which had come to mean a panic-stricken retreat, each man for himself
382 A planned withdrawal
Hookforce has landed just in time to do duties for which it was not intended, i.e. holding a line through which tired and demoralised troops will retreat in order to get to the evacuation port of Sphakia. It is not difficult to understand that this role was utterly unlike the secret, speedy and sudden raids which they had been trained to do. But this task was indeed the role given to Layforce in Crete, mainly because they were the only fit and untested force left who could do it.
382-3 The G.O.C.s conference
In real life EW was at Freybergs conference. EW wrote that Freyberg was composed but obtuse (Memorandum on Layforce, Diaries, page 500).
385 They were pay-clerks
a few dead
The impression of utter disorganisation - of sauve qui peut, in fact - which this sentence conveys was all too close to the truth. In his Memorandum on Layforce (Diaries, page 501), EW gives an almost unbelievable incident when he comes across General Weston himself alone and lost, sheltering under a hedge. I used to command here once, he said wistfully.
385 Theyll have a sentry posted on the
After this sentence comes a section in OG which tells of Guys meeting with a Greek general named Miltiades. He is to be with them for a few pages, but is excised from SH. The section reads :
They drove on and presently came to two men in foreign uniforms working with spades at the side of the road, one old, one young. The old man was rather small, very upright, very brown, very wrinkled, with superb white moustaches and three lines of decorations. The young man threw down his spade and ran into the road to stop the lorry while the old man stood looking at the heap they had made and then crossed himself three times in the Greek manner.
It is General Miltiades, said the young man in clear English. We have been separated from the Household a week now. Would you be so kind as to take us to the harbour? The General is to take an English ship to Egypt. We should have been there last night , but an aeroplane shot our car and wounded the driver. The General would not leave him. He died two hours ago and we have just buried him. Now we must go on.
That was the last ship from Suda. He must go to Sphakia.
Can you take us?
I can take you a few miles. Jump in, if you dont mind my doing a few errands on the way.
They began to drive on but the interpreter beat on the back of the cab, saying: That is the wrong way. Only Germans that way,
Then occurs the incident with the German motor-cyclist, which proves the young Greek officer right.
386 that, in a way, was a comfort.
After this line in OG occurs the sentence They passed the Greek staff-car; they passed the church. After Guys remark about the stragglers in the next paragraph EW wrote :
They drove slowly, looking for signs of Hookforce. Soon there was a beating on the back of the cab.
Sir, said Ludovic, this General knows where there are rations, and petrol.
386 Jump in, said Guy.
Before this sentence (which seems somewhat unmotivated in SH), there is in OG this short paragraph :
You can give these good men a lift also? asked the interpreter. They are a little drunk, I believe, and not able to march.
386 The Greek soldiers fell asleep.
In OG there is also : The General changed his boots.
387 deeply weary himself
After this phrase, there occurs a page of incident which EW removed from SH :
and out of temper with them.
General Miltiades meanwhile had been sitting calmly in the back of the truck. Suddenly Tony Luxmore noticed him. he was a man who, once seen, was not easily forgotten.
General Miltiades, he cried, Hullo, sir. You wouldnt remember me. You came with the King to stay with my parents at Wrackham.
The General smiled in all his wrinkles. He did not remember Tony or Tonys parents , the wintry pillared house where he had slept, the farm where he had eaten Irish-stew, or the high bare coverts where in another age not long ago he had shot pheasant. He was past seventy. In youth he had fought the Turks and been often wounded. In middle life the politicians had often sent him into exile. In old age he was homeless again, finally, it might seem, still following his king. Barracks, boarding-houses, palaces, English country-houses, stricken battlefields - all were the same to General Miltiades.
He climbed down with agility. His liaison officer followed, carrying a straw-covered flask in each hand.
The General asks you to take wine with him.
Mugs were filled. The General had some English. He proposed a toast; with no shade of irony in his steady, pouchy eyes; the single word: Victory.
How about you, Corporal-Major? Guy asked.
Thank you, sir. I have already refreshed myself.
There was saluting and hand-shaking. Then Guys party boarded the lorry again and drove away.
Captain Crouchback, Corporal-Major Ludovic noted, is pleased because General Miltiades is a gentleman. He would like to believe that the war is being fought by such people. But all gentlemen are now very old.
Ludovic sat on a hot boulder some little distance apart. The cheese, the wafers, the sardines had been divided. Some men ravenously ate all at once. Ludovic had stowed away a substantial part - The unexpired portion of how many days ration? Everyone had had a mug of wine. Now they spread blankets to protect their knees against the fierce sun and were one by one falling asleep. General Miltiades had tried to explain, with map and interpreter, various peculiarities of the terrain which might be exploited to the enemys discomfort. Major Hound proved an inattentive audience. He said petulantly to Guy, when the General briefly pottered away alone into the cover, What did you want to bring him here for? How are we going to get rid of him?
I suggest we give him a lift to the G.O.C. later in the day.
Ive got to think about moving headquarters.
Guy tried to explain the readjustments among the units. Major Hound said: Yes, yes. Its their responsibility.
He had taken in nothing.
Then Guy, too lay down to sleep. The General returned and lay down.
388 Weve no brigade commander either.
Tommy Blackhouse was the brigade commander; Hound as Brigade Major has been detailed by him to act as the commander. Guys words, though technically correct, are contemptuous of Hounds leadership and point out that he is unfit to command.
388 Now he was not fair game.
In OG Guy attempts some consolation for the sorry Major, but the extent of Hounds demoralisation is becoming clear :
I dare say we can be some help coordinating, said Guy in an attempt to console.
I dont know exactly what you mean by that.
I think wed better send the General to the General, dont you?
Whatever you like.
In the lorry?
Yes. It can come back for us.
390 slower than a route march
A route march is a march over rough ground where the soldiers are allowed to march out-of-step and with relaxed discipline at a pace faster than a regular march. Its aim would be to traverse the ground economically at the fastest possible speed reconcilable with a maintained pace.
391 court martial
There is no doubt that the behaviour of these soldiers is mutinous and liable to the severest punishment. It is however doubtful if, in the muddled circumstances of a disorganised retreat, any charges would stick. Hound is merely salving his own conscience.
391 full of furious Australians
There were Australian troops on Crete as part of Creforce. (An Australian sergeant dies immediately after arriving on board the ship - on page 371 - and Ludovic says he has met another on page 377.) It is clear that as disorganisation and demoralisation set in, some Australian troops did behave with remarkable self-interest in their attempts to extricate themselves from Crete. Nevertheless an Australian brigade got left behind in the evacuation and was made prisoner; it had the galling experience of marching in good order to the evacuation beach, waiting in line for its turn and hearing the anchors being weighed as the final rescue ship (containing Laycock, EW and about 200 Commandos) sailed away.
EW clearly has a doubtful attitude towards the idea of liberation. The reason for his view was that the word came to be used as a euphemism for forcible takeover when the countries of eastern Europe were rolled into the Communist bloc in the final months of the war and the first years of peace. But initially it was a noble concept, for example in the wrenching of France from Nazi occupation in 1944.
These Italians, who had clearly been pleased to be out of the battle when they were captured, are now faced with the prospect of returning to the war as combatants once the victorious Germans have handed them back to their countrys authorities. They would prefer to be transported to Egypt as prisoners. Even the German solders who liberated them noticed how they seemed paralyzed by fear.
392 foraging party
a group of soldiers sent out to collect food and drink for their company. When conditions were not disordered, the supplies were usually negotiated and paid for, but in times like these there is no doubt that they would be at best confiscated and more probably stolen or seized by force.
393 air marshal under a billiard-table
a reminiscence of Air Marshal Beechs conduct in Bellamys (page 220)
393 The Germans were busy that day landing
reinforcements and searching for rescue-ships.
This sentence indicates that the airplanes were absent. This fact was noted at the time but the reason given here is not entirely correct. It was at this time that the German High Command withdrew a number of squadrons from Greece and Crete in order to prepare for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Russia, which was to take place the following month.
i.e. situation report. Of course Hound has nothing to report, being detached from Hookforce headquarters as he is. His essential emptiness and cowardice come through in the disjointed words he now utters, all of which would have been drummed into him at Staff College and have no relevance in the present circumstances. It is a telling sign of the vacuity at G.H.Q. that his words are accepted at face value.
398 vainly calling Cairo
another sign of the appalling effect created by lack of communications on the British side of the campaign. Another is the appearance of Hound himself at Creforce Headquarters, a fact which should be surprising but isnt.
398 Your men all in position?
sir, Fido lied.
Hounds utter dereliction of duty - he has run away from his own men and his responsibilities - has now put two sets of soldiers at risk.
Deputy Quarter Master General
398 Hookforce were last on, so Im afraid
youre the last off.
This was the position faced by Layforce in reality. It was a bitter decision for their commander, Bob Laycock. An elite troop of men, trained for adventurous and dangerous secret action, still basically active and in good order, was being sacrificed in this way to make the path safe for a defeated and disordered rabble whose fighting qualities might never recover. The decision reinforces the impression that the Commandos have gained among regular soldiers, even at high command - that they are negligible and no consideration need be given to their special character.
400 Sage and thyme, marjoram and dittany and
These plants emphasise the fertility and fragance of Hounds accidentally-discovered sleeping place. Dittany is a pink-flowered Mediterranean plant related to marjoram.
400 The spring had been embellished
The practice of beautifying and honouring a natural spring with images and gifts has a long history and goes back to prehistoric times. New Agers are only the latest in a long line of nature-worshippers to adopt the practice.
Arcadia was celebrated in ancient times as a rural paradise where one could find beauty and innocence. This meaning persisted throughout western civilisation until modern times. Here, of course, the phrase is used ironically, for Hounds encounter with the acquisitive old man follows.
400 Abdul the Damned
The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire from 1876 to 1909 was Abdülhamid II (1842-1918), in the West nicknamed the Damned because of his reactionary despotism and violent policies of repression. In his reactionary way he was however a reformer, improving rail and telegraph communications, tackling justice, and creating a superior education system.
A British film called Abdul the Damned, as cavalier with facts as any modern Hollywood historical epic, was based on his life. It was directed by Karl Grune and starred Fritz Kortner, Nils Asther, Esme Percy and Adrienne Ames, and was released in 1935. It has the reputation of being one of the best, most stylish British films of the 1930s. No doubt EW, a frequent cinema-goer, is thinking of the image of Abdul as portrayed in this film.
400 leather puttees
rustic gaiters for the lower leg (originally they would have been mere bandages)
the crooked staff
400 The Cretan studied the weapon
Large numbers of weapons, discarded by Creforce in their retreat, were picked up by the locals and used by them in an often ferocious guerrilla campaign against the Germans over the next four years. So the pistol was, from the point of view of the anti-German struggle, better in the hands of the ancient patriarch than in Hounds.
401 devoid of the power and will to move
In OG there is this passage here :
Sometimes he dreamed horribly, sometimes through his waking maze he tried to consider his situation. Enemies encompassed him. Someone had tried to shoot him the night before - German, Australian, Cretan, it did not signify; every hand was against him.
i.e. paper documents. It is short for bum fodder, or toilet paper.
401 a horripilant sound
i.e. a sound which makes the hair stand on end
401 an icy sit-upon
Hound has run into the stream without realising it, and is now sitting on his haunches so that the back of his shorts are in the water.
401 his chit from the D.Q.M.G.
In mentioning this valueless paper, EW emphasises Hounds utter inability to grasp the fatuity of regular administrative procedure in the extremes of war.
402 the horn of Roland
See my note to page 247, where EW has already used this image. There it was applied to an advertisement in a newspaper intended to aid a charitable quest; here it merely mocks Hounds animal appetites. Notice how often he is characterised by animal and (especially appropriately) doggy images.
402 his batman
The extent of the collapse around Hound is stressed with this information. The collapse is also the collapse of civilised values, of due and rightful subordination, as EW saw it.
403 mostly Spaniards
These are the Spaniards, anti-clerical and ill-disciplined, whom Guy had met in Egypt. In the following paragraph EW tells us about their rugged strength in adversity and their hanging onto a semblance of order, when the British forces all around seem to be disintegrating. Though EW disliked them, he is able (as always) to give them their due.
404 Knightsbridge or Windsor
Ludovic is referring to places where his own regiment, the Blues, might expect to be seen. Knightsbridge is where their barracks was situated and Windsor, the royal castle, where they might be on parade.
404 a wan young officer
This would be a lieutenant. The information he goes on to give Guy is of no great accuracy or, indeed, usefulness. This young mans main aim is to get away from the battle.
406 Hudor. Hydro. Dipso.
Guy is going through his repertoire of ancient Greek possibilities for water and thirst. The modern Greek for water is nero.
406 a young English soldier who lay on a stretcher
EW himself experienced such an incident in Crete (Memorandum on Layforce, Diaries, page 504).
The name given to a formal painting or sculpture of the scene where Christs body is taken down from the Cross.
406 the corporal works of charity
More accurately the corporal works of mercy, these are seven in number : to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to visit the imprisoned; to bury the dead.
Roman Catholic. This is why Guy says the words commonly used by Catholics in prayers for the dead.
407 Since Guy last saw him in West Africa
i.e. in Freetown when Guy was sent home in some disgrace at the end of MA. This had happened in September 1940, eight months before.
408 Q fellows
i.e. the Quartermaster department. Major Erskine thinks that with adequate supplies of equipment and ammunition his men could easily hold the Germans. It is clear that the organisation of supplies has completely broken down.
Regimental Aid Post
409 a slight chill
because Colonel Tickeridge is making clear his knowledge and disapproval of the higher commands poor direction of the battle. Guy is associated with the higher command as a Battalion Intelligence Officer.
409 Quite a bit of excitement on the left flank.
In OG Colonel Tickeridge gives more detail of the excitement at this point :
We were up with D Company and I was just warning Brent to expect fireworks in half an hour or so when the Commandos pull out, when Im blessed if the blighters didnt start pooping off at us with a heavy mortar from the other side of the rocks.
409 a company of New Zealanders
In his Memorandum on Layforce (Diaries, page 504) EW mentions that a company of New Zealanders seeking employment in the battle, mainly Maori soldiers, had joined A Battalion in a vigorous defence and counter-attack.
410 falling heavily like a feather in a vacuum
Ludovic has already suggested this image to Guy when he gave him his pensées to read (page 365).
Another character from the legends of the Trojan War. Heracles (Hercules) bequeathed his bow and arrows to him with the result that he became a famous archer. He did not at first join the Greek army in the siege of Troy because of a snake-bite which would not heal, but an oracle revealed that the city could not be captured without the aid of Heracles weapons. Philoctetes was persuaded to go to Troy where he killed Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy and the man whose seduction of Helen had caused the war in the first place. The Greeks then captured and destroyed Troy.
410 The adj.
i.e. the adjutant, his administrative assistant
411 Sergeant-Major Rawkes
In OG Brent is with Rawkes. EW then adds : Both were preoccupied and rather grim. They acknowledged Guys greeting and then turned at once to their C.O.
411 battalion in defence
The Halberdiers carry out their practised moves with easy, unspectacular efficiency. This is of course in great contrast to the efforts of most of the other British troops.
412 blue jobs
i.e. the Navy, who wear blue uniforms
412 Guy found the remnants of his headquarters where he
had left them.
EW adds two sentences to OG here :
He did not enquire for Major Hound. Sergeant Smiley offered no information.
412 Night and day
Trimmer is crooning the famous song by Cole Porter (1891-1964). It was written in 1932 for his show Gay Divorce.
412 the American Press
It was a great concern of British authorities to win the propaganda war against the Germans in the United States. The Germans were by no means without friends, and their aim was simply to maintain U.S. neutrality. The British wanted the Americans to join in the war, a much more difficult task. As Angus Calder points out in his notes to the Penguin edition of SH, the authorities wished to present Britain as a changing, more democratic society, worthy of being aided by the U.S. This is why Trimmer, the token plebeian, is important as a peoples hero with whom the Americans would more easily identify.
413 He says theres a voice within him keeps
repeating, You, you, you.
lines from the Cole Porter song, which Trimmer is still singing
414 Hes been brought up to distrust the red
i.e. Joe has had a dislike of the British bred in him, partly because of his Irish background and partly because of his patriotic American education. British soldiers at the time of the American War of Independence often wore red coats even into battle, which made them easy targets for snipers and guerrillas.
414 They had covered the fall of Addis Ababa, of
Barcelona, of Vienna, of Prague.
Addis Ababa fell to the Italians in 1936, Barcelona to Francos army in January 1939, Vienna to Hitler in the Anschluss of March 1938, and Prague in March 1939.
415 Your boys are putting up a wonderful fight
One of the consequences of doctoring information for public consumption is that the fiction can soon sit awkwardly with the facts, as was to be the case with this example. The British people (and, no doubt, these American journalists) were to be genuinely surprised when it was announced that, after all the apparent success, Crete had been abandoned to the Germans.
415 the Old Man
i.e. Churchill, who did make such a speech and live to rue it
417 Mrs Stuyvesant Oglander
a very minor character who also appears on the ocean liner in Brideshead Revisited. She is the wife of Senator Stuyvesant Oglander.
418 Woolton pies
These pies were a wartime invention supposedly created by the Chef at the Savoy Hotel and recommended by Lord Woolton, the Minister for Food. It was basically a vegetable pie and legendarily unappealing. I found it quite enjoyable when I made a pie in research for this site, though I do think it needs more herbs and spices. During the war the Ministry of Food was always exhorting the British to eat such unfamiliar concoctions because of the many rationing restrictions, though their creation must have taxed the imaginations of its advisors.
Here is the recipe :
|Lord Woolton Pie|
|Ingredients : 1 lb (454g) potatoes, 1 lb (454g) cauliflower, 1 lb (454g) swedes, 1 lb (454g) carrots, 3 or 4 spring onions, 1 teaspoon of vegetable extract, 1 tablespoon of oatmeal, parsley, wholemeal pastry.|
|Method : Dice the potatoes, cauliflower, swedes and carrots, slice the onions and cook all with the vegetable extract and oatmeal for 10 minutes with just enough water to cover. Allow it to cool, then put in a pie dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cover with wholemeal pastry. Bake in a moderate oven until the pastry is nicely brown and serve hot with gravy.|
419 a platform lined with bunks
During the war the stations of the underground in central London were used as a safe place to hide from the bombs and to get some rest.
419 More flats
i.e. H.O.O. had rented more rooms in Marchmain House for their own use.
420 the last grim orders
i.e. that Hookforce were to hold the perimeter to give other brigades the chance to evacuate, and then to surrender to the Germans
420 Napoleon didnt stay with his army after
After the failed attempt to bring the Russians to the conference table in autumn 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to begin the long retreat back to France because Moscow contained too little food to sustain his troops during the winter. He went ahead with his personal staff and a small troop of elite soldiers.
Claire clearly thinks that he should be allowed to get away without his troops, a mode of thinking that Guy entirely fails to follow. Guy sees a difference between the General Staff, who have strategic knowledge, and the officers in the field, who have a responsibility to the men they are with.
420 Dyou imagine one can do anything about getting
posted where one wants?
Of course one cannot choose ones prison camp!
Claires disquisition on honour indicates how he is already troubled in mind by the reaction to any future desertion he undertakes. He is easing his conscience in advance of any action.
i.e. clever, sharp
422 five or six thousand other men
The final total of prisoners of war taken in Crete, including the wounded, was to be 12254. (This figure does not include the soldiers of the Greek army.)
422 identical in aspect though continents apart
In OG EW added a sentence which, remarkably, betrays his own feelings about his own escape from Crete with Colonel Laycock. The sentence has no possible relevance to Guy, and had to be removed when he prepared SH.
He had no clear apprehension that this was a fatal morning, that he was that day to resign an immeasurable part of his manhood.
422 no more ships coming?
After the night of May 31st-June 1st, Admiral Cunningham, in charge of naval operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, decided that the dangers were too great to allow further evacuation of troops. The Royal Navy had lost three cruisers and six destroyers in the Crete campaign, with a total of around 2000 men killed.
422 Me surrender? Not bloody likely.
The exact number of men who did not wait to surrender to the Germans but took to the hills to adopt a guerrilla-cum-outlaw life is difficult to estimate, but there were quite a few. They and the Cretans kept up an annoying resistance to the German occupation throughout the next four years, a resistance which the Special Operations Executive was soon to direct.
423 our friends would be shot
Guys sombre words proved only too true. In classic Nazi fashion, the Germans took revenge for resistance activity by razing villages and shooting the men.
424 Have you seen Major Hound?
Ludovic evades the question in both SH and OG. But in OG Guy learns a little more :
Oh yes, sir. I was with him until - as long as he needed me, sir.
Where is he now? Why have you left him?
And then Ludovic gives the evasive reply we have in SH,
Need we go into that, sir?
We never really find out what really happened to Hound, but enough clues are laid to help us assume that Ludovic has killed him. In his Synopsis to US, EW states It is to be supposed that Ludovic perpetrated or connived at his murder.
The 2001 TV film version of SH simply shows Ludovic suddenly shooting Hound. It seems bald and unmotivated, but there is probably nothing else a modern dramatisation could do.
424 Would moralists hold it was suicide
An interesting question for a winters evening discussion. Ludovics essential scepticism shines through it. The answer probably is (I write hesitantly) that as the attempt to reach Egypt by swimming is known beforehand to be fanciful, to undertake such a task is tantamount to suicide.
i.e. the cigarette is extremely valuable in times of barter such as obtained in Crete at this time
424 the badges of a major
I cannot help but think that these are Hounds badges of rank, removed from his uniform after his death.
424 This is not a day for strict etiquette
Ludovic clearly means No.
425 Decide for yourselves.
In OG EW makes the squads rejection of the escape possibilities even clearer :
Not for me, sir, thank you, said Sergeant Smiley. Ill stick to dry land.
425 no moral theologian would condemn this as
because there is some chance of success (though apparently only one in five). Suicide is not in anyones minds.
In fact a considerable number of men did manage to cross the Mediterranean from Crete to Egypt by hiring (or taking) caiques from the locals.
426 Liberty boat
A liberty ship was a type of cargo ship which was mass-produced in the United States during World War II and helped to sustain the massive amount of imports necessary to help keep Britain fighting in the darker periods. The sappers words are clearly jocular, for he has some doubt about getting to Egypt.
426 stumps drawn
an expression taken from cricket; it means that the match is over.
426 Helen and Menelaus
In an alternative version of the story of Helen of Troy (by Stesichorus and later dramatised by Euripides), she and her lover Paris were blown by the wind onto the shores of Egypt where she was detained by King Proteus. Meanwhile a phantom Helen departed with Paris for Troy. Helens husband Menelaus of Sparta came to fetch the real Helen after his finally successful siege of Troy.
The image can be said to have some relevance to Guy and Virginias relationship. A phantom Virginia is out there living with her serial Parises; she has yet to be reunited with her true husband.
427 the anthropophagi
An anthropophagus is a primitive cannibal.
The most famous literary reference to these people is in Othello, where Shakespeare has his hero say that he has visited distant exotic lands where he has met
the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders.
Such tales charmed Desdemona into marrying him. And indeed it is wonderful what poetry a great master can make out of the most unpromising material.
427 His brother Ivo
This mention of Ivo, who went silently mad, tells us that Guy is not far from the same condition. He needs to be rescued from madness, or at least from anti-social taciturnity.
428 I caught my little packet at Tobruk
The Hussar means that he was wounded and lamed in the defence of Tobruk.
Tobruk is a Libyan coastal town which changed hands a few times in the war. The Germans bypassed and surrounded it in their advance so that it was under siege from March 1941 to June 1942 before it was captured. The British finally recaptured the town in November 1942 after the second Battle of El Alamein.
428 Saint Roger de Waybroke defend us in the day
of battle ...
Guy calls this petition preposterous because Roger de Waybroke was not a recognised saint, however much his fellow-townsmen at Santa Dulcina thought of him as one. The words Guy uses were customarily addressed to Saint Michael the Archangel in prayers after Mass at this time.
431 you revert to Lieutenant
Guys appointment was temporary because Hookforce was a creation for a specific time and purpose, and he had been seconded to it as Intelligence Officer, not as a company commander. When the remnants of Hookforce arrived back in Egypt, the force was disbanded, as Julia Stitch is soon to inform him.
432 observation ward
i.e. for mental cases. The doctor fears that, as Guys physical health seems normal, he has a psychological trauma of some kind.
432 Cè scappato il Capitano
Mrs Stitchs Italian expression is an adaptation of the call which sounded when the cow escaped at Santa Dulcina - The Captain has got out.
432 No Capitano oggi, signora, Tenente
Im not a Captain now, my lady, only a Lieutenant (Italian)
432 Second Empire
i.e. the period 1852-1870 in France when the Emperor was Napoleon III. Artefacts designed for the bourgeois and often for the court too tended to be large and vulgar like this watch.
432 Eddie and Bertie - all ones friends
These men are now prisoners of war. They are probably not so much Julia Stitchs friends as Guys, but she might certainly know them.
433 prince of Athens sent to the Cretan labyrinth
Guy is thinking of the story of Theseus, prince of Athens, who went to Crete as a sacrificial victim but with the help of Ariadne managed to kill the Minotaur in the underground labyrinth and return safely to the surface.
This image indicates that Guys haze of illusion concerning Ivor Claire is at its height just as it is about to be crushed.
433 He left yesterday, in fact, for India.
If Guys antennae had been working they would now have picked up uneasy vibrations. As she later admits, Julia has had Ivor transferred before enquiries into his actions grow too persistent.
433 X Commando
Ivor was in X Commando. Guy is puzzled that Ivor managed to escape and no others of his commando did so.
434 Obviously, by the end there werent any
This appears to be Julias defence of Ivor Claires puzzling escape. The orders were in fact quite clear, as Guy knows fully well. Guy mentioned them quite plainly to Ivor (on page 420) : Ive got them all in writing from the G.O.C. Surrender at dawn.
It is growing clear to Guy (and to us) that Ivor simply decamped instead of staying with his men and surrendering as he had been ordered to do. It was a form of desertion.
Some readers have been puzzled that Guy does not think that he himself is in the same predicament as Ivor. But he was responsible only for his intelligence section, and he had given them the chance to escape in the boat along with him. Once their choice was made, Guy was free to do as he wished. (He could have ordered them to escape with him, but did not because of the danger of the journey.)
There are other serious considerations about this situation which I have addressed in my notes on Waugh, Crouchback and Crete in the Introduction to OG.
435 What happened
Julias explanation of what happened on the day of the surrender is so exact and well-ordered that it looks like a well-prepared excuse. That she is forced to use it after she has suggested that there were no orders at all makes it certain that she had hoped not to need to use it. She must fear that Guy can pick holes in it, as indeed he can.
435 Ivors regiment is not here
He is a captain in the Blues. At this time the regiment was stationed in Palestine and Syria, so Claire is interestingly not going to join them. It is clear that he is being kept away from any possible reproaches or repercussions.
435 there was no reason then to expect anyone from
Hookforce to turn up until after the war.
Julia is telling Guy plainly that his late arrival by boat has thrown a spanner in the works. Claire must have told her that Guy knows the truth about the orders.
435 What are you going to do with those notes of
The notes contain the evidence which will damn Ivor Claire, if they get to a responsible authority. Julia wants somehow to neutralise them, if she can.
435 The R.A.M.C. no doubt
i.e. the doctors or nurses have removed the medals from around Guys neck.
436 Sidi Barani
an Egyptian coastal town to the west of Alexandria
436 He was full of congratulations on your getting
Presumably Claire thought Guy had done a bunk in the manner he had done himself and was pleased that he had a fellow defaulter.
436 My position at the moment is major, waiting
After the disbandment of Hookforce, Blackhouse himself has dropped a rank.
437 They shot people for it in the last war.
The British Army shot more deserters in World War I than all the other armies put together. This fact has agitated campaigners to this day; they think that the army showed no compassion on men who had simply been utterly disoriented by shell-shock and psychological damage, and want them to be given posthumous pardons. Certainly the effect on families of hearing that their menfolk had been shot for desertion was shattering and long-lasting.
437 Commandos are off as far as the Middle East is
This was basically true, though the Special Air Service (S.A.S.), an offshoot, was about to have a period of great success, as was the Long Range Desert Group. A small commando unit was also raised which worked among the Libyan Arabs, had the aim of destroying German petrol dumps, and became known as Popskis Private Army. This actually became their official title! Popski was the nickname of their commander Major (later Colonel) Vladimir Peniakoff (1897-1951), a Belgian of Russian parentage who from youth considered himself to be English though he took British nationality only in 1946.
439 22 June - a day of apocalypse
This is the day when German forces invaded the Soviet Union without warning.
440 Why couldnt the silly fellow have done it to
These were the exasperated words of many people in Britain, especially those who were anti-Communist and not particularly anti-German, when they heard of Hitlers invasion of Russia.
440 Its nice to have one ally
Since the fall of France, Britain and its Empire and Commonwealth had fought the Germans alone for a year.
Of course, the Soviet Union represents to Guy an evil no less than that of Hitlers Reich. For him the war has changed; it is no longer a war plainly fought against evil, since evil has been welcomed as an ally. This is why he is silent in the conversation that follows the news of the German invasion of Russia.
440 the Molotov pact
the German-Russian treaty of August 1939 (the Nazi-Soviet Pact)
440 the partition of Poland, the annexation of the
These boundary-extending exercises had been Russian plunder consequent upon the Molotov pact. The Baltic republics, which had been independent for a few precarious years since the end of World War I (and are now independent again) are Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
440 the resources of the Ukraine
Hitler had his eye on the mineral resources of the Ukraine, which included, among many valuable mineral ores, iron ore, coal, oil, lignite, manganese and titanium.
440 Tilsit and Tolstoi
Tilsit was the site of the peace made between Napoleon and Emperor Alexander I of Russia in 1807. The company is clearly finding historical models on which to base their discussion of the present situation. Within five years of Tilsit Napoleon was unsuccessfully to invade Russia; no doubt the company thinks that Hitlers repudiation of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 and invasion of the Soviet Union are similar to Napoleons actions and expects his gamble to end in the same way.
Tolstoi is the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), author of the historical epic War and Peace in which the peace of Tilsit is described.
440 Anti-Comintern Pact
This was an agreement concluded first between Italy, Germany, and Japan in November 1937 with the express aim of confronting the Communist International or Comintern. Naturally it was really directed against the Soviet Union. When Germany signed the treaty with Soviet Russia in 1939, Japan had indignantly repudiated the Anti-Comintern Pact but had been gradually brought round by astute diplomacy to sign a re-run of the pact a year later (under a different name, of course, so as not to alarm the Russians too early).
440 he took his pocket-book to the
Guy feels he cannot support any longer the concept of honour he has espoused for two years. In such a great catastrophe as fighting alongside the Communists, what matters a little thing like a mans personal dishonour? He burns the notes which would condemn Claire.
441 Have you your pistols?
Mrs Stitch is adapting lines from a poem by the American poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) called Pioneers! O Pioneers! It begins :
Come my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready,
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp-edged axes?
Pioneers! O pioneers! -
For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend,
Pioneers! O pioneers! -
Possibly she is gently mocking the medieval image that the word halberdier evokes.
441 He turned up in western Abyssinia leading a group of
Guys gut instinct that Ritchie-Hook would be safe proves to be correct. He appears to have spontaneously joined in the British ejection of the Italians from Abyssinia (or Ethiopia), which was in progress at this time and already nearly complete.
The word wog was once a common British term for any black person, a shortened form of golliwog. Both words are now deemed very offensive.
442 immediate return to the United Kingdom
Guy of course wants to rejoin the Halberdiers in Egypt since Colonel Tickeridge has already offered him a post. But Mrs Stitch, fearful of what Guy could do to bring down Ivor Claires career and reputation, has had him moved away. Moreover, he is to travel home by the slowest possible route, by sea via South Africa and the West Indies. When Guy goes to try to get the command rescinded, he finds out that it has come from the very highest authority, G.H.Q. in Cairo, and that there is nothing he can do about it. Only Julia could have achieved this tactical ploy.
General Head Quarters, Middle East
444 dropped it into a waste-paper basket
Mrs Stitch thinks that the packet contains Guys notebook, and sees an opportunity of disposing of it. She thinks that this action will dispose of the Ivor Claire problem for good. She is certainly right.
A sad consequence of her action will be that the dead soldiers family will never know what happened to him.
444 Her eyes were one immense sea, full of flying
This is an almost exact translation of the last line of the sonnet Antoine et Cléopâtre by José Maria de Hérédia (1842-1905). Its suggestion of great erotic and destructive power makes it worthy of complete quotation :
|Tous deux ils regardaient, de la haute terrasse,
LÉgypte sendormir sous un ciel étouffant
Et le Fleuve, à travers le Delta noir quil fend,
Vers Bubaste ou Saïs rouler son onde grasse.
Et le Romain sentait sous la lourde cuirasse,
Soldat captif berçant le sommeil dun enfant,
Ployer et défaillir sur son cur triomphant
Le corps voluptueux que son étreinte embrasse.
Tournant sa tête pâle entre ses cheveux bruns
Vers celui quenivraient dinvincibles parfums,
Elle tendit sa bouche et ses prunelles claires ;
Et sur elle courbé, lardent Imperator
Vit dans ses larges yeux étoilés de points dor
Toute une mer immense où fuyaient des galères.
|From the high terrace they both watched
Egypt sleeping beneath a stifling sky
and the river rolling its oily waves
towards Bubastis or Sais through the black delta that it divides.
And beneath his heavy armour, the Roman,
a captive soldier cradling a childs slumber,
felt the voluptuous body grasped in his embrace
yielding and fainting on his triumphant breast.
Turning her head, pale amid her dark hair,
towards him who was maddened by irresistible perfumes,
she offered her mouth and her clear eyes;
And bent over her, the passionate Imperator
saw in her wide eyes starred with golden specks
a whole vast sea where galleys were in flight.
(Translation : Anthony Hartley, Penguin Book of French Verse 3
The last line prefigures the final tragedy of the immortal couple. Antony is persuaded by her to put his trust in the ability of the Egyptian navy to rout the fleet of his rival Octavius in the decisive battle of Actium, though his skill lay in his being the greatest army general in the Roman Empire. The defeat was precipitated by Cleopatras fleet flying from the battle, leaving Antonys inferior numbers to inevitable defeat. In this way Julia Stitch is likened to Cleopatra in her impulsiveness and her treachery. Guy is out of his depth expecting such people to act honourably.
In OG there is an Epilogue. In SH EW puts it at the beginning of the next chapter (Chapter 8, State Sword), i.e. with US rather than with OG. I therefore deal with it in my notes to Chapter 8.
|CHAPTER 6||CONTENTS||Unconditional Surrender|