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Sword of Honour

Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, Unconditional Surrender, Hazardous Offensive Operations Headquarters

guy virginia war arms

a trilogy of novels by Evelyn Waugh, published in 1965; originally published as Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), and Unconditional Surrender (1961). Men at Arms concerns the attempts of its hero, Guy Crouchback, to get a commission at the outbreak of the Second World War, partly to distract himself from the memory of his ex-wife, Virginia Troy, whom he still loves. He enlists in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers and is sent to West Africa, where his comrades-in-arms include the eccentric Apthorpe. When Apthorpe is taken ill with a tropical fever, Guy gives in to his urgent request for a bottle of whisky—only to find that his gift has fatal consequences. Disgraced, Guy returns to England. Officers and Gentlemen finds Guy on a remote Hebridean island, training with a commando unit. Action in Alexandria is followed by a disastrous and humiliating campaign in Crete, from which the troops are withdrawn after suffering heavy losses. Other characters include the social-climbing Captain ‘Trimmer’ McTavish, formerly a hairdresser, who has an affair with Virginia. Unconditional Surrender finds Guy, disgusted by the futility of the war, confined to a desk job at HOO HQ (Hazardous Offensive Operations Headquarters); attempting to relieve this bureaucratic tedium, he learns to parachute, injuring himself in the process. Virginia visits Guy in hospital and later tells him that she is pregnant by Trimmer, whom she now loathes. Guy offers to marry her in order to give a father to her child. He does so, shortly before being sent to Yugoslavia where he learns that Virginia has been killed in an air-raid. Her child survives and Guy remarries after the war.

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