Men at Arms, 1952
Guy Crouchback, a thirty-five-year-old Roman Catholic who is reserved and ironic. After his divorce, he lived morosely in a family castle in Italy. When World War II begins, he returns to England, convinced that the Allied cause is just. He trains in an old-fashioned army unit, the Halberdiers, but gradually becomes disillusioned by the war. He proves his valor in a disastrous expedition (“Skylark”) on the West African coast. He generously gives whiskey to a hospitalized friend, who dies as a result. In disgrace, he is sent back to England.
Gervase Crouchback, Guy’s saintly father, the book’s moral center. Financial problems force him to lease the family home and live in a seaside hotel.
Trimmer, an officer trainee; he is stupid, uncultured, and impudent. He is dismissed from the Halberdiers.
Frank de Sousa
Frank de Sousa, a witty and worldly officer trainee.
Apthorpe, a fellow trainee, then fellow officer, about thirty-five years old. He is burly, mustachioed, occasionally drunken, ambitious, and exceedingly earnest. He tells varying stories about his past, and he has lived in Africa. He often is the target of Guy’s ironic remarks. He possesses a large stock of tropical gear, including a portable water closet or “thunder-box.” After this object explodes, Apthorpe acts more and more eccentrically. He becomes ill in Africa and dies from drinking too much whiskey.
Virginia Crouchback Blackhouse Troy
Virginia Crouchback Blackhouse Troy, a pleasure-loving, witty romantic beauty about thirty years old. She was divorced from Guy to take up with the dashing Tommy Blackhouse, then wedded an American. When Guy tries to seduce her, she is first charmed, then appalled.
Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook
Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook, the commander of Hazardous Offensive Operations. The one-eyed, irascible, impetuous commander emphasizes attacking (“biffing”). He leads a brigade to West Africa, where a disaster derails his career.