Monday, 5 May 2014

Our God and soldier we alike adore...

A good review is always excellent for a writer's morale and the following, by Joseph White in the US, is especially interesting, in that it links one of the themes in my novel "Britannia's Wolf" with concerns faced by young officers in the modern US Navy and Army:

" This is far from a normal Horatio Hornblower-knockoff. The main character is one of the first of the steam-navy sailors, and he is continually thrown into situations that (according to the books) he shouldn't have to endure. This first volume of the Dawlish Chronicles dips into the morass of Victorian class differentiation... and that's just a sub-plot!

As Dawlish must adjust and adapt to the changing British Navy of the late Nineteenth Century, I could not help but think of the problems of modern junior officers in the rapidly changing (U.S.) Navy and Army, increasingly treated as mercenaries rather than patriots by those who do not understand the changing nature of war and of service.

I liked this book so well that I immediately bought the second volume, which is the most original slice of "here's our hero in a damned uncomfortable squeeze" that I remember. I hope this series continues, and I hope the author also turns his attention to the modern day. A most original thinker and a good writer."

Mr.White hits on a problem that I guess has been around since the dawn of human history and which applies to the armed forces of many other nations as well as those of the USA today. The concern was very elegantly expressed by Francis Quarles in 1632 :

"Our God and soldier we alike adore. 
Even at the brink of danger; not before; 
After deliverance, both alike requited. 
Our God's forgotten, and our soldiers slighted." 

It's all too easy to forget that in Orwell's phrase "People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf" - and today it's women who also bear that burden. The idea is also well expressed in one of Bernard Cornwell's novels in which Richard Sharpe reflects that "a soldier is somebody who defends others who can't defend themselves."

I suspect also that every writer of serious military or naval fiction has this thought in mind that however much thier work must entertain, it must also reflect this reality.


  1. Yes, the gap between any romantic vision of "our boys/our girls" doing their stuff and the grim reality of what actually happens has been the same since at least Roman times. The BBC series 'Warriors' illustrates this perfectly.

    Thank goodness that today there is a great deal of support for members of the UK armed forces as they struggle in the ambiguous business of current international missions. But au fond, the public doesn't really understand and I for one am very pleased that they don't have to. (Ex-soldier)

  2. I couldn't agree more Alison!