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Men at Arms (Sword of Honour #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,708 Ratings  ·  92 Reviews
The first volume of Evelyn Waugh's masterful trilogy about war, religion, and politics.
Paperback, 342 pages
Published March 30th 1979 by Back Bay Books (first published 1952)
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Brendan Hodge
Mar 27, 2012 Brendan Hodge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you, like me, have been reared on tales of the second World War as the just and virtuous struggle of the "greatest generation", Evelyn Waugh's arch novels (based loosely on his own war experiences) are an important and darkly enjoyable filling out of that two-dimensional view. The stakes here are still high. But the inevitable absurdities and inhumanities of a huge bureaucracy trying to lurch itself into action is here too. As the first novel of the Sword of Honor trilogy nears its climax, of ...more
From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial:
Evelyn Waugh's satirical WW2 masterpiece:

1/2: Guy Crouchback is a man scarred by a broken marriage, searching for a purpose in a modern world, when war breaks out he feels he may have at last found a cause worth fighting for.

2/2: The Halbadiers are yet to see action so Guy spends his time aiding Apthorpe with the concealment of his Thunder box - a portable latrine. And Guy's ex-wife Virginia makes a reappearance in his life.

Directed by Sally Avens

Waugh's trilo
Dec 21, 2010 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Waugh, Evelyn. MEN AT ARMS. (1952). ****. Taken along with his next two novels, this is the first part of a trilogy by Waugh later collected under the title, “Sword of Honour,” in 1965. I can finally read them in order after all these years – I hope. Waugh originally intended the three novels to be read together, even though their publication was about a decade apart. There are continuing characters and situations throughout the three, and, though the scenes change, the story maintains its seaml ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Laura
16 APR 2016 - recommendation through Laura. Thank you!
Dec 07, 2012 Debbie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Winner of the 1952 James Tait Black Memorial Prize, Britain’s oldest literary award, Men At Arms is the first part of Waugh’s The Sword of Honour Trilogy , his look at the Second World War.

It follows Guy Crouchback, the nearly-forty-year-old son of an English aristocratic family who manages to get accepted to officers training in the early part of 1940, and is eventually posted to Dakar in Senegal West Africa. While there, he inadvertently poisons one of his fellow officers and is sent home in
Apr 19, 2011 Sebastian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After having been somewhat underwhelmed with Waugh's Decline and Fall, I had modest expectations for Men at Arms, but I ended up really enjoying it, and anticipate reading the last two books of the Sword of Honour (no omitting U's, please, we're British) trilogy. Full of dry and absurd humor, and infused with the gravity of World War II, the book follows in serial form the misadventures of our protagonist, Guy Crouchback, as he transitions from dreaming of playing solider to facing the daily mun ...more
Patrick McCoy
Jun 17, 2013 Patrick McCoy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I am very found of Evelyn Waugh's writing and this year I have decided to tackle the Sword of Honor trilogy, and I have just finished the first volume, Men At Arms (1952). It is the story of 35 year old Guy Crouchback's enlistment into the military at the start of World War II. It is said to have been based on Waugh's own experiences as an older man enlisting. It is something of a British "Catch-22" in the satire and absurdities of the military. That being said it is almost more the story of Cro ...more
Jun 26, 2007 Amelie rated it liked it
Shelves: re-read
A dry, dark look at the early days of World War II. Funny, acerbic and sad - quintessentially Waugh.
Oct 13, 2014 Val rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: byt-main
Men at Arms is satirical. We follow an idealistic Guy as he leaves his Italian castle, visits a crusader saint and sets off to England to fight for his country, Christian values (as he sees them) and his honour. At first his country does not seem to want him, but eventually he becomes a trainee officer in an old and very traditional regiment. He does not have an exciting war, the Nazis overrun northern Europe before he gets to France and there is a lot of apparently pointless moving about and ch ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Diana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Първата ми среща с Ивлин Уо, която в никакъв случай няма да остане последна. Единственото, за което съжалявам, е че не е преведена цялата трилогия (поне аз не открих издания у нас), а само първата й част.
"Във всеоръжие" е увлекателно поднесен поглед към ІІСВ и наситена с действие история, в която всеки от многото живи образи непрекъснато се развива между възхода и падението си. Битките са само загатнати и войната е по-скоро фон, върху който авторът изгражда различните характери, наблягайки на вл
Oct 03, 2007 Lawrence rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who loved Catch-22
It's Catch-22: the Catholic version. Basically, the major theme is the futility of modern bureaucracy but I think it's a critique of stringent traditions as well or maybe that traditions and modernity are incompatible.

Interesting insights about manning up and how we are emasculated by society and women.

I'm not sure if Apthorpe is supposed to be a hero or an example of what's wrong with tradition.

The language barrier is quite immense. I had problems getting into it at the beginning but it became
Huw Evans
Oct 25, 2011 Huw Evans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I came upon the phrase "Bildungsroman" in a piece of Litcrit the other day. It is used to describe the novel as psychological development of the principle character. Guy Crouchback needs development and aspires to greatness by becoming a war hero. In three novels he is dissected and reconstructed, not necessarily as a better man but as a better human being. As with all Waugh it is the precision of the writing that I adore and the Trilogy is, I think, his greatest achievment better even than Brid ...more
May 03, 2015 DGT rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Army memorandum number 31: War (April 1940)". “Standing by for orders” from a bureaucracy is mostly how Guy Crouchback and the other soldiers in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers experience the first two years of the Second World War. As the Germans cross the Meuse, Guy et al are kicking their heels in one of the army outposts around Britain to which they are posted -- in one case after a seemingly endless railway journey south from Edinburgh -- only to learn that the next order is invariably to r ...more
Nov 30, 2015 Aeisele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
How does a novelist create a character that is utterly average and make him the protagonist of a page turner that is ostensibly about war, but in reality is about men and machine moving about with seemingly little purpose? Well, if you're Evelyn Waugh, this is hardly a problem.
Guy Crouchback is the protagonist, a 36 year old English Catholic man who has done nothing in his life, and gets enlisted as an office in the Halberdiers, a British unit with a illustrious history. The story is simply abo
Jan 07, 2015 Rick rated it really liked it
“Men at Arms” by Evelyn Waugh (originally published 1952, and book one of his Sword of Honour trilogy) is a delightful tale of the nonsense and ridiculousness involved in gathering a nation for war. Some other reviewers have likened it to Joseph Heller’s “Catch 22” but I also see threads of similarity with Richard Hooker’s “MASH” and the follow-on TV series M*A*S*H. As such you cannot approach this book too seriously.

In preparing an entire world for war – here Great Britain – there are many star
David Grieve
May 09, 2016 David Grieve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first in the Sword of Honour trilogy about a discontented 30 something, Guy Crouchback, desperate to do his bit in WWII but struggling to find a commission. Finally he is offerd one by the Halberdiers, a corps that sets great store by tradition. He and Apthorpe join up at the same time and are both several years older than the rest of the intake.

As a character, Crouchback is impossible to like. He is constantly self-pitying, naive and short sighted. Thankfully, Apthorpe provides the comic re
Jul 29, 2011 Corto rated it it was amazing
Cynical and unsentimental. Good Waugh. Looking forward to the next two.
Jun 17, 2008 Tony rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Maybe you have to be British to get it. And 70.
Sep 29, 2012 Katherine rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
"The City, lapped now by the tide of illustrious converts..." (3).
"Apart from this one sugary encumbrance, Guy floated free; as untouchable in his newfound contentment as in his old despair" (14).
"'Why? Do you feel your reason tottering?'" (34).
“The corporals looked sulky, picked up their ball and strolled out with a plausible suggestion of nonchalance” (62).
“There was a calendar on the chimney piece, rather shabby now in November and coming to the end of its usefulness” (90-91).
“In its desolati
Aug 12, 2012 Eliza rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: so-british
A travers les aventures militaires du (plus si) jeune Guy Crouchback, Evelyn Waugh nous offre ici une peinture très pittoresque des moeurs de l’armée britannique. Nous sommes en 1939-1940. La trentaine passée, Guy souhaite ardemment s’engager dans l’armée active pour en découdre avec les ennemis de l’Angleterre. Après avoir été refusé par plusieurs ministères, il intègre finalement un stage d’entrainement du corps royal des Hallebardiers. Il y découvre un monde de traditions, de codes et d’honne ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel is the first in the Sword of Honour trilogy, followed by Officers and Gentlemen and Unconditional Surrender. When we meet Guy Crouchback he is living in Italy and is returning to England for the first time in eight years with plans to "serve his King", as war has just been declared. Guy comes from an old, Catholic family, now sadly in decline. His father has given up Broome, the family home, and is living (quite cheerfully) in a hotel. As Guy is divorced, and unable to re-marry as a C ...more
John Lucy
Jan 01, 2013 John Lucy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Evelyn Waugh rocks. At the time of reading this novel, it had been about three years since I last read a Waugh novel. That matters because I was expecting some laughter and was disappointed for a little while... but the problem was not that the first half of the book is not funny, rather that the humor is very dry and incognito. You can't be too seriously-minded when reading a good Waugh novel, and I was far too serious at first.

This novel kicks off the "Sword of Honour" trilogy, all written af
Aug 31, 2013 Issicratea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1950-1970
I started reading this inspired by a good Channel 4 dramatization of Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy, starring Daniel Craig. I hadn’t read it before, though Waugh’s hilarious manic early novels were formative reading for me. I didn’t get on particularly well with Brideshead Revisited and assumed I only liked Waugh in his most straightwardly comic mode.

I was wrong! Men of Arms, which I read in the slightly modified version Waugh prepared in 1965 for the single-volume The Sword of Honour Trilogy,
Jul 09, 2009 Margaret rated it liked it
I definitely enjoyed this book, even though it wasn't quite the light-hearted romp (through WWII, ahem) that I had been expecting from the blurbs on the jacket. It did, however, amply meet my need for something less dense and academic than the three books I've had going for several months now. I was able to actually finish it in relatively short order, which felt good to do since I hadn't read a book straight through cover to cover in far too long. It is rather classic Waugh (I say this based on ...more
Karl Steel
Mar 02, 2008 Karl Steel rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who's read all of Liebling's war journalism and so much make do with reading conservatives
Well, it certainly makes one want to turn the pages quickly. Brig. Guy-Richie and Apthorpe, both of whom I know from the The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose (probably one of my 4 most delightful possessions, the others being English as She is Spoke, Pegasus Descending, and The Handy-Book of Literary Delights), merit their fame. But I'm not too sure about Crouchback. I'm disinclined to like, first, most author standins, especially when the guy's a conservative and Roman Catholic, and second, the ce ...more
Part 1 of Sword of Honour.

What fun - a bit like a cross between MASH, PG Wodehouse and Brideshead!

An upper class British Catholic divorcé leaves his home in Italy at the start of WW2 to try to join the army, and eventually succeeds.

The story is populated by quirky characters and strange coincidences, with glimpses of poignancy. Most of the characters are in a perpetual state of genial incomprehension and incompetence.

Waugh served in WW2 and if his experience was anything like what was described,
Jun 27, 2016 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Guy Crouchback, an English Catholic aristocrat living in Italy, returns to England at the start of the Second World War. However, Crouchback is 35 and no one wants him on the front lines. A scathing look at the inefficiencies of military life, darkly funny and spiritual at the same time. Guy simply can't catch a break and end up somewhere where he can be heroic.
Jay McNair
Didn't really distinguish itself much. The humor was pretty well buried, sometimes I'd stub my toe on a bit of it but for the most part didn't find any.

Some occasional embers of tragedy blown on until they almost caught fire.

Apthorpe is a great creation though. He came alive with his chemical cabinet.
I had hoped this book would be more amusing, although Waugh's humour tends to be sardonic and satirical rather than outwardly funny. I did laugh at the episode with the thunder-box, however, amused by the sheer absurdity of it. I am curious to read the next two books in the trilogy but I'm not in any great hurry.
Glyn Longden
Jul 25, 2011 Glyn Longden rated it liked it
Rating: 5.5 Waugh was recommended to me by a number of people so I thought I'd at least give him a chance. This is the first book in his 'Sword of Honour' series about WWII. The hero, Crouchback, is patriotic and wants to do his duty but is confronted by the absurdity of military life. This book is really a predecessor to others such as 'Catch 22' which de-emphasize the horror of war in favour of the daily struggle to survive in the face of bureaucratic idiocy and an uncaring military. There is ...more
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Evelyn Waugh's father Arthur was a noted editor and publisher. His only sibling Alec also became a writer of note. In fact, his book “The Loom of Youth” (1917) a novel about his old boarding school Sherborne caused Evelyn to be expelled from there and placed at Lancing College. He said of his time there, “…the whole of English education when I was brought up was to produce prose writers; it was al ...more
More about Evelyn Waugh...

Other Books in the Series

Sword of Honour (3 books)
  • Officers and Gentlemen
  • The End of the Battle

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“This war has begun in darkness and it will end in silence.” 6 likes
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