Keeping a stiff upper lip: Word of Honour by ‘Sapper’ (1926)

I think it must have been George Simmers’s January post about ‘Sapper’ that prompted me to pick up this book by that author when I was in a wonderful second hand book shop recently. I have never read any of his books before and I didn’t look at this one too closely in the shop, and assumed that a) it was a novel and b) it was about WW1.

I was wrong on both counts. It’s a collection of short stories, and only the first one even has anything to do with the army. It made interesting reading. Most of the stories are set in Africa and involve various colonial shenanigans. Structurally, many of the stories are similar; someone is relating an incident that happened to them or a friend some time in the past to a group either on board ship or wanting in some other way to pass the time. So they are mostly told in the first person. Some of them have what could be a supernatural element to them, for example, The Message, while they nearly all have some sort of twist in the tail. In other words, ideal magazine stories.

I think the collection gives a nice insight into a long vanished world, where long, boring sea voyages to remote colonial outposts were made more bearable for some by the telling of tall tales, and for others by illicit shipboard romances. Wonderful stuff, but not something I would necessarily rush back to.


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