The blood-spattered, oily beaches of the D-Day landings of June 1944, and the ensuing slaughter at the Battle of Normandy, are still a bit too close for comfort. It is therefore a brave place for James Delingpole to begin a series of light-hearted historical romps. But he has made a pretty decent fist of it.
Dick Coward is billed as a twentieth-century Flashman: charismatic roister-doyster with permanent semi-erection and a knack for getting out of the most devilish scrapes. His memoirs, we are told, have been transcribed and edited by his grandson from a set of old cassette tapes. This first volume sees Coward dodging Nazi bullets and largely undeserved opprobrium from his fellow commandos as they take part in the early stages of Operation Overlord and strive to capture the strategically useful town of Port-en-Bessin.
It starts with a faintly implausible chain of events taking Coward from a pleasant seaside hospital, where he’s recovering from some earlier adventure in Burma, to a spot of genteel lollygagging at his cantankerous father’s country pile, and thence to France. There, despite his service history and social standing, he