I have often heard it said that Lt-Gen Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart, VC, KBE, CB, CMG, DSO, provided the model for Evelyn Waugh’s immortal Brigadier Ritchie-Hook. Carton de Wiart won his Cross, and was appointed to the DSO, in the Great War, during which he was wounded 9 times and lost a hand and an eye. He possessed the ‘biffing’ spirit in spades, although he probably clanked when he walked; admired of Churchill, he commanded a combined British and French expeditionary force in Central Norway during the disastrous campaign there from April to June 1940. As this splendid, wonderfully understanding book demonstrates, the only person better qualified than Kersaudy to write the history of the Norwegian capaign would have been Waugh himself. Had he done so, however, his critics and public would have censured him for an improbable plot, ludicrous characterisation, and mad flights of fancy.
Trouble is, it’s all true.
Consider some aspects of the plot: the German 8-inch cruiser Blücher steams into the Trondhiem fjord on the day the Germans invade Norway. The tiny, barely trained Norwegian garrison of an island fortress fires a salvo from its two 16th-century Krupp cannon, ‘Moses’ and ‘Aaron’, whereupon Blücher, one of the