Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Sapper: A Look Back At H.C. McNeile, Creator of "Bulldog' Drummond


Benjamin Welton offers a look back at H.C. McNeile, aka "Sapper," the author of the "Bulldog" Drummond stories at the James Bond web site, MI6.

Although the British Empire expanded as a result of the First World War, overall confidence was a casualty. Between 1914 and 1918, the British Empire lost well over one million men to death, diseases, and wounds. Many more came home "shell shocked" - a frightening new term for those who found it extremely difficult to readjust to civilian life after being exposed to the prospect of death or dismemberment for so long.

As the interwar years dragged on, World War I began to look even worse in hindsight. The war fought in order to "make the world safe for democracy" had in fact helped to lay the groundwork for the subsequent fascist and communist takeovers of much of Europe and Asia. For the British specifically, the legacy of the war not only helped to kickstart the process of decolonisation in Africa and elsewhere, but it also paralysed politicians and much of the general public into thinking that peace, no matter the stipulations or consequences, was preferable to even the most just war. To put it bluntly, World War I birthed the disastrous policy of appeasement.

Not all Brits were so quick to castoff the war as a great tragedy, however. Some veterans actually came to view the culture of the trenches as preferable to civilian life. While in Germany Kasernenleben, or "barracks life," was championed by a certain segment of the revolutionary right, who, fuelled in part by Ernst J√ľnger's Storm of Steel and their own war experiences, sought to inject the military ethos and the spirit of masculine camaraderie into the bourgeoisie social democracy of the Weimar era, Britain had a much more tame and far less political response, which was simply called "the Breed."

In actuality, the concept of the "the Breed" was exclusive to one man - Herman Cyril McNeile, alias Sapper. Born the son of a Royal Navy officer in Cornwall, McNeile was seemed genetically predisposed towards pursuing the military life.

... Despite the fame he received from his wartime reminiscences (to say nothing of his monetary gains), McNeile must have still felt the need to create, for in 1920 he published "Bull-Dog Drummond", a novel. The novel's centerpiece is the recently demobilized British Army officer Hugh "Bulldog" Drummond. Drummond, a former Captain in the fictitious Loamshire Regiment, is an independently wealthy, strong, and albeit somewhat ugly young man whose desire for action has not been satiated by the hostilities in Europe. Like his real-life creator, Drummond is bored to death by peace, so, in order to find adventure, he places an advertisement in the Times calling for a great diversion. Drummond's need for thrills is so great that his ad allows for a little illegal activity if no aboveboard work is forthcoming: "legal, if possible, but crime, if of a comparatively humorous description, no objection." This then is how one of the most popular characters in the history of literature and film begins his life.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

http://www.mi6-hq.com/sections/articles/beyond-bond-sapper-member-of-the-breed?t=&s=&id=03861

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