BULLER'S VICTORY by Richard Hough


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This third entry in Hough's early-20th-century naval series (Buller's Guns, Buller's Dreadnought) shifts some of its episodic attention to young Richard Buller--while keeping up with papa Archy in alternate chapters. Richard, an assistant gunnery officer at age 20, is aboard the light cruiser Glasgow in November 1914--part of an under-equipped British squadron off the coast of Chile, timidly sparring with Admiral Maximilian von Spee's powerful Asiatic Squadron. But, when the gunnery officer breaks a leg, Richard gets a quick quasi-promotion: he stands in for ""Guns"" during the disastrous clash with von Spec off Coronel, then plays a part in ""the ding-dong gunnery duel"" that brings the British a major victory in the Falkland Islands battle. Even in triumph, however, Richard is sickened by the death and suffering of warfare; later on, he'll visit the land-war's Western Front (where his brother is fighting) for more horrors; and, by 1916, after being wounded in the North Sea and rescued (during the Battle of Jutland) by German sailors, Richard comes to terms ""with the complexity and contradictions of war""--while falling in love with beguiling nurse Helena Cochrane. What of tough old Archy, meanwhile? Well, now reconciled with divorce-minded wife Clemmie, Captain Buller is sent to the Dardanelles by an anti-Churchill admiral--who wants documentation of the failures of Churchill's operations there; unfortunately, however, though Buller escapes from Turkish-mine peril in time to submit an accurate, damning report, he winds up on the wrong side of some political crossfire, nearly losing his commission. And his next mission is to test out an Admiralty scheme for disguising men-o'-war as harmless tramp steamers: some nifty steamer-vs.-U-boat action ensues, but this sneaky tactic stirs up a nasty father/son argument on war morality. . .while Buller's old pal Rod Maclewin, that crusty gunnery veteran, dies in one of the U-boat battles. Very sketchy treatment of some major WW I engagements--but sea-war expert Hough, as usual, offers a lively, disjointed sampling of nautical rough stuff, this time filled out with snippets of political history (rather than the customary domestic storms).

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow