Saturday, 1 April 2017
Colour Sergeant Chesney V.C.
With many accounts of the First World War, both fictional and factual, being published to mark the 100th anniversary of that terrible conflict, author Steven Baker has taken us back to an earlier and perhaps simpler time.
Like many of his contemporaries in Victorian Britain, Harry Chesney had a hard and tough childhood.
His mother died from tuberculosis and his father underwent what could be described as the living death of the alcoholic, unable to cope with the loss of his wife, he took his escape via the well known route of the bottle. Eventually he was overcome by the physical death that such an escape all too often brings.
As a result, Harry ends of in the place of last resort for many of the lower orders, the workhouse.
But Harry is made of tougher stuff than most and he decides to leave the workhouse in search of a better life through joining the British Army.
He rises through the ranks form a common private to the illustrious position of being the Regimental Colour Sergeant and the holder of the Victoria Cross.
His army career takers a sudden and catastrophic hit when, after there is an uprising on the North-West Frontier, Harry is the sole survivor from his platoon.
After a time he makes his way back to England and obtains in the position of being the guardian of Ravi, the illegitimate son of Captain Shervington, a now deceased hero of the regiment.
But then the Boer War comes and Ravi decides that he, too, must join up and fight for Queen and Country.
The novel is redolent of the Boy's own Story books, yet is sympathetically written and draws characters that are full and very believable.
It is published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and can be bought at the That's Books bookshop at https://goo.gl/Ltov34.