Just as Powell sets his war years rolling the conclusion of the Sword of Honour trilogy see Guy Crouchback in much the same circumstances as he spends time in training waiting for a chance to get back to the action. His age is used against him and it looks like as he celebrates his 40th birthday he has been left behind. But his Italian saves him and he looks set to be sent into Italy to help in the final push to liberate that country.
Meanwhile his ex-wife is broke and pregnant by the hairdresser come hero Trimmer and looking for money for an abortion. Guy’s father dies after expressing fears about the morale of his son.
But back in London life in pockets seems to go on as normal and for those with connections the war can be played out on their own terms. For poor old Guy, and this is also the same to a degree for Nick Jenkins, age and lack of military contacts leaves them gathering dust in officers rather than on battlefields being covered in glory.