Sword and Pen [Book]

That cryptic title is thanks to Ravens March who alerted me to the synergy present in A. C. Duff’s Sword and Pen: Problems of a Battledress Army (Aldershott: Gale and Polden, 1950).

While it lasts, here is a link to the Etsy page that contains said book.

According to the book dealer Robert Erwin, “Major-General Duff was commissioned into the Royal Engineers early in 1915 and saw active service on Gallipoli. Between wars he served in the Royal Air Force. He saw service in East Africa during WWII and was later Chief Administrative Officer to Field-Marshal Alexander.”* This is a collection of ten essays on his various views of the British Army. The Battledress of the title is the giveaway that we have a British (or at least, Commonwealth) writer at work.

Battledress, or BD, came into service with British, and by extension most Commonwealth forces, in 1938 (in Provisional Specification No. E/1037, 28 October 1938, to quote chapter-and-verse).1 Its most recognizable feature is the short-waist tunic (technically, ‘Blouse, Battle Dress’) and was the uniform we may all subconsciously associate with the Second World War, along with all the other visual tropes like little mustaches and crying Frenchmen.

Incidentally, pens and swords appear with some frequency in book titles. Usually in reference to some political or religious metaphor. Duff’s book is a rare example that lacks either of those connotations.


* I have linked to his main page, assuming that the actual description of the book will disappear in time. At least the quote is attributed. I did not find anything else on Duff outside these descriptions from book sellers.

1 Grant Tyler, Drab Serge and Khaki Drill: The Foreign Service, Universal Service, Battle and Combat Dress Jackets of the Canadian Army, 1899-2003 ([Ottawa]: Parks Canada, 2003), 147-8. Good luck finding this book outside a very specific kind of library.


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