The Military Chap


Long has the custom been held in Chappist families that the process of inheritance provides for the eldest son to inherit all assets. The second son is provided with a commission into the military, while the third son goes into the clergy. It is this second pathway in life that we wish to address.

The Chap magazine itself has a fine military pedigree. Not only is it required reading in every officers' mess across the land, but personnel from the magazine are regularly seconded to the Army to advise on the correct deportment of military headgear, and on retaining one's dignity whilst pretending to limp. During the last fracas with the Teuton, the great-grandfathers of the editors were part of the crack "Jermyn Street Platoon", who were parachuted into Paris in 1944 to liberate the agreeable tailoring premises of Monsieur Charvet in Place Vendome.

The Military Chap will, of course, have grown up surrounded by family portraits of martial ancestors, bluff moustachioed coves who had horses shot from under them at Waterloo and their arms sliced off by cannonballs at Trafalgar. The young Military Chap will have a fine collection of toy lead soldiers with which to recreate famous battles on the drawing-room floor. And not only battles - the sporting Military Chap can replay over and over again the Christmas Day soccer match from No-Man's Land, with commentary, while the more sensitive Military Chap will also have shell-shocked lead soldiers to recreate such scenes as picking poppies in No-Man's Land while musing on poetry, and perhaps sighing over a photograph of Miss Mata Hari. Licking the delicious lead paint off the toy soldiers will also cause mild insanity, which is a distinct benefit in military life.

Once decided on his career, the Military Chap must then chose his regiment. One should always chose the Army, although those with sufficiently famous and bloodthirsty maritime ancestors may be drawn to the life of the jolly Jack Tar. The Military Chap will never join the Royal Air Force, which has simply never had the right cachet apart from a few glorious silk-scarfed, Spitfire-studded months in the 1940s. The Military Chap will chose one of the more louche and languid regiments, where he may indulge in his passions for baccarat and horses as well as learning the rudiments of war. He will often end up in an esoterically named regiments, such as the Earl of Mar's Grey-Breeks or Paget's Irregular Horse or the Death's Head Hussars. Dandyism in the Army is de rigeur for the Military Chap, and indeed the deciding factor for a particular regiment may be that they wear scarlet facings or sport periwinkle sabretaches.

The Military Chap will, of course, develop his own sartorial style to complement his uniform - a hunting horn, a bright yellow cravat, a pearl-handled Webley, and perhaps a pet ocelot that accompanies him at all times. One should always carry a silver hipflask in the breast pocket, as this is efficacious in deflecting sniper bullets meant for one's heart. The more raffish Chap, who has over-indulged in tales of derring-do in the Boy's Own Paper in his youth, will seek to emulate the more buccaneering soldier. He would have spent, for instance, the recent period of unpleasantness with Johnny Arab clad in a djellabah, careering round the desert merrily blowing up ammunition dumps and garrotting enemy sentries. The raffish Chap could also become the regimental Intelligence Officer, as this role gives one unlimited funds for hiring showgirls as "informers" and "agents", and unlimited scope for indulging oneีs passion for intrigue, skulduggery and dressing up in false moustaches.

The Military Chap will find the actual business of warfare a trifle dull. For one thing, it is well known that most foreigners are abject cowards. The Military Chap may well find that five dozen Johnny Foreigners surrender to him when he strolls into their trench armed with nothing more than a well-waxed moustache, a rolled up copy of the Illustrated London News and the latest cricket scores. For this action he will receive a good MC and the nickname "The Mad Major".

After a lifetime's soldiering and playing silly buggers in the Mess, it is time for the Military Chap to hang up his sword and return to Civvy Street. He will retire to the countryside with a slight limp and a metal plate in his head ("copped a bullet in the Lofoten Raid"), an eye patch, a black Labrador named Wellington, and a sheaf of assegais over the chimneypiece. However, his martial ire will not die, and he will inevitably appear in the newspapers for beheading with a bayonet some insolent urchin caught breaking into his study.