Sunday, 28 August 2011

"The Swoop" by P.G. Wodehouse (note correct use of apostrophe)

I blogged recently about The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers's attempt to awaken the British people to the threat of unexpected invasion by those villainous huns, a work for which the British government was so grateful that they subsequently executed him. I think I mentioned that it spawned a whole genre which has subsequently become known as invasion literature, perhaps the best known of which, apart from The Riddle of the Sands was The Invasion of 1910, written ostensibly by William Le Quex, but with Lord Roberts ("Bobs") as an uncredited co-author and Lord Northcliffe as a financial backer.

It is probably this book which Michael Palin set out to spoof in his Ripping Yarns series in the episode entitled Whinfrey's Last Case in which he has a whole Cornish fishing village populated by German soldiers intent on starting the First World War two years early, and the British army gravely incapacitated by a lack of key munitions such as spoons and trestle tables.

However, this set me thinking about a much earlier spoof, written by P.G. Wodehouse, called The Swoop, or How Clarence Saved England which sees England invaded secretly by nine different foreign armies simultaneously (Wodehouse has the news reported thus: Surrey 147 for 8. German Army landed in Essex this afternoon). Trusty Clarence saves England armed only with a hockey stick, dressed in a Baden-Powell outfit and assisted by boy scouts who limber up for the fray by practising morris dancing. Questions are naturally asked in Parliament. One MP asks why, since the Government has already let so many undesirable aliens into the country, a few more really make that much difference.

This early Wodehouse work is much neglected. Do find and read it if you can.

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