After all he’s been through, he ought to be garlanded with gongs and in command of a battalion at the very least by now. Dunkirk; Crete; the Western Desert; Stalingrad; Burma; D-Day: you name it, and Dick Coward fought in it – often surviving only by the skin of his teeth, invariably thanks to the wise advice of his wise old platoon sergeant Tom Price.
So why aren’t his courage and decency better appreciated? It’s a question Dick himself often asks. And the answer matters, too, because of the deal his terrifying and cantankerous father – General Ajax Coward VC – has made with his two surviving sons: whichever boy has the “best” war will inherit the family’s magnificent Herefordshire estate.
Up until now Dick’s wicked twin brother James has made all the running, having attained higher rank and won more medals. But the mission Dick’s about to embark on next could change everything. It’s called Operation Market Garden and if everything goes according to plan, Dick will not only win the estate but also the heart of the gorgeous Lady Gina Herbert. All he has to do is find some way of earning himself the Victoria Cross. Which shouldn’t be too difficult with a man of Sgt Price’s considerable ingenuity advising him.
There’s only one problem. This Operation Market Garden: it looks like it’s going to be such a pushover there may not be any actual fighting to do. 30,000 men, the cream of Britain’s and Americans airborne forces, dropping out of the sky on top of ill-prepared, half- strength German units comprising mostly old men and young boys.
What could possibly go wrong with an operation like that…?
Click to read the beginning of Coward at the Bridge , as related by the elderly Dick to his beloved grandson Jack.
Buy Coward at the Bridge by James Delingpole (Simon & Schuster, June 2009)