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George Macdonald Fraser's other famous series. Chronicles the adventures/misadventures of young Lieutenant MacNeill (who is in no way Fraser himself) in a Highland Battalion in the wake of the Second World War. The series is named for the dirtiest soldier in the world, who is part of MacNeill's platoon and whose horrific exploits are the source of amusement and disgust to both the reader and his fellow soldiers. Basically a sequel to Fraser's memoir of WWII Burma, Quartered Safe Out Here; the first story literally takes up where the memoir leaves off, with Fraser/MacNeill's assignment to officer training at the end of the war.

The series consists of three volumes, each named after a story within: The General Danced at Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough, and The Sheikh and the Dustbin. An omnibus edition exists called The Complete McAuslan.

Tropes used in McAuslan include:
  • Achievements in Ignorance: considering how badly McAuslan fails at...well, everything, his successes are all the more amazing. Such as handing the Sergeant-Major the wrong club while caddying, thereby enabling him to make an impossible shot, or putting out the target lamp in a night exercise entirely by accident.
  • Armed Farces: Considering it's supposed to be at least within shouting distance of the truth, this trope is both invoked and demonstrated to be pretty much Truth in Television.
  • Awesome Music: Referenced throughout the series. Many stories mention the battalion band and its pipe-sergeant. One story focuses on Piper Findlater, who won a Victoria Cross in Afghanistan for playing the pipes while injured. Another story is about a Highland dance so rousing that it draws in Englishmen and Arabs. And dozens of classic tunes are name-dropped, particularly Johnnie Cope which is used to wake the junior officers on Friday mornings -- from approximately two feet away.
  • Benevolent Boss/A Father to His Men: The Colonel, the Regimental Sergeant-Major, and the other senior officers. Through Character Development, MacNeill himself becomes this to his platoon--so much so that he still finds himself looking out for the eternally-benighted McAuslan, even after their demobilization.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Strenuously avoided. There are three incidents in all three books that might be considered combat - and one of those is an unarmed wargame between friendly forces. Of course, it is peacetime.
  • Bling of War: The Highlanders act as police numerous times, always with kilts and bagpipes, as this makes the Arabs sit up and take notice. More specifically, MacNeill changes the Guard at Edinburgh Castle, and compares this to his wartime experiences of standing guard on a burnt-out bank in full-dress uniform, and standing guard on General Slim whilst wearing skivvies.
  • Blood Knight:
    • Captain Errol, named after the character's charismatic similarities to Errol Flynn. Errol is also staggeringly insubordinate and a guerrilla specialist, having lost his commission and then earned it back leading partisans in Yugoslavia. The author implies very heavily that Errol ended a native uprising in Libya by assassinating its leader.
    • Wee Wullie (though his fighting consists of bar brawls).
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Wee Wullie, again. In night exercises his role is to whale the tar out of any opposing force, single-handedly, thereby letting the rest of the platoon sneak by unnoticed. He also has a crime sheet as long as his arm, rivaled only by his service record.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: The bread and butter of the battalion. It's noted that even the Communist sergeant is still Sergeant Rough with his men.
  • Colonel Badass: The Colonel, though he's certainly quiet about it.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: McAuslan, mostly by accident. Wee Wullie, the battalion drunk.
  • Cultured Warrior: Toyed with during battalion quiz night, being both simultaneously invoked and averted so hard the trope may never recover.
  • Courtroom Antic: McAuslan's Court-Martial. You know you're in for quite a show when the judge proves himself more interested in learning choice Scottish epithets than in conducting the trial proper.
  • The Ditz: McAuslan himself, the dirtiest, thickest soldier in the British Army.
  • Ensign Newbie: Pretty much all the Lieutenants - even the ones with existing military experience are still quite young and unsure of themselves. Of course, they try not to show it.
  • Epic Fail: McAuslan is prone to these, such as setting his lieutenant's sporran on fire while trying to brush it. In fact, often he fails so epically that it wraps around the scale and turns into an amazing success.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: it's a Highlander regiment. The pipe band is a huge part of the regimental culture--and because they're so important and there's nothing a young lieutenant can do to stop them, they developed a tradition of waking up the junior officers by blasting Johnny Cope just outside their quarters every Friday. Eventually one of the subalterns gets revenge by arranging for the colonel to stay over at the junior officers' quarters on Thursday night, and not mentioning a word to either the band or the colonel. Needless to say...
  • Funetik Aksent: Fraser is very good at writing the Scottish brogue.
    • And he does a good job of differentiating between Scottish regional dialects, e.g. Highlanders (the padre and the Pipe Sergeant) vs. the Glaswegians (many, if not most, of the other ranks).
  • Glamorous Wartime Singer: Both invoked (in a few brief mentions of the officers' attachments to various local entertainers) and subverted (in the mention of the ranks' relationships to less savory local entertainers).
  • Good Looking Privates: As a general rule, the men of the battalion are in good physical condition and have been working in a Mediterranean climate for the past while.
  • Iron Lady/The Matriach: MacNeill's aunt, as related in The Gordon Women.
  • The Klutz: again, McAuslan, who manages to break or mislay the most improbable things. On one occasion he broke the metal cover of a compass--"a feat comparable to biting a rifle in half"; on another he only avoids firing live ammunition at an inspection where the Royals are present because the Regimental Sergeant-Major snatched the ammo from his gun just in time.
  • Mildly Military: Highland units are noted as being this relative to other British Army units.
  • Military Maverick: Captain Errol. Oh, so very, very, very much.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Both invoked and subverted--MacNeill tries to be this at times, but trips over himself on occasion - and on other occasions, it's simply not the appropriate response.
  • Old Soldier: Both Wee Wullie and the Colonel joined the battalion in 1914, and have not left since.
  • Proud Warrior Race: the Highlanders, and they know it. Completely Played for Laughs; the narrator jokes that the reason the Scottish regiments are all kept far away from each other during peacetime isn't so much that they'll start a Scottish rising as that they'd probably tear each other to bits.
  • Southern-Fried Private: It's a Highland battalion. Unsurprisingly, they're more than a little Scotch.
  • The Men First: The attitude of pretty much every officer in the battalion--the final commanding officer may be the only obvious exception, and that's only because he's very new.
  • My Girl Back Home: The various families of the men (and of MacNeill himself). MacNeill ends up going on a tour of his men's various families and friends when he's on leave in England.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Fraser is careful not to identify the regiment or its soldiers for the majority of the series, although in the Highland Games story involving all the Scottish units of the British Army, its identity can be deduced by elimination. The last story in the last book, which involves the Colonel asking Fraser to sign copies of the first two books, reveals the regiment as the Gordon Highlanders and names the Colonel: R.G. "Reggie" Lees. The story also discusses the semi-fictional nature of certain characters, including Wee Wullie and McAuslan himself.
  • Plunger Detonator: Cunningly invoked to face down a mob.
  • Priceless Paperweight: Inverted with a treasure trove of paper bills - that are no longer legal tender now that the war's over.
    • Played straight with the table service of the officer's mess, which is made up of priceless booty collected by the regiment over three centuries. The above-mentioned Rebel Leader donates a combat knife that becomes the battalion's cheese slicer.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Some of the Scots who make up the battalion.
  • Rebel Leader: The battalion ends up holding onto one of these for the French. They like him better.
  • Sergeant Rock: the Regimental Sergeant-Major. It's revealed that he used to be drill instructor for Brigade of Guards--the fellows who guard the Royal Family. MacNeill isn't surprised at all.
  • Serial Escalation: how many people can you rope into a Highland Reel? Try one hundred and twenty-eight.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Captain Errol. Rumoured to have served in the various hush-hush communities like the SOE in the War.
  • Spanner in the Works: McAuslan. Amazingly, sometimes he manages to invert the trope, by accidentally and completely unintentionally saving the day.
  • Stealth Expert: Lance-Corporal Macrae, who worked as a ghillie[1] in civilian life.
  • To Absent Friends: "Here's tae us!" "Wha's like us?" "Damn few!" "An' they're a' deid!"
  • Violent Glaswegian/Brave Scot: The better part of the battalion.
  • With Catlike Tread:
    • Wee Wullie's approach to night exercises is to wander the exercise area dead drunk, happily whaling the tar out of any half-dozen or so of the opposing force who get close. At least it makes for a worthwhile distraction.
    • Meanwhile, the description of the police raid on a local still in The Gordon Women has to be read to be believed. The leader/local landlord, a retired admiral, stresses the need for stealth--all while their car goes clattering up the hill, making a din to wake up half Perthshire, and backfiring like a Bofors gun to boot.

Notes

  1. Scottish gamekeeper
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