1914. Simon Fonthill, a fit 59-year-old, is visiting his farm in Northern Rhodesia when the Great War breaks out. With him, as always, is his wife Alice, but also his old comrade and former batman, 352 Jenkins, holidaying with them after the marriage of his two step-daughters in South Africa. Fonthill immediately cables his old boss Kitchener, the newly appointed Minister for War in the British Cabinet, offering his services in the fight against the Kaiser’s Germany. However, he is instructed to remain in Africa in case of warfare in German East Africa. When war does break out, Fonthill proves his worth in a battle that proves to be equally frightful to the one in Europe and, indeed, to last even longer than that on the Western Front.
1903. The British Empire has reached its probable apogee: so much of the world map is coloured red and the sun never set on its boundaries. But Lord Curzon, the ambitious Viceroy of India, has different views. Tibet, the mountainous region on the Raj’s borders, irritates him: the Dalai Lama never replies to his letters and border disputes multiply.
He decides to invade and recruits Simon Fonthill, veteran of so many of ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars,’ to lead 2000 men over the ice-bound Himalayan passes to Lhasa. Fonthill sets out on another expedition with his wife Alice, reporting for the Morning Post, and his old comrade, ‘352’ Jenkins.
It is machine guns against muskets as the cruel and brave monks, fighting on their own terrain among the clouds, oppose the invasion. When Alice is captured, treachery is revealed, and Fonthill and Jenkins must gallop to her aid in their most arduous and thrilling adventure yet.
North-West India, July 1897. Simon and Alice Fonthill are travelling with their old friend Jenkins to Marden for a 50th anniversary party with the Guides Corps. What begins as a peaceful journey becomes a dangerous battle as they find themselves ambushed by four Pathans. On arrival at Marden, their suspicions of conflict are confirmed as they are told of fresh trouble from the Pathans leading Simon and his comrade, 352 Jenkins, to join the charge in protecting a nearby fort.
Afterwards, their respite is shortlived when Simon is tasked by Viceroy Elgin to deliver a very important letter to the Amir in Kabul. For her safety, Alice only travels as far as fort Landi Kotal in the Khyber Pass. But strife prevails throughout the land; tribe fights with tribe and every man is a soldier ready to bloody his hands. Undertaking his mission in Kabul, Fonthill learns from the Amir that an army is heading towards the Pass to seize the forts and will undoubtedly leave most for dead.
Can Fonthill and Jenkins battle their way back across the Pass to the fort? And will they make it in time to rescue Alice or will the merciless Pathans get there first?
Simon Fonthill, his wife Alice and trusty ‘352’ Jenkins are bound from the Chinese port of Tientsin for Durban, South Africa at the urgent request of Kitchener. The rusty tub that is to take them across the sea does not inspire confidence and, more worryingly, neither does the captain. When matters come to a head, all three must pull together to ensure that their plans and lives aren’t wrecked.
South Africa, 1900. The bloody conflict between the forces of the British Empire and the Boer farmers seemed at last to have ended in victory for Queen Victoria’s soldiers, with the Boer capitals taken and occupied. But fast-riding Boer commandos have emerged to introduce a new type of warfare – hit-and-run guerrilla tactics, fought across the veldt of South Africa and leaving the British ‘Khakis’ plodding and bruised in their wake.
To counter these strikes, the British General Kitchener persuades Simon Fonthill, fresh from his triumphs in China’s Boxer Rebellion, to divert to Cape Town and fight the Boers at their own game. So Fonthill, with his old comrade 352 Jenkins as his Regimental Sergeant Major, finds himself reinstated in the British Army as the colonel of his own cavalry unit.
Can the two of them adapt to regular soldiering again – and will they be able to catch and pin down those elusive Boer Generals, Louis Botha and Christiaan de Wet? And can Simon’s wife, Alice, reporting on the war for the Morning Post, extricate herself from her own problems in South Africa?
1914. British forces are desperately attempting to hold off the oncoming German invasion in France. But the German defences are formidable – the British must contend with machine guns, razor-sharp shrapnel, and constant shelling. Their only respite from attack comes as star shells fly high into the night, freezing the action and illuminating the chaos in the trenches below.
Like so many other men, Jim Hickman and Bertie Murphy are plunged into this nightmare. Loyal friends, the pair have done everything together since they became neighbours as children, from falling in love with the same girl to enlisting as soon as the war began. Now, they must become closer than ever to ensure they both survive the countless, gruelling battles at the front line.
As the war progresses, Jim receives honour after honour, whilst loveable Bertie struggles to deal with the mindless slaughter around him. And meanwhile, back in Birmingham, their beloved girl Polly must find a way to choose between the two men. All three are caught up in battles of the body and heart as the war to end all wars changes each of their lives.
The year is 1900 and China is once again plunged into barbaric chaos. The Boxers, a cult of young peasants who blame the foreign barbarians living in their country – particularly the missionaries – for the nation's ills, are rampaging through the country, killing any foreigners. China's Dowager Empress – 'The Dragon Lady' – secretly encourages them.
Into this maelstrom land former captain and army scout Simon Fonthill, his wife Alice and '352' Jenkins, Fonthill's former batman and trusted comrade, to visit Alice's uncle, a country missionary. Threatened by the Boxers, the three escort the missionary and his family to the safety of Peking.
En route, the party is attacked by the red-bannered Boxers and the missionary is killed. The survivors reach Peking only to find that the capital is no sanctuary. The Legations of the foreign ministers within the city is surrounded and the Siege of Peking begins. Fonthill, Jenkins and Chang, the missionary's adopted son, volunteer to slip through the enemy lines to bring help. It proves to be Fonthill's most dangerous mission...
John Wilcox has written eight novels of historical adventure and two books of non-fiction. Now, however, he tells the story of how he grew up as a maths-hating boy in the back streets of Birmingham during the war, dodging the German bombs but pledging his undying love for an iconic Betty Grable, and then succeeding as a journalist and businessman before surviving the greatest tragedy of his life.
It's a tale that gives insight into the war years and to the growth of a great industrial city - but it is also one of love, humour and personal struggle. Wilcox can't do sums, but he can write.
This is not so much a memoir, more a warm, personal retrospective of an eventful period in British life.
It is 1889 and the great powers of Europe are scrambling for territory in Africa. The last prize is the kingdom of Matabeleland and Mashonaland, ruled by the benevolent tyrant King Lobengula and policed by his impis of 20,000 warriors. The British do not want another colonial war, but the South African millionaire Cecil John Rhodes wants the land at any price in order to extend the British Empire.
Recently returned from campaign in Khartoum, former captain and army scout Simon Fonthill needs a new mission. On meeting Rhodes, he agrees to lead an expedition to Lobengula's kraal to seek his agreement to land settlement. But the king's court is a cauldron of intrigue and danger and the impis are hungry for war. Fonthill and his comrade, '352' Jenkins, must fight in one of the most famous last stands in Britain's colonial history. Will it also be their last battle?
"A fast paced, action packed story."
The eyes of the world are on Khartoum in 1884 where General Gordon, hero of Queen Victoria's Empire, is under siege. Hordes of Dervish warriors, loyal to the Mahdi, the Sudanese war lord and Messiah, are baying for British blood. With just a few thousand men and diminishing supplies, Gordon fears Khartoum will fall.
Ex-captain and army scout Simon Fonthill is summoned to Cairo. The army needs a hardened scout to slip through enemy lines to make contact with Gordon ahead of the relief force. Failure could mean instant death or slow torture at the hands of the Mahdi's disciples.
Fonthill knows the odds are stacked against success but accepts the mission. Soon he and his comrade, "352" Jenkins are crossing the Nile. But when they are captured by a sadistic Dervish patrol, it seems that, for Fonthill, time has finally run out...
"Grown up Boy's Own stuff, a pacy read."
Alarming news of an uprising against the Anglo-French suzerainty in Egypt has reached London in March 1882. Sir Garnet Wolseley has little time to assemble his army, but he knows that to have any chance of the British invasion succeeding, he must gather more information about the enemy. He decides he must call upon the services of renowned scouts, Simon Fonthill, one time army captain and "352" Jenkins, his ex-batman.
Fonthill and Jenkins are charged to venture into the desert ahead of Wolseley's column and observe the movements and report on the fighting prowess of the Egyptian force under the command of Colonel Arabi. On a mission of her own is war correspondent Alice Griffith, who is determined to report back from the centre of the action. Fonthill and Jenkins are fully aware of the dangers they face in the desert. But they could never have foreseen the bloodshed that awaited them all at Tel el Kebir...
"Wilcox writes with an intimate knowledge of the African continent, an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Victorian era when the British Empire was at its peak, and all the dash of a great adventurer."
Nottingham Evening Post
General George Pomeroy-Colley, commander of the British forces in Natal is planning to stamp out a rebellion. It is 1881 and he is convinced the Transvaal Boers - "mere farmers" - can pose no serious threat, but before he can advance into unknown terrain, he needs reliable information. He calls on former army captain Simon Fonthill.
A veteran of the Zulu and bePedi campaigns, Fonthill knows that the Boers should not be underestimated. After narrowly surviving a scouting mission into hostile territory, Fonthill and his servant "352" Jenkins, are given an urgent diplomatic assignment where further danger and treachery await them. But the greatest test if yet to come. As the Queen's men and the sharp-shooting Boers converge on the imposing heights of Majuba Hill, Fonthill and Jenkins are the first into the fray. If they are to break the enemy, Colley's men must hold the summit at all costs...
"Fast-paced, full of action and brave deeds.
If you are a fan of Simon Scarrow or Wilbur Smith, then this is for you."
Historical Novels Review
It's 1880 and the atmosphere is volatile in the South African province of the Transvaal. The discovery of diamonds has bred greed and violence, while a strong anti-British feeling is taking hold amongst the Boer farmers. In addition, the bePedi tribe continues to rampage after the defeat of their Zulu allies at Rorke's Drift just a year ago.
War-weary from the army's recent campaign in Afghanistan, former captain Simon Fonthill and his servant, "352" Jenkins are on their way home when the cry for help comes. An old friend has been kidnapped in Kimberley on South Africa's new Diamond Frontier, and the pair must go to her aid before redeeming a promise to act as army scouts in this increasingly turbulent region. But this is only the beginning. For when the acclaimed British hero, General Wolseley, decides to lead his column against the impenetrable stronghold of the bePedi, Fonthill and Jenkins find themselves marching to war...
"A thrilling tale of courage and fortitude."
Historical Novels Review
The North West Frontier, India's border with Afghanistan, provided in 1879 the greatest opportunity for action and advancement for any officer in the British army. But it also guaranteed the most risk. The Pathan warriors of the Afghan hills - notorious for their ferocity and cruelty - are a constant threat to the Queen's men. But what worries the army most is the rumour that the tribes are planning an uprising.
Captain Simon Fonthill is ready for a new challenge. Having cut his teeth in battle in the Zulu War, he accepts the hazardous mission of riding into the hills and passing vital intelligence back to camp. Accompanied only by his unconventional servant, "352" Jenkins, and an eccentric but fearless Sikh translator, know as W.G.Grace, Fonthill steels himself for what is surely the most dangerous posting of his career...
"A glorious adventure story." Western Morning News
Simon Fonthill makes his debut here, at a time when the British army of 1879 is the finest fighting force in the world, its soldiers constantly in action to defend the Empire. Among them is Lt. Simon Fonthill, dispatched to South Africa on active service for the first time. He has much to prove, for Col. Covington, his former Commanding Officer, has slanderously branded him a coward.
In the Cape tension is high. The Zulus, an independent nation of magnificently militant tribesmen, threaten the colonial government's vision of uniting South Africa into one confederation. Wrongly informed that Simon is fluent in local dialects, the army command sends him and his servant "352" Jenkins, deep into Zululand to discover the intentions of the Zulu king. A dangerous mission, for the territory is aflame with talk of war.
As the Zulu warriors prepare to defend their country, Fonthill contends with violence and punishment - and his feelings towards the two women who have come into his life - before he is faced with his greatest challenge. Escaping from the massacre at the Battle of Isandlwana, Simon must warn the tiny garrison at Rorke's Drift of the threat posed by the advancing Zulu impis. He has a chance to prove Covington a liar, but he may pay the ultimate price...
"A hero to match Sharpe or Hornblower... Riproaring stuff."