Denis Forman insisted from infancy on reasoning why. At the beginning of this book he has stopped doing so. But history comes crashing down on what promised to be tremendously enjoyable way of life, and World War Two begins. Denis is soon joining his regiment, and, in circumstances of high comedy, he reverts with a vengeance to asking awkward questions. They add up to this: why, when he and his colleagues are about to fight in World War Two, are they being trained to fight in World War One, not to say the Battle of Waterloo? At Barnard Castle there is a Battle School where a man called Lionel Wigram is answering all the right questions in the right way. Denis determines to get there, and does. Training becomes thrillingly relevant, and Wigram becomes his friend as well as his mentor. They meet again in Italy, where the Eighth Army is edging its painful way northwards. Lionel is in disgrace. He wrote a report (printed at the end of this book) to which General Montgomery took exception, has been demoted and is in despair.
He recovers his spirits, however, when he starts organising a mini-battle-school behind the lines, and eventually is put in charge of 'Wigforce', a private army of Italian partisans. The story of Wigforce is told in detail, up to its bitter end.