Book name: A Lad of Grit
Author: Percy F Westerman
Publisher: Blackie and Son
Format: Print, ebook
Genre: Vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1908
Star Rating: 4/5
Percy F Westerman was a prolific writer of books for boys at a time when children’s fiction was sharply divided by gender.
He wrote over 200 novels and was voted, in the Thirties, the most popular author of stories for boys.
A Lad of Grit was his first book for boys. Many of his books featured military or naval themes.
When A Lad of Grit opens, Aubrey is a teenager. It is 1660. He is travelling with his father, who is well into his sixties.
They stop at an inn, and his father gets involves in an altercation with a man named Increase Joyce.
Later, when they leave the inn, Joyce follows them and murders Aubrey’s father. He steals a metal box hanging from Aubrey’s father’s belt.
Joyce is apprehended and Aubrey’s evidence convinces the law that Joyce is the murderer. However, Joyce escapes before he can be committed for trial.
Aubrey then goes to live with his uncle and aunt in Portsmouth. On the way there, he is followed by a group of thieves intending to rob him.
Aubrey shows an immense presence of mind. He manages to evade the thieves and seek help from some passing soldiers.
A brief fight ensues, and one of the thieves is killed.
Aubrey spends a few peaceful years in Portsmouth before going to sea. Much of the rest of A Lad of Grit takes place aboard ship, firstly in the Caribbean and Atlantic and later fighting the Dutch closer to home.
Aubrey has many adventures, and only narrowly escapes death several times. He is brave and resourceful, and it appears that he will develop into a fine naval officer.
Our hero has not forgotten his moral obligation to track down Joyce and see the man brought to justice for the murder of his father, however.
Later, when Aubrey is imprisoned with other captured British officers in the Netherlands, their paths cross again. Joyce does not recognise Aubrey, but the latter knows him at once.
I had so much admiration for Aubrey. He never complained, but he worked hard and was very resilient.
The story featured plenty of action and camaraderie. There was an impressive amount of naval detail combined with about as much bloodshed as any reader of the time or now could wish for.
A Lad of Grit is a product of its time, like all children’s books. It aims to imbue its young readership with values of honesty, courage and service to the British Empire.
However differently we may feel today about the last of these, the first two will endure and Aubrey was a true hero.
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