The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke

brilliant and exciting” Kingsley Amis

“called him ‘as subtle as the devil” John Betjeman

“one of the most interesting and talented writers to emerge after the Second World War” Anthony Powell

Jocelyn Brooke’s love affair with wild flowers and home-made fireworks began when he was growing up in Kent. But there was one particular flower, especially rare and beautiful, which became an obsession. Over three decades and through two world wars, in the deserts of Libya and the woodlands of Italy, in the chalk downs of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, he searched continually for his most beloved and elusive Orchis militaris, the military orchid. Jocelyn Brooke blends memoir, botany and satire to recall this lifelong quest.

Read Horatio Claire’s introduction

Paperback with flaps | 210 mm x 156 mm | 152 pages

Cover artwork by David Inshaw

Colour orchid illustrations by Stephen Bone and Gavin Bone


In stock


JOCELYN BROOKE was born in Sandgate, Kent. Unhappy at school in Canterbury, he ran away twice before being sent to Bedales. After publishing a collection of poetry in 1927, he dropped out of Oxford University and worked in various London bookshops before joining the family wine business. During the Second World War he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, which he rejoined after being demobbed because he could not settle into civilian life. The Military Orchid launched his literary career and enabled him to leave the army. He became a producer for the BBC, but resigned after four months, settling back in Kent, at Bishopsbourne, to write A Mine of Serpents (1949), The Goose Cathedral (1950) and The Image of a Drawn Sword (1950). He was a founder member of the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation and published two botanical works, The Wild Orchids of Britain (1950) and The Flower in Season (1952).

Additional information

Weight350 g
Dimensions14 × 156 × 216 mm

1 review for The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke

  1. Robert Macfarlane

    We’re thrilled to see Jocelyn Brooke’s wonderful book The Military Orchid chosen by Robert Macfarlane as one of his books of 2011 in the Guardian. ‘Jocelyn Brooke’s cracklingly bizarre The Military Orchid,’ he writes ‘a memoir-satire-nature-quest about orchids and home-made fireworks.’ Read Robert Macfarlane’s recommendations here.

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