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The Triple Echo
Page Count
Word Count
Daily Telegraph Magazine
Michael Joseph
Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd
Australian Women's Weekly
Publication Year
Document Types
Film & Television
available as ebook
War, Gender

London: Michael Joseph, 1970. Drawings by Ron Clarke.

Bates's last significant novella, but one which he described as taking twenty-five years to complete, beginning in "the darker days of the war, in 1943, its completion coming in 1968" upon the removal of a superfluous character, after which "light immediately flooded in on a canvas that had been so long irremediably dark, and in a mere three weeks the story was extracted from the womb it had apparently been so reluctant to leave" (The World in Ripeness, pp. 113-114). Set in the 1940s, the wife of a war prisoner lives in desperate loneliness and fear on an isolated farmstead. She encounters a young farmboy completely out of his element as a soldier, and the two carve out a relationship in defiance of the war around them. His decision to escape the military and to dress as his lover's sister to avoid detection eventually leads to tragedy.

In a very late essay ("H.E. Bates — By Himself") Bates discusses the long evolution of the story's plot, conceived in 1943 with two sisters and completed in 1968 with just the one, what Bates calls "an exceptional example of stumbling and groping or, if you will, of my own prolonged stupidity." Eads (1990) notes that on August 29, 1969 Bates sought ballistics advice (related to the use of a gun in the story) from his schoolmaster friend of fifty years, Edmund Kirby.

A film version starring Oliver Reed, Brian Deacon, and Glenda Jackson, and directed by Michael Apted was premiered in November 1972, and issued in the United States with the title Soldiers in Skirts.

John Whitley, in The Sunday Times, describes the story as a 'marvellously observed acidulous squib,' and British Book News says that 'Mr Bates handles his plot with the consummate skill that has been the hallmark of his writing for years now. Characterization gains emphasis by restraint, sex is implied but never described; and the story moves smoothly and inevitably to its ordained end, entirely convincing and beautifully told — a small masterpiece of the storyteller's art.'


  • Times Literary Supplement (November 27, 1970, p. 1377, David F. Williams, attached)
  • British Book News (February, 1971, p. 164, attached)
  • Sunday Times (November 1, 1970, p. 33, John Whitley, attached)

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The below reviews and articles are available in PDF format.