Jack Jackrum

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Jack Jackrum
Name Sergeant-Major Jack Jackrum
Race Human
Age 60s
Occupation Soldier
Physical appearance Large, fat and red.
Residence Barracks and battlefields
Children One son
Marital Status Widowed
Books Monstrous Regiment

We first encounter Sergeant Jackrum as a veteran sergeant in the Borogravian Army. Despite pretending to be a dimwitted soldier in the presence of any officers, Jackrum is both intelligent and manipulative. The sergeant's exact age is unknown, just as most of the relevant service record has been lost owing to a series of baffling administrative errors, leaving only a legend.

As befits a veteran senior N.C.O., Jackrum acts as something of a father figure to the soldiers of the Detail. The legend surrounding this N.C.O. is known, either personally or by reputation, by practically every soldier in the Borogravian Army, and is familiar to soldiers of the enemy armies too. Jackrum has, over the years, been the sergeant in command of (or under) a number of young soldiers who then rose up to the Army's high command, and thus wields considerable influence. It is stated on several occasions that Jackrum should actually have retired long ago, but the sergeant is always one step ahead of official discharge papers constantly in pursuit via the mail. If they ever catch up with Jackrum, he is inventive enough to find some excuse to get out of them. For instance, at one point in the book, the sergeant resigns his stripes so that an enemy soldier may be brutally assaulted without shattering military protocol and treaty, and is subsequently re-enlisted afterward.

His few precious possessions are a never-fully-consumed wad of chewing tobacco, and a neck-locket containing, presumably the iconograph of a loved one, the contents of which are jealously guarded and shown to nobody, although Polly Perks is privileged to be given a glimpse one day.

He appeared only in Monstrous Regiment.

  • To borrow an expression from some books on the same shelf, the explanation above is wrong in almost every particular, although it is quite a good lie. It is, unfortunately, hard to discuss Sgt. Jackrum or many other characters in Monstrous Regiment without MAJOR SPOILERS.

About three generations ago, in rural Borogravia (which is all the Borogravia there is), there was a big, stroppy farm girl who married a soldier named William. This was perfectly normal; almost all the young men were soldiers. This girl, however, was a little different. She soon tired of farm work and being separated from her new husband and formed a plan. She cut off her hair, acquired some trousers, and enlisted in the same regiment herself, now presenting as a man. The arrangement worked fairly smoothly for a time, and the union even produced a son who was sent to be raised by his great-grandmother. But soon after, William was killed.

The young Jackrum had already risen in the ranks, showing considerable military skill and leadership, and no one was offering widows' pensions, so he remained, and remained, until he was the most experienced and widely known NCO in the army. In the course of this long career, he discovered that he was not the only person sharing his situation. Indeed, some quite senior officers were operating without standard equipment, besides the many other once-farm girls who were usually inept but occasionally useful soldiers. He helped both the officers and men through their careers, from suggesting improvements to their disguise to saving their lives, and he remembered.

With old age advancing and theocratic militarism threatening to destroy Borogravia, Jack led a squad of "his little lads" to bring about a truce, calling in his markers (and using a little blackmail) to persuade the High Command and obtain some benefits for his "monstrous regiment". He retired with the assurance that Polly Perks would carry on her leadership of the rude equal-opportunity movement. When the novel ends, Jackrum has reunited with his long-lost son on the advice of Polly, and he introduced herself as his father rather than his mother, on the grounds that a fat old woman showing up claiming to be his mother would just be an inconvenience, but a distinguished sergeant-major claiming to be his father would be something to be proud of.


Like Corporal Strappi, Jackrum seems to be partially inspired from Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. After coming out of training, the recruits are soon introduced to Stanislaus Katczinsky, also known as "Kat". Unlike their training officer Himmelstoss, Kat is a kind and sympathetic old man: he takes the recruits under his wing, teaches them all he knows, and goes out of his way to procure food and comfortable accommodations for them. Like Jackrum, his methods (like using a sharpened shovel as a weapon) are hardly official practice, but are effective and help keep the soldiers alive.