The Wars

The Wars Character List

Miss Davenport

A maid for the Ross family who comes to spend most of her time with Mrs. Ross as the novel progresses.

Robert Ross

The main character of the novel, Robert is a Canadian soldier who goes to Europe to fight the German forces during World War I. Deeply empathetic, Robert has a kinship with all animals. He is haunted by the death of his sister, Rowena, who fell from her wheelchair when he was supposed to be watching over her. He encounters great horrors on the front that affect him greatly but do not change his kind disposition. By the end of the novel, he has lost a great deal of faith in the world and in humanity. What is significant is that he hasn't lost all of it.

Mrs. Ross

Robert Ross's mother. Her relationship with Robert appears to be severed when he leaves for the front. However, she is the most affected by his absence and eventually goes blind after hearing that Robert is missing in action. She harbors an alcohol addiction throughout the novel.

Mr. Ross/Thomas Ross

Robert's father. He presents a face of unconditional love to his son and his family, even when his relationship with his wife is deteriorating. He secures a pistol for Robert and is the only family member to attend Robert's funeral.


A soldier in the dugout whom Robert comes to know. He is obsessed with Clausewitz's writings on war and carries many books with him. After the German attack on the dugout, Levitt is shaken badly and unable to continue at the front. He is sent out on a train with wounded soldiers.

Willie Poole

A bugler who rides with Robert into Belgium. Robert describes him as uncomplicated. He can play the bugle but declined to join the military band because he wouldn't actually be fighting the war if he did. Robert later sees him when Poole delivers his missing kit bag to him, just following Robert's rape.

Eugene Taffler

A decorated war hero who has a habit of throwing stones at glass bottles with amazing accuracy. He likens this to the act of war itself. In him, Robert hopes to find a mentor to help him gain the will to kill another human being. Robert later witnesses Taffler having sex with another man. Taffler loses both his arms during the war and attempts suicide but is unsuccessful when Lady Juliet d'Orsey unwittingly catches him in the act.


A prostitute working at Lady Dreyfus's brothel. She selects Robert from the group of men at the brothel one night. Robert ejaculates while following her upstairs to her room. He later witnesses Captain Taffler having sex with another man through a peephole in Ella's room.

Mr. Baldwin Mull

A neighbor of the Ross family known for his temper and his habit of accumulating property.

Peggy Ross

Robert's sister.

Stuart Ross

Robert's younger brother.

Clifford Purchas

A soldier whom Robert meets during training. He is accompanied by Clifford Purchas while searching for missing horses. It is at that time that he meets Eugene Taffler. In Part Five of the novel, Robert finds a corpse in the road near Wytsbrouk. The dead man has been shot in the back. It turns out to be Clifford Purchas.

Captain Ord

A man aboard the SS Masanabie who spends his time in his bunk reading the works of G.A. Henty. He claims he has lost his voice and cannot do any work.


A young soldier whom Robert meets aboard the SS Masanabie. Robert spends a good deal of time at Harris's bedside in the infirmary after they are both injured. Harris eventually dies while at the Royal hospital, saddening Robert and affecting him deeply.


One of the men in the dugout whom Levitt and Robert Ross are meant to relieve. He is later shot by Captain Leather while trying to help Robert free the horses in the barn during a German shell attack.


One of the men in the dugout whom Robert Ross and Levitt are meant to relieve. Robert later hears of his death from Poole.


A soldier in the dugout who rescues wounded animals and keeps them in cages under his bunk. He reminds Robert of Rowena. He passes on his sketchbook and a letter for his daughter to Robert before they part. Later, he takes his own life after witnessing his fellow soldiers torture and kill a cat.

Lady Barbara d'Orsey

The eldest daughter of the Marquis and the Marcioness of St Aubyn's. She and Robert start a brief affair after Captain Taffler's injury and admittance to St Aubyn's. She later visits Robert, but only once, at St Aubyn's following his burn injuries.

Captain James Villiers

A man encased in bandages lying in the Royal Free Hospital. Robert Ross alerts a nurse to administer morphine to the man after he is visited by Eugene Taffler and Lady Barbara d'Orsey. Captain Villiers cannot speak due to damage to his vocal chords from a fire. He eventually dies from his injuries.

Lady Juliet d'Orsey

Lady Barbara's younger sister. Several of the passages of the novel are told by her through transcribed interviews. She fell in love with Robert during his initial stay at St Aubyn's and stayed by his side during his last days. She also wrote the inscription on his tombstone.

Captain Leather

Robert's commanding officer from Wytsbrouk. He arrives at the front after the dugout is destroyed and utters the phrase "Just so" in response to just about every remark. He seems entirely disconnected from the reality of the war, planning strategic moves from far behind the front lines. Robert has little confidence in him.

Corporal Bates

An officer in charge of the men whom Robert meets through Captain Leather. Bates accompanies Robert to the crater at the front lines where they come across a German sniper.


A nurse at St. Aubyn's who is despised by Lady Juliet and Captain Taffler. They each develop condescending nicknames for her: Lady Juliet calls her "Babbins" and Captain Taffler refers to her as the baboon.

Major Terry

An officer who is pursuing Lady Barbara d'Orsey. Robert meets him when he arrives at St Aubyn's for recuperation. Lady Barbara later rejects Major Terry in order to be with Robert.

Rowena Ross

Robert's older sister, with whom he had a close relationship. Rowena was born with hydrocephalus, and Robert acted as her guardian throughout her life. She died after falling from her wheelchair when Robert was supposed to be looking after her, causing him great guilt.

Maria Dreyfus

A German Madam who runs a brothel in Lousetown.

Marian Turner

A nurse who looks over Robert after he was burned in the barn fire. She offers him an assisted suicide after taking pity on him, but Robert refuses.