In the year 1960 discontented bank clerk Paul Johnson joins the elite Corps of Royal Marines where he and Jack Mason, once a professional wrestler, become friends. They and other recruits form H Squad, a unit impressed by and proud of their dazzling drill instructor, Sergeant Francis Boswell. The self-proclaimed ‘finest Sergeant this man’s outfit has ever produced’ gives his squad the collective ‘Boswell’s Fairies’.
The honing of H Squad during a ten-month period of training, culminates in them being awarded the Green Beret. Paul’s effort to escape the oppressive constraints of banking, class, and family lands him instead in the equally confining discipline of military life. Their training and constant search of female companionship and fun teach Paul and Jack a lot about themselves and the serious business of living. Along the way there is Paul’s romance with a girl named Jill who, with her friend Audrey, introduces the pair to marijuana.
When Boswell is arrested for killing a gay man, the two women counterpoint Paul and Jack’s blinkered defence of their revered leader. Having earned the hallowed headwear and certain to be posted to a commando, the two friends are forced to ponder their relationships with their girlfriends.