by John McGivering)
|notes on the text|
The regiment of the line that Kipling knew best was the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers who were stationed at Mian Mir from 1886 to 1888; he calls them ‘The Tyneside Tail-Twisters’ They had fought in the Afghan War, though not in any action that can be identified in a Kipling story ...They did not serve in Burma.Kipling himself also lost his son John who, as an officer in the Irish Guards, was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915; his body was never identified. Although a grave once believed to be his was recently found, further investigation decided otherwise. (See KJ 267/52, 287/11,288/40 and 301/56, and My Boy Jack by Tonie and Valmai Holt, Leo Cooper 2001).
With ‘Bobby Wicks’ (Kipling) moulded a whole generation of young Englishmen into that type. They rose up in their thousands , in 1914, and sacrificed themselves, in the image that Kipling had created. (p.111.)
The sand of the desert is sodden red-Newbolt did not see eye to eye with Kipling at one time and accused him of trying to corner the market for patriotic verse but they later became friends when they met on the War Graves Commission and Newbolt later accepted an honorary degree when Kipling was installed as Rector of St. Andrews. (Andrew Lycett, p. 517)
Red with the wreck of a square that broke;-
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
Play up ! play up ! and play the game !
(A 'square', in this context, is a fighting formation – riflemen on four sides, machine-guns at the corners and baggage in the centre. See The Light that Failed, Chapters 2 and 15: and the poem “Fuzzy-Wuzzy”. A Gatling was an early machine-gun)