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The tune settled into full swing, and the boys kept shoulder to shoulder…banging the drum as one possessed…There was a far-off clapping of hands from the Gurkhas, and a roar from the Highlanders in the distance, but never a shot was fired by British or Afghan. The two little red dots moved forward in the open, parallel to the enemy’s front.


This is from “The Drums of the Fore and Aft”, in Wee Willie Winkie, and other Stories. An inexperienced British regiment, facing an Afghan attack, has retreated in disorder, and two drummer boys have been left behind on the battlefield. Rather then running for cover, they decide to rally the ranks by a show of defiance, marching and counter-marching across the enemy front, and beating out “The British Grenadiers” on fife and drum. They die, but the battle is won.