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…He points to the pillars of light where the cloud-breakers bore through the cloud floor. We see nothing of England’s outlines: only a white pavement pierced in all directions by these man-holes of variously coloured fire – Holy Island’s white and red – St Bee’s interrupted white, and so on as far as the eye can reach…


This is from “With the Night Mail” in Actions and Reactions. This is a science fiction tale of the year 2000, in which Kipling’s narrator is making an Atlantic crossing on a fast mail-carrying airship. As Jan Morris noted in a talk to the Kipling Society, ‘at a time when radio was in its infancy .. he imagined a general voice radio link between aircraft. He described, years before radar, a system of cloud-piercing searchlights, based all over the world, which could guide the airships on their routes just as flyers lock onto their beams today’.