The Army of a Dream II

Notes on the text

(These notes, edited by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Traffics and Discoveries, as published and frequently reprinted between 1904 and 1950.)


[Page 269 line 22] quick-firers a generic term for a small gun with a sliding breech-block, firing ‘fixed ammunition’ (with the propellant and the projectile in one piece like a rifle-round), as opposed to separate ammunition (with propellant and projectile separate). A machine gun, although it fired very quickly, was not a ‘quick firer’.

[Page 269 line 23] company guns perhaps machine-guns similar to the Maxim or Vickers, but see page 284, line 25.

[Page 270 line 2] farrier a shoeing-smith

Hull and Dewsbury towns in Yorkshire.

[Page 271 line 7] Purvis private soldiers would probably not address a Colour-Sergeant (page 275, line 18) by his surname even in this democratic army. See page 291 line 32 below

[Page 271 line 8] spitting white Dr. Gillian Sheehan writes: he has overdone physical exercise and is in early heart-failure. He is too fat (‘suet’ – line 16) but, with graduated exercise, will indeed ‘answer to a month’s training like a horse’. (G.S.)

[Page 272 line 16] spurs see Note to page 249 line 9.

[Page 273 line 10] Does anybody here know anything against any of these men ? An echo of The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, in the Book of Common Prayer used in Anglican churches: ‘If any of you know cause, or just impediment, why these two persons should not be joined together in holy Matrimony, ye are to declare it.’

[Page 273 line 24] Ally Sloper A black-and-white weekly comic paper Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, price one penny, was first published in 1884, containing prose stories, cartoons, and comic strips – possibly the first ever. These particularly figured ‘Ally Sloper’, usually wearing a huge top-hat, together with other characters. Publication ceased in 1916, it was revived for a while in the 1920s, again in the 1940s and finally from 1976 to 1977, but was unable to gain its previous popularity. Ally Sloper’s characteristic image also appeared on bottles of a strong brown sauce popular in the navy, and known on the lower-deck as “Bootnose”.

[Page 274 line 28] dhurri an Indian rug.

[Page 275 line 3] Rhodesia then a British colony in Southern Africa. Northern Rhodesia became Zambia in 1964, and Southern Rhodesia Zimbabwe in 1979. ‘Rhodesia’ was named after Cecil John Rhodes
(1863-1902), a powerful and visionary figure among the British in Southern Africa, who befriended Kipling and had a house near Capetown (‘The Woolsack’) built for his annual visits to South Africa in the early 1900s. See Something of Myself p 96, and the poems “The Burial” and “Rhodes Memorial, Table Mountain”.

[Page 275 line 11] stripes in this context the three stripes a sergeant wears on his sleeves. See page 291 line 32 below

[Page 275 line 16] Lake Ngami in Botswana north of the Kalahari Desert.

[Page 276 line 2] corporals non-commissioned-officers below the rank of sergeant.

lances in this context, lance-corporals, below a corporal, the most junior non-commissioned officer.

[Page 276 line 8] removing his cap a civil gesture by an officer entering a soldier’s quarters off duty.

[Page 277 line 23] Coolgardie a town in Western Australia, some 560 km inland from the state capital, Perth.

[Page 277 line 31] second mates go up for extra master’s certificates young officers in the Merchant Navy can pass for command, but the analogy is not complete, as they are not given periods of command while still in training.

[Page 278 line 32] pull their weight in the boat an analogy from rowing – an oarsman must work hard enough to move himself and his share of the boat.

[Page 279 line 25] horse, foor and guns the whole lot !

[Page 280 line 5] en état de partir ready to go (French)

[Page 280 line 13] Blue Peter Flag “P” in the International code – white, with a blue border, hoisted when a vessel is about to sail.

[Page 280 line 15] a black storm-cone a North Cone, usually made of black-painted canvas on a hoop hoisted on a mast, indicated that a gale from the North was imminent – the remaining shapes had other meanings. Lights were used at night, but this system has been largely superseded by radio, e-mail and text. [Bay of Bengal Pilot, p. 70].

[Page 281 line 1] tan in this context waste from a tannery – oak bark from which the tannin has been extracted used to cover the floor of the riding-school – not only kinder to the horses’ hooves but a softer fall for those who are unseated !

[Page 281 line 22] trams a large public transport vehicle, carrying anything up to a hundred people, which runs on rails in the streets of towns and cities.

[Page 282 line 2] the badged cuff at that time a police-officer on duty wore a striped arm-band. (see the left arm of the Sergeant at page 39, in Newarks’ Kipling’s Soldiers).

[Page 282 line 10] drums and fifes the basic military band instruments see “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie) page 364, line 27

[Page 282 line 28] at biscuit-toss range he is exaggerating – if they approached each other to within a few feet, large vessels would risk collision by the ‘suction effect’, so would not do so. The distance depends on the size of the ships involved. A safe minimum is 100 feet.

[Page 282 line 31] Dead March in Saul funeral music from Saul, the oratorio by the great composer George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) See Newark (Kipling’s Soldiers) page 96, for a picture of military funeral, in which the Drums are draped in black, and the men are marching with reversed arms.

[Page 283 line 18] Rest on your arms the order is ‘Rest on your Arms – Reversed’. The rifle is placed with the muzzle on the ground and the hands on the butt; the head is lowered as a sign of mourning. See “In the Presence” (A Diversity of Creatures) p. 227 onwards.

[Page 283 line 20] black Flanders beasts The Flanders horse came to England in the 17th Century.

[Page 284 line 5] horses passagin’ sideways tautological as ‘passaging’, in this context, means a sideways movement of the horse. The other meaning – a particular form of trot in Dressage – is unlikely to apply here.

[Page 284 lines 25/26] company guns with their spike teams and single drivers   In the days of cannon it was common practice in war to put captured enemy guns out of action by driving a spike into the touch-holes through which the charge of gunpowder was ignited, hence the expression ‘spiking their guns’ as a metaphor for disabling an enemy.   Count von Bismarck, in his Lectures on the Tactics of Cavalry  in 1827, recommended that every cavalry soldier carry the equipment needed to spike guns if an encounter with enemy artillery was expected. The  ‘spike teams’ in Kipling’s imagined army of the future may have served the same purpose; they could also have been skilled at removing spikes to bring a damaged gun into action

[Page 285 line 15] riding road the roadway is covered with sand or earth which is kind to horses’ hooves, like the tan in the riding-school at page 281 line 1 above.

[Page 285 line 31] gamins urchins (French).

[Page 286 line 9] Board Schoola school established under the Education Act of 1870 which guaranteed free elementary education for every child in Great Britain.

[Page 286 line 23] ‘A Bicycle Built for Two’ a popular music-hall song by Harry Dacre, possibly originally Frank Dean or Henry Decker (1860-1922) the English songwriter. He wrote and composed the song “Daisy Bell”, also known as “A Bicycle Built for Two”, in 1892. It is still well-known a hundred years later.

[Page 287 line 18] out of the mouths of babes and sucklings an echo of Psalms 8,2: ‘Out of the mouths of very babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies: that thy mightest still the enemy, and the avenger.’

[Page 287 line 32] sixpence 2½ pence Sterling.

[Page 288 line 30] twenty-five pounder the weight of the projectile is 25 pounds (11·34 kg.)

[Page 289 line 31] three half-crowns the half-crown was a handsome coin worth two shillings and sixpence (12½ pence) so three are worth 37½ pence today.

[Page 290 line 16] Moltke a prominent Prussian family that produced several distinguished soldiers over the years – this is probably Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke (1800-1891), German Generalfeldmarschall – chief of staff of the Prussian army for thirty years, and regarded as one of the great strategists of the latter half of the 1800s.

[Page 290 line 23] ‘Cease fire’ in this context a distinctive bugle-call not used in modern war.

[Page 290 line 29] hobbdlehoys A term for awkward youths between boyhood and manhood.

[Page 291 line 16] Give me back my legions ‘Quintilius Vare, legionis redde’ – (‘Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions’ – Latin) said by Emperor Augustus of Rome in 63 B.C., after the defeat and massacre in Germany of his general Varus with a force of three legions.

[Page 291 line 32] Colour Sergeant Colour-Sergeants were non-commissioned officers in the Royal Marines and British Infantry, ranking above Sergeant and below Warrant Officer Class II.

Rank Insignia for Colour Sergeant This rank was
introduced into the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars to reward long-serving sergeants. It had given way to ‘Company Sergeant Major’ and ‘Company Quartermaster Sergeant’ by 1915, but was later revived in the Royal Marines and Infantry Regiments.

[Page 292 line 21] frock-coats the jackets, longer than usual, finish just below the knee.

top-hats tall silk hats. Kipling is wearing one when he meets King George V (Birkenhead, plate 12 and other biographies),

[Page 292 line 27] ‘A Life on the Ocean Wave’ the regimental march of the Royal Marines, words by the American poet Epes Sargent (1830-1880) and set to music by Henry Russell (c. 1812-1900).

See also page 293, line 8 and the note to “The Bonds of Discipline” (Traffics and Discoveries) page 61, line 9, where Kipling again confuses it with another celebrated Naval march, “Heart of Oak” with music by William Boyce (1711-1779) and words by David Garrick (1717-1779). “Heart of Oak” is the Royal Navy’s own ‘regimental’ march, to which it marches past on ceremonial occasions.

[Page 293 line 12] five eight height five feet, eight inches, (173 cm)

thirty-eight chest 38 inches (96 cm)

[Page 293 line 15] five nine and a half (1·78 metres)

thirty-nine 39 inches (99 cm)

[Page 293 line 15] musketry rifle-shooting – so called for many years after the musket disappeared.

[Page 293 line 20] pidgin Hobson-Jobson (p. 709) describes it, rather over-fastidiously, as: ‘The vile jargon which forms the means of communication at the Chinese ports between Englishmen who do not speak Chinese (sic) and those Chinese with whom they are in the habit of communicating. Pidgin was also used in West Africa and the Pacific islands.

[Page 293 line 29] jumpers and ducks sailors’ suits consisting of jumpers and trousers made of un-dyed ‘duck’, in this context a strong cotton or linen, used as working rig in the navy of the time.

[Page 294 lines 2 & 3] paint and gold leaf….. etc At this period, when the passing of masts and yards had removed competitive sail drill as a criterion of a ship’s efficiency, and modern gunnery was still in an early experimental stage, the importance of a ship’s smart appearance was perhaps rated more highly than it deserved. (Alastair Wilson).

[Page 294 line 6] ten or fifteen quid £10-15.

[Page 294 line 17] not a bolt action the British Army’s standard rifle from about 1895 until 1960 was the Lee-Enfield, a bolt-action weapon in its many versions, firing a projectile ·303 inches in diameter (77 mm) and still in service in some countries today (2007). (See Chris Chant, Small Arms (Silverdale Books, 2003, p. 88) and Chuck Wills, The Illustrated History of Weaponry ( Carlton Books, 2006, p. 150)

[Page 295 line 2] storm-cone see the note above on page 280, line 15.

[Page 295 line 13] like buckets at a fire if no fire-pumps were available, a human chain was formed to send buckets of water from hand to hand to the fire.

[Page 296 line 4] bean-bag in this context a small cloth bag filled with dried beans or some such, used instead of a ball in some deck-games.

[Page 296 line 31] six hundred a year £600 in 1904, some £44,000 today.

[Page 296 line 33] the Lincolns now amalgamated with others to form the Royal Anglican Regiment

[Page 298 line 3] doocid a somewhat affected variant of ‘deuced’ – meaning, in this context, confounded or plaguey (Partridge.)

[Page 298 line 19] The Widow in this context, Queen Victoria, so called after the death of her husband, Prince Albert in 1861. See Kipling’s verse “The Widow at Windsor.”

[Page 298 line 30] mashes in this context, slang for a man who makes extravagant overtures to a woman.

[Page 299 line 2] a sovereign in this context a gold coin worth £1 Sterling.

[Page 299 line 5] Jemmy Fawne James Fawn, music-hall singer – see David Page’s Notes to “My Great and Only” (Abaft the Funnel).

[Page 299 line 8] Speshul ! Sports Edition ! military training has become so much a part of the nation that the result of an exercise is reported in a special sports edition of the evening paper.

[Page 299 line 20] To your tents, O Israel ! see 1 Kings, 12,16.

[Page 299 line 29] a wad in this context a pad of felt or some such material used in muzzle-loading guns, but unlikely with modern weapons.

[Page 300 line 8] Sanna’s Post a British military disaster outside Bloemfontein in 1900 during the Boer War, when the British lost many men and guns in an ambush.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2007 All rights reserved