The Parable of Boy Jones

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 Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, as published and frequently reprinted between 1923 and 1950.

[Page 177, Title] Kipling has several characters known as “Boy” in the Indian stories, “A Boy Scout’s Patrol Song” and another Scout in “The Horse Marines” (A Diversity of Creatures) as addressed as “Boy Jones.” It was a rank in the Navy until superseded by “Junior Seaman” ; see Boy Niven in “Mrs. Bathurst” (Traffics and Discoveries).

[Page 177, line 1] the War the Great War of 1914-18 between Great Britain and her allies and Germany and her allies.

[Page 177, line 5] Village Rifle Club Kipling published a letter so entitled in The Spectator of 22 June, 1901. He was a leading light in the formation of the Club, was Chairman, and took an active part in its affairs.
(Seymour-Smith, p. 296. Moens (S. M. Moens, Rottingdean, The Story of a Village (Beal, Brighton, 1953), p. 116).

[Page 177, line 9] sixty feet the miniature range at Rottingdean was seventy-five feet long, which Andrew Lycett (p. 327) confirms, as does Kipling’s letter to Johnson. (see also page 178, line 6).

[Page 177, line 16] a bull in this context the centre and highest scoring part of the concentric circles on the target called respectively Bull, Inner, Magpie, and Outer.

[Page 177, line 17] two o’clock in this context a position on the target indicated by reference to a clock-face.

[Page 178, line 3] miniature rifle it would be a full-sized Lee-Metford (issued in 1888) or perhaps a Lee-Enfield (1896), with a Morris Tube inserted into the barrel to convert it to ·22 inch instead of ·303 inch (7·7 mm.) See Hogg & Weeks, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century (Arms and Armour Press, 1991) pages 99 and 100.

[Page 178, line 17] Muzzle up, please a man would never be allowed to load a rifle in such a dangerous position.

[Page 178, line 29] a grunt and a jerk of the shoulder a common mistake – see page 177, lines 12-15.

[Page 179, lines 1-3] The right-hand window … above the target … there would be nothing behind the target except a sheet of steel with sandbags or some such bullet-proof material; ·22 ammunition is lethal up to a mile.

[Page 179, line 4] boy who cleans the knives before stainless steel was in general use, ordinary steel was used for table-knives which were liable to go rusty unless cleaned on a board with abrasive paste or in a machine.

[Page 179, line 5] the brick-layer’s assistant the author is at some pains to indicate a good mix of all social classes as he did in his earlier (1904) “The Army of a Dream” (Traffics and Discoveries) where he has officers and men dining in the same room; then, however, the officers’ table was on a dais !

[Page 179, line 6] Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society a member of an important learned society, founded in 1830 with headquarters in Kensington Gore, London, near the Albert Hall.

[Page 179, line 24] scuffling for places On an army range this would not happen; a range is a dangerous place and there must be no skylarking or excitement. The men would be organised in parties of four or however many targets there were; the range officer would merely say ‘Next detail down’ and they would take up their positions quietly.

[Page· 179, line 29] rifles at the carry He means ‘the trail’, with the rifle carried at the point of balance parallel to the ground. (A sword is ‘carried’ vertically with the forearm parallel to the ground.)

[Page 181, line 6] five-hundred-yard-butt this is the firing-point.The bank of earth etc. behind the targets is usually known as the ‘butt’ (or ‘butts’) The 900 yard firing-point at Rottingdean is shown on the 1912 Ordnance Sheet (1/2500) some 770 yards east of St. Margaret’s Church (the 1,000 yard firing-point, if one ever existed, is not shown) The targets are some 230 yards south of Newlands Barn in what is now (2007) an area of housing.

[Page 181, line 7] Sergeant he is based on Sergeant J. S Johnson, the drill and physical training instructor at Rottingdean School in the High Street, Rottingdean (see Lord Birkenhead, p. 233, who calls him ‘Johnstone’, and Meryl Macdonald, p. 132.)

See also KJ 267/11 and 268/28 for a score-card signed by Kipling as ‘Range Officer’. Lord Birkenhead also quotes a letter Kipling wrote to Johnson from South Africa in March 1901, commenting (p. 234) ‘… it suggests the soldier manqué in its terse peremptory sentences and pseudo-military phraseology.’

On the contrary, in the view of this Editor it is a brisk and business-like letter, leaving Johnson in no doubt as to his duties. This somewhat peevish observation by Birkenhead is firmly repudiated by Meryl Macdonald in her letter in KJ 249/40.

That letter is certainly not written in “terse peremptory sentences
and pseudo-military phraseology”, to quote Birkenhead. Among
other things it is about the side-sight to the rifle being preferable to a
central sight; about the light being up in the Drill Hall; and his hope
that the men will not object to the 75 ft range. He goes on to say that
he has lent the Gardner Gun to the Western Provinces Mounted
Rifles, and goodness knows when they will see it again, but “I shall
keep an eye on it”, etc. I have a note that during Kipling’s absence in
South Africa Sgt Johnson was the N.C.O. in charge of the rifle range
which Kipling had established.

Kipling did himself shoot; he was not a bad shot either. When he opened the Drill Hall (Rifle Range?) at Winchester, for instance (dedicated to the memory of George Cecil, an Old Wykehamist killed in action) … he scored a bull’s eye at the opening
ceremony. He also shot at Bateman’s, rabbits and pheasants, and on
one notable occasion took a pot-shot from an upstairs window at a
rabbit on the lawn, but didn’t get it!
[Meryl Macdonald Bendle, in KJ 249/40.

This Editor is of the opinion that while Kipling’s brief tour of duty in the 1st Punjab Volunteers (Harry Ricketts, p. 61) would not have taught him much soldiering, his later contact with the Army certainly did.

[Page 181, line 10] nine o’clock again a reference to a clock-face.

[Page 181, lines 18-20] Number Six. She throws high Jevons and the F.R.G.S. already have rifles (Page 179, lines 27-29) but would need full-bore ·303s for the open range. No. 6 may need the sights adjusted.

[Page 181, line 24] bats in this context, cricket-bats.

[Page 182, line 9] wind-gauges devices for recording the strength and direction of the wind (Anemometers). He means windage – the backsight on the Lee-Enfields could be adjusted laterally to allow for wind. See Hogg & Weeks, Military Small Arms of the 20th Century (Arms and Armour Press, 1991) p.344.

[Page 182, line 25] heifer Strictly a young cow who has not yet had a calf, but the butcher seems to be saying that the shot promises to be a bull, or near it.

[Page 183, lines 26-29] the rotation of the earth … affected a bullet This is the Coriolis Effect, discovered by Gaspard Coriolis
(1792-1843), which causes winds in the Northern Hemisphere to be deflected to the right; intercontinental missiles are so affected, but it is now believed that short-range projectiles are not. This is discussed in KJ 249/40, 250/33, and 251/40.

[Page 184, line 5] quietly the same rules of behaviour apply to the open range; see page 179, line 24.

[Page 184, line 15] “jump” the vertical movement of a gun barrel at the moment of firing.
“flip” The only reference we have found is to “flip rear sight” – two notches at right-angles to form two range settings. (Hogg & Weeks, p. 342).

[Page 184, line 20] Bisley bull Bisley, in Surrey (England) is regarded as the headquarters of rifle-shooting; The targets, each some four or five feet square are arranged on a counterweighted frame, so one comes up an the other descends.

[Page 185, line 6] sighting shots the results are carefully observed to see what alterations in aim are required.

[Page 185, line 24] the marker he signalled the shots, hauled down the target, stuck a marking-disc into the bullet-hole and a patch over the hole in the other target which came down as the other went up; ideally there should be one man to each target-frame. See Page 189,, line 13.

[Page 186, line 25] fielder he is a cricketer and therefore good at catching.

[Page 187, line 28] a day and a night allowed us to get ready in this is a theme echoed in Kipling’s writings for many years – see “A Departure”, the verses that follow this story.

[Page 188, line 24] the foot deep this must be a misprint for ten feet deep or some such measurement.

[Page 188, line 29] shooting in this context, game shooting with shotguns – see page 189, line 2. it is not considered sporting to shoot rabbits with rifles !

[Page 189, line 2] shot-gun a sporting gun firing small shot for game-birds and rabbits etc.

[Page 189, line 23] lowered the danger flag one would have expected him to have hoisted it to warn the public that firing was about to take place – see page 192, line 26)

[Page 190, line 1] nickel envelope the rifle bullet is usually lead with a nickel covering Hogg & Weeks, p. 99

[Page 190, line 9] marking disc … bamboo Kipling is confusing two items – the value of the shot (Bull, Inner, Magpie, Outer) was signalled with this pole, but the marking-disc was a patch on a wire spring which was inserted into the bullet-hole (Harold Orel Kipling, Interviews and Recollections (Macmillan, 1983) Volume 1, page 166) so the rifleman could see where his shot went and make the necessary correction for his next shot. See the Note to Page 185, line 24 above

[Page 190, line 23] spiritualistic séance the ‘spirits’ were believed by spiritualists to communicate by knocks on the table, commonly produced by a device operated by fraudulent ‘mediums’, who purported to offer people a means of contacting their dead loved ones. See the Notes to “The Sending of Dana Da” (Soldiers Three, p. 307.)

[Page 191, line 3] braces known as suspenders in the United States of America – see “How the Whale got his Throat” (Just So Stories, p. 5).

[Page 191, line 7] eleven shots some of the various Lee-Metfords and Lee-Enfileds issued over the years took ten rounds in the magazine and one in the breech. (Hogg & Weeks, p. 99.)

[Page 191, line 11] railway ties An Americanism – in Britain they are called ‘sleepers;.

[Page 191, line 22] bowling in this context, the delivery of a cricket-ball to the batsman.

[Page 192, line 26] put up his flag see page 189, line 23.– during firing-practice a large red flag was displayed (Orel, p. 166).

[Page 192, line 10] Jumpin’ about after his own businesses and thinking he was safe this may well echo Kipling’s own thoughts about people’s blindness towards the danger of war that he saw approaching.

[Page 192, line 22] canting in this context, leaning the rifle to one side – but also an interesting play on words in that another meaning of ‘cant’ is insincere talk or hypocrisy. See page 147, line 14 and page 178, line 26.