The Taking of Lungtungpen

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The medical notes have been contributed by Dr. Gillian Sheehan. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Plain Tales from the Hills, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Page 114, Heading] collected in The Sussex Edition, vol xxxiv, p. 216, the Burwash Edition vol. xxvii, and Definitive Verse, p. 507 with “pooch” in line 3 , “you” in line 6 and “bay’nit” in line 7. “Pouch”, which contained ammunition, was often pronounced “pooch” in the Army and may still be today. The butt could be described as the “handle“ of the rifle. The lines might be translated as follows:
“So we fired at the enemy and made them run and when we ran out of ammunition we went at them with the bayonet and the butt so enemies approached us at their peril !”

[Page 114, line 2] parapet a low wall at the side of a mountain road to prevent vehicles going over the edge. Parapets were also part of a fortification or trench occurring in “A Madonna of the Trenches” and other Kipling stories of the 1914-18 war and the North West Frontier of India.

Dagshai a small military station near Kasauli on the Kalka–Simla Railway.

[Page 114, line 4] clay pipes cheap but fragile – those with long stems were known as churchwardens and, the longer they were smoked, the darker they became. They gave a nice cool smoke but the bowls got very hot and the smoker’s lips were inclined to stick to the stem unless it was wrapped round with cotton. Mulvaney is smoking another beautifully coloured pipe in “The Solid Muldoon” in Soldiers Three.

[Page 114, line 10] scutt a contemptible fellow – as worthless as a rabbit’s scut or tail.

[Page 114, line 12] can’t quit The Army has got into his bones and he would not have any other way of life. See the poem “Back to the Army Again.”

[Page 114, line 13] pipeclay later known as “Blanco” in white or khaki, used for leather and webbing equipment, also tennis-shoes and cricket-boots. Not much used today.

[Page 115, line 2] good conduc’ good conduct was rewarded by extra pay; Mulvaney was an incorrigible offender so did not get any. (See the poem “Cells”, and other Barrack-room Ballads.)

[Page 115, line 4] Bobs Bahadur Lord Roberts, then Commander–in–Chief in India who arrived in the sub-continent in 1852 as a Cadet and was posted to the Royal Horse Artillery of the Bengal Army; his father was then commanding the Lahore Division. Roberts served through the Mutiny, partly on the staff and won the Victoria Cross in the New Year of 1858. For the rest of his Indian service he was mostly on the North West Frontier, and commanded the Punjab Frontier Force during the Second Afghan War, leaving India finally in 1893. For his later career see the notes to ”The Three Musketeers” page 75, line 32. See also Julian Moore’s notes on Kipling and Lord Roberts.

“Bahadur” is a Hero or Champion – a title often given to English officers in Indian regiments. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 115, line 7] Wolseley Garnet Joseph, Viscount Wolseley, Field-Marshal(1833-1913), Commander-in Chief of the British army, had a long and distinguished career all over the world. He was well known as an excellent administrator as well as a fighting soldier, hence the expression “All Sir Garnet”, indicating that all was in good order. (Dictionary of National Biography).

[Page 115, line 11] Saysar and Alexandrier he means Julius Caesar (100–44 B.C), Emperor of Rome, and the legendary Alexander the Great (356–323 B.C.) King of Macedonia who defeated the Persians and Egyptians, and advanced to the Indus. (See “The Man who would be King”, in Wee Willie Winkie.

[Page 115, line 13] three-year olds men who have been in the army for three years and are not experienced in battle.

[Page 115, line 18] bull-mate bull-meat, i.e. beef.

[Page 115, line 25] Lungtungpen a Chinese name of three characters that might be Burmese.

[Page 115, line 28 ] Burma Military operations by the British began at the end of 1885, from Thayetmyo.

[Page 115, line 30] dacoits armed robbers. Hindu, Dakait. Under the Indian Penal Code, to constitute dacoity the gang must consist of at least five men. [Hobson-Jobson] (See “The Son of his Father” in Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides for a Strickland story in which some pretended dacoits figure.)

[Page 115, line 32] dah a broad-bladed Burmese knife.

Snider an Enfield muzzle-loading rifle converted to a breech-loader by Jacob Snider, (1820–1866) an American inventor. With these weapons, the “peaceful cultivator” is transformed into the classic guerrilla fighter

[Page 116, line 3] puckarowed the imperative of the Hindi verb pakrana ‘cause to be seized’ but the word became, in the dialect of the European soldier in India, ‘to puckerow’ – to lay hold of – generally of a recalcitrant Indian. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 116, line 7] squireen a petty squire (Anglo-Irish). Mulvaney might well so address a small farmer in Ireland, and here uses the term with perhaps a touch of sarcasm.

[Page 116, line 8] hunkers the haunches – to squat down on them; perhaps from the Old Norse, húka, to squat.

[Page 116, line 10] clanin’–rod cleaning-rod; used with a small piece of cloth for cleaning the rifle but with several other functions like poking camp-fires (“The Courting of Dinah Shadd” in Life’s Handicap, inducing Indians to disclose where they have hidden their valuables, in the poem “Loot” and for knocking out the pin of the falling-block of Mulvaney’s rifle in “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three.

[Page 116, line 17] bohs an’ arrows a pun by Mulvaney – whether intended or not – Boh / bow. (A boh was a tribal chieftain in Burma.)

[Page 116, line 18] jingles various spellings, indicating a long muzzle-loading gun carried by two men and fired by a third from a stand or tripod. Probably a corruption of the Arabic jazail. See the poem “Arithmetic on the Frontier.”

[Page 116, line 28] shtocks stocks – leather (usually) uniform neckbands. (See the poem “The Men that Fought at Minden” )

[Page 116, line 29] Mimbu properly Minbu; a town 250 miles north of Rangoon on the west bank of the Irrawaddy River.

[Page 117, line 3] shtrame stream – a watercourse that turned out to be wider than expected.

[Page 117, line 10] board-school education The Elementary Education Act of 1870 provided for the schooling of all children between ages 5 and 12 in England and Wales.
See “The Army of a Dream” (Traffics and Discoveries) where the Board Schools play an important and successful part (with some assistance) in a military exercise.

[Page 117, line 18] nullah ravine.

[Page 117, line 30] Sheerness a town 50 miles east of London where the Thames is some six miles wide. See “The First Sailor” in A Book of Words)

[Page 117, line 32] Irriwaddy Whether or not he was correct in identifying the river, Mulvaney must mean the Irrawaddy, the great river which flows a thousand miles from north to south through central Myanmar, as Burma is now called.

[Page 118, line 24] the Lord have mercy on our sowls (souls.) an echo of various services in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, the words that were used by a judge condemning a criminal to death, and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, Act 4, Scene 5,

[Page 118, line 27] blindin’ and stiffin’ cursing and swearing.

[Page 119, line 4] melly mêlée – a fight (Fr.)

[Page 119, line 12] Martini Frederic Martini, 1832–1897) whose breech action was combined with Henry’s barrel to form the Martini-Henry rifle. The breech action plays an important part in “Black Jack” in Soldiers Three.

[Page 119, line 13] Diarmid a legendary hero of Fragments of Ancient Poetry supposedly by Ossian but in reality concocted by James Macpherson (1736–1796)
from fragments of old Celtic poets.

[Page 119, line 27] a handful of cartridges it is impossible to use a rifle with one hand, either to fire it or to use the fixed bayonet; Mulvaney is also using the old term for muzzle-loading ammunition; breech-loaders use fixed ammunition, with the propellant and the projectile in one piece.

[Page 119, line 28] Vanus Venus, the Roman goddess of love, (the Greeks called her Aphrodite) usually depicted as a beautiful naked girl.

[Page 120, line 5] the ‘Ard on Sunday The Hard, just outside the Dockyard at Portsmouth – a rendezvous for sailors and local girls.

[Page 120, line 10] burglarious thruck burglars loot.

[Page 120, line 25] dysent’ry two entirely different diseases are known by this name as a result of ancient usage; bacillary dysentery, caused by the shigella group of bacteria, is a great destroyer of armies in the field, and is spread by contaminated hands, food or utensils or by flies flying from faeces to food. Amoebic dysentery, caused by entamoeba histolytica, is the comparatively uncommon or acute phase or end result of intestinal omoebiasis. (A Textbook of Pathology, by William Boyd, 8th.ed, 1973) [G.S.]

[Page 120, line 32] 120/32 Red Injun without the war-paint ‘Injun’ is a common pronunciation of ‘Indian’. war-paint was a pigment applied to the face and body by some Native American peoples in preparation for battle.

[Page 121, line 4] the flat a barge.

[Page 121, line 19] St. Pethersburg St. Petersburg, former name (1914-1924) Petrograd and later(1924-1991) Leningrad, the capital of the St. Petersburg region of Russia. Britain was not on very good terms with Russia at the time, as witness “The Man who Was” in Life’s Handicap, “Kim”, “Her Majesty’s Servants” in The Jungle Book, and the poems “Russia to the Pacifists”, and “The Truce of the Bear.”

[Page 121, line 19] St. Pethersburg; St. Petersburg, former name (1914 – 1924) Petrograd and (1924 –1991) Leningrad, the capital of the St. Petersburg region of Russia . We were not on very good terms at the time as witness “The Man who Was” (Life’s Handicap),Kim, “Her Majesty’s Servants” (The Jungle Book), “Russia to the Pacificists.” And “The Truce of the Bear.”

[Page 121, line 22] honey-dew a fine sort of tobacco moistened with molasses.

[Page 121, line 23] Canteen plug a strong, coarse tobacco sold in a solid lump that has to be cut up with a knife and rubbed between the hands before filling the pipe.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2012 All rights reserved