With the Main Guard

Notes on the text

These notes, 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 Soldiers Three and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.

[Title] With the Main Guard The Guard is an armed party on duty for twenty-four hours and usually accommodated in the Guard Room near the main entrance of the fort or camp. They provide the sentries and are ready to deal with any emergencies. They are paraded for visiting dignitaries and holders of the Victoria Cross of whatever rank. [See the verse “The Shut-Eye Sentry”]

Buildings for Europeans in India were designed to provide natural ventilation as will be seen from various photographs in Fido, Allen , and Lycett, etc., but in 16th century Fort Amara [see the note below to page 55, line 6] ventilation had clearly been sacrificed for security.

[Heading] Der Ungere Uhlanen … This eight-line verse comes from Breitmann in Bivouac by Charles Godfrey Leland (1824–1903) and is presumably intended to describe an episode in the American Civil War (The War between the States) during which Leland edited The Continental Magazine. His diverting Hans Breitmann’s Ballads in Pennsylvanian Dutch-English dialect (last edition 1884) were some of Kipling’s favourite reading.

The correct version of the third line is: “To hear der Breitmann’s shdories”, and some of the spelling is a little garbled. [See KJ123/10, Roger Lancelyn Green]

[Page 55, line 2] melancolious Mulvaney presumably means ‘melancholic’ – a state of dejection and misery.

[Page 55, line 5] a stifling June night they would be looking forward to the monsoon which would bring the rains and cooler weather.

[Page 55, line 6] Fort Amara This was actually Fort Lahore. It also features in “On the City Wall” later in this volume, and “His Private Honour” (Many Inventions). See KJ132/13 for Carrington’s examination of the background to this story, and note 59/20 below.

[Page 55, line 9] Sergeant of the Guard See Chapter 3 “Seven Years Hard” of Something of Myself for Kipling’s activities in the Fort which included turning out the Guard when he forgot the countersign.

[Page 55, line 14] skinful
in this context, a goat-skin
water-bag,as carried
by Gunga Din, the bhisti

[Page 56, line 3] the great guard-lantern an echo of verse three of “Gentleman-Rankers”:

When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
And the horror of our fall is written plain…

[Page 56, line 13] tivvy-tivvy an abbreviation for the market-town of Tiverton in Devon is the only reference we have traced. [information will be welcomed; Ed.]

[Page 56, line 23] Gentleman born see the verse “Gentleman-Rankers” and the tale “Love–o’-Women” (Many Inventions).

[Page 56, line 28] the trigger of his Martini the Martini-Henry rifle – see the note to “The Taking of Lungtungpen” (Plain Tales from the Hills, page 119, line 12). A suicide could put the muzzle in his mouth, and pull the trigger with his big toe if it would go into the trigger-guard.

[Page 57, line 8] dust-devils eddies of dust like waterspouts

[Page 57, line 9] glacis a gentle slope of open ground leading to a fort so that attackers are exposed to the fire of the defenders.

[Page 57, line 15] gingerade a fizzy drink, flavoured with ginger. Bazar ‘pop’ [line 17 below] was locally-made and not such good flavour.

[Page 57, line 16] Machiavel Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), who wrote The Prince . His name became synonymous with cunning and the cynical manipulation of others to achieve his ends. See KJ 310/32 for an important essay by Dr Colin D Pearce on the similarity of the activities of the two adventurers in “The Man who would be King” (Wee Willie Winkie) with Machiavelli’s instructions for the government of a newly-acquired principality.

[Page 57, line 23] mess-kid now known as a mess-tin, a receptacle for food probably from the Dutch kitte, a beer-pot.

[Page 57, lines 24 – 25] Here’s luck ! A bloody war etc ‘A bloody war and a sickly season!’ was a well-known toast in the Army and Navy of the time, juniors hoping that they would survive and be promoted when their seniors were wiped out. See also page 73, line 24.

[Page 57, line 29] hayrick a haystack, a large hairy-looking mass of hay, not often seen today in Britain, as nowadays hay is usually baled in the field and kept in barns or wrapped in black plastic.

[Page 58, line 12] Khemi River see “The Madness of Private Ortheris” (Plain Tales from the Hills).

[Page 58, line 24] eddicated fisteses educated fists – a good fighter.

[Page 58, line 27] Faynians Fenians – an Irish-American republican secret society dedicated to Irish independence, a precursor of the IRA, that also plays an important part in “The Mutiny of the Mavericks” (Life’s Handicap).

[Page 58, line 29] the Widdy the Widow – Queen Victoria. Her husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861.

[Page 58, line 30] the Black Tyrone probably the 18th Royal Irish (Carrington KJ132/14).

[Page 59, line 5] tattered Colours beautifully embroidered flags with the Regimental device and Battle Honours – see the note on Page 339 line 6 to “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie).

[Page 59, line 11] a man wid hands an’ feet a dirty fighter.

[Page 59, line 18] Ghuzni probably an episode in the Second Afghan War of 1878–80.

[Page 59, line 20] Silver’s Theatre a theatre in Dublin frequented by Mulvaney in his youth; see also “Love o’Women (Many Inventions), “The Courting of Dinah Shadd” (Life’s Handicap), and the verse “Belts” which describes a fracas in the street between soldiers from an Irish infantry regiment and English cavalry. Charles Carrington believes that the action with the Pathans described in this story is the British defeat by Ayub Khan at Maiwand in 1880. (See KJ132/13).

[Page 59, line 28] Scotchies …Gurkys Scottish and Gurkha regiments which got on very well together.

[Page 60, line 2] dysintry dysentery – an unpleasant infection of the large intestine causing diarrhoea and abdominal cramps – see Dr Sheehan’s notes.

[Page 60, line 8] Captain O’Neil …. see “The Ballad of Boh Da Thone”

[Page 60, line 8] Cruikna-bulleen [a translation from the Irish would be appreciated; Ed.]

[Page 60, line 15] rats in a pit dogs were trained for rat-catching by putting them in a hole in the ground with rats; this was then regarded as a sport, like cockfighting.

[Page 61, line 8] fell in this context, a covering of rough chest hair.

[Page 61, line 30] the lean in this context, the meaning of, or reason for.

[Page 61, line 32] knee to knee This, and the three that follow below, is a Masonic phrase. George Kieffer writes:

The sequence of physical movements referred to here forms part of the raising of a Mason to the 3rd Degree, that of the Master Mason. Kipling misses out two (‘hand to hand’ and ‘foot to foot’) and together they represent the five points of fellowship and it is in this position that the word of the 3rd Degree is communicated. The movements are emblematic of the support of one Mason for another and are used ironically here in the fight between Crook and the enemy Pathan.

It is also interesting to note that Mulvanney, a surgeon, and Lt Learoyd RA were note members of the St John the Evangelist Masonic Lodge No 1483, a military Lodge in the Lahore cantonment, which we know that Kipling visited. He clearly borrowed their names for his fiction.


[Page 62, line 4] breast to breast (see above)

[Page 62, line 6] hand over back (see above)

[Page 62, line 10] Brother Inner Guard (see above)

[Page 62, line 9] Dromeen Fair We have not positively identified this Fair. There is a place called Dromin in Ireland, (Co. Limerick) one called Drumree in Ulster, and others of similar name.

[Page 62, line 22] the Pit hentrance o’ the Vic the entrance to cheap seats at the Victoria Music Hall in London, known to this day as the ‘Old Vic’.

[Page 63, line 1] compot normally a dish of stewed or preserved fruit. It seems unlikely that Ortheris would have been be familiar with the French il lui mit la tête en compote (he beat his head to a jelly), but compot may have been a slang expression of the time.

[Page 63, line 6] hammunition one year in store this might have been the case when ammunition was loaded with gunpowder but cordite was in use by this time.

[Page 64, line 7] Hot or cowld a shot or cold steel – the bayonet.

[Page 64, line 14] Dinah Mulvaney’s wife – see “The Courting of Dinah Shadd” (Life’s Handicap).

[Page 64, line 26] Donegal Bay on the west coast of Ireland, adjoining Co. Tyrone.

[Page 64, line 27] We’ve seen our dead it was the custom of the Afghans to mutilate the dead and wounded. See page 72, line 4 below and “The Young British Soldier”:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest (sic) roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.

[Page 65, line 5] the Haymaker’s Lift an upward pass with a two-pronged fork with a long handle, still used for throwing hay up into a loft or into a wagon.

[Page 65, line 7] the iron bruk at the lockin’-ring the bayonet broke (even though it was steel) at the locking-ring which goes over a boss on the muzzle of the rifle, to secure the bayonet.

[Page 66, line 10] Field-Orf’cer Field-Officer – the rank of Major and above.

[Page 66, line 12] Clonmel a market town on the River Suir in Co Tipperary, Ireland.

[Page 66, line 24] shquibbed off squibbed off – fired

[Page 66, line 27] asp on a leaf the leaf of the Trembling Poplar (Populus tremula).

[Page 67, line 3] half a skinful see note to page 55, line 14 above.

[Page 67, line 13] iligant…scent-sprinkler the revolvers of those days were liable to blow back between the cylinder and the rear of the frame.

[Page 68, line 20] typhoon a violently revolving storm with winds over 100 miles per hour.

[Page 69, line 25] shtalls stalls, the expensive seats in a theatre. immediately in front of the stage.

[Page 69, line 25] gallery the cheap seats in a theatre, high up above the stage.

[Page 69, line 26] Roshus Quintus Roscius (died c.61 BC) a famous and highly-paid comic actor in Rome. An English actor, William Henry West Betty (1791–1874) was known as “Young Roscius”

[Page 69, line 31] pit in this context, the seats below the stalls in a theatre.

[Page 71, line 4] “Blood the young whelp !” when hunting foxes with hounds was legal, it was the custom to rub blood from the fox’s brush on the forehead of a child who was present at a kill for the first time

[Page 71, line 33] on the sharp in this context, probably ‘savage’.

[Page 72, line 2] quarter in this context, mercy granted to a vanquished enemy.

[Page 72, line 3] the women see the note to page 64, line 27 above.

[Page 72, line 14] Staff Orf’cer … clean as a new rifle the Staff Officer is straight out of Shakes[eare’s Henry IV, Part I, I, 3, 33: A certain lord, neat, and trimly dress’d …

[Page 73, line 4] bâtman a soldier acting as an officer’s servant.

[Page 73, line 17] M’Grath’s shtable stable. [any further explanation would be appreciated; Ed.]

[Page 73, line 18] bastion a tower at the corner of a fortification to provide fire along the faces of the adjoining walls.

[Page 73, line 21] Ho ! It’s weary waitin’ for Ma-ary ! this reference has not been traced.

[Page 73, line 24] War ! Bloody War ! see the note to page 57, lines 24–25 above.

[Page 74, line 1] parapet of the fort ditch This seems to imply a breast-high wall round the edge of the ditch – a most unusual feature, particularly when looking at line 8 below: “…the child might ‘ha fallen into the ditch.”

[Page 74, lines 16–19] If any young man should marry you etc. and [Page 75, lines 5 – 6] I bid ye take care of the brat   David Rogers has pointed out that “The Sentry Box” is an alternative title for the old folk song “The Gentleman Soldier”. See this Mainly Norfolk’ web-site for some details of its history. David Rogers sings his own version of the song:


[Page 75, line 3] the Morning Gun it was the custom in some garrisons to fire a gun loaded with a blank charge at a certain time of the day. This still happens in Edinburgh.

[Page 75, line 14] blandandhered see the note to “The Solid Muldoon” earlier in this volume (Page 46, line 17).

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved