[Heading] “Pity poor fighting men” ORG No 751, Volume 8, page 5385, records the collection of these lines in:
- The unauthorised booklet published in Santiago.
- The Sussex Edition Volume 30, page 63, and Volume 34, page 230
- The Burwash Edition Volumes 22 and 27
- Definitive Verse (under ‘Chapter Headings’ – The Days Work)
- Inclusive Verse (under ‘Chapter Headings’ – Many Inventions) although does not appear in either volume
- Songs from Books p. 138
These lines are usually not given a title, although there are two, and they are also known by the first line. See the headnote. As “Pity poor fighting men” it was set as a song for a baritone by Martin Shaw in 1919. (Mattinson). These are included in Definitive Verse (p. 571), as ‘collected’.
fame never found them their brave deeds were hidden in the dust of battle and never seen. See “Winning the Victoria Cross” (Land and Sea Tales p. 22): ‘Every V.C. I have spoken to has been rather careful to explain that he won his Cross because what he did happened to be done when and where someone could notice it.’ [P.H.]
Red Cross The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, established by the Geneva Convention of 1864, which provides impartial protection and assistance to people affected by war and disaster. The emblems are used on hospitals, ships and trains to indicate non-combatants tending sick and wounded.
Magersfontein where Methuen’s column was beaten back with heavy loss near the Modder River in the Orange Free State on the way to relieve Kimberley. [Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth 1999, p. 389].
Nursing Sisters senior nurses – always treated with great respect by the soldiers as they served in or very near the front line. See
three-foot-six Three foot six inches (1·05 metres), the distamce between the rails. This was a narrow gauge line. The standard gauge, general today, originally determined by the great railway engineer George Stephenson in 1826, was 4 ft 81/2 in (1.435 metres).
every bridge, every culvert the inhabitants of the then Cape Colony (now Cape Province) were somewhat ambivalent in their neutrality. See the verse “Bridge-Guard in the Karroo”. See also Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth 1999 p. 155, who records the danger of rebellion by the Afrikaners in the Colony. It did not happen.
Duke of Edinburghs Own Volunteer Rifles a South African regiment from Cape Town. They were awarded the “Royal” prefix when they provided a Guard for the then Duke in 1867. They were affiliated to the Wiltshire Regiment in 1926.
New South Wales Lancers The 1st Royal New South Wales Lancers, a former Australian Army light cavalry regiment .based at Lancer Barracks in Parramatta, New South Wales. In 1885 they were the New South Wales Lancers and received the ‘Royal’ designation in 1935. The Colonies offered to send troops but their generous offers were at first received with less than delight [see Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth 1999, p. 54]. By the end of the war, however, when the value of men who could ride and shoot was realised, some 25,000 Colonial troops had been gladly accepted.
This regiment saw action in the Boer War, World War I at Gallipoli and Palestine, and in World War II as a tank regiment in New Guinea and Borneo. They merged with the 15th Northern River Lancers to create the 1st/15th Royal New South Wales Lancers. in 1956.
Transvaalers citizens of the Transvaal – a high plateau of good land across the Vaal River, settled in the 1830s and 40s by Afrikaner farmers from the Cape who disliked British rule and formed their own Boer republic in the Transvaal with its capital at Pretoria.
Northamptons Formed as part of the reorganisation of the infantry by Childers, the 48th (Northamptonshire) Regiment of Foot, (raised in 1741) and the 58th (Rutlandshire) Regiment of Foot (raised in 1755) formed the 1st and 2nd battalions of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
I do not object to Gladstone’s always having the ace of trumps up his sleeve, but only to his pretence that God put it there.
[Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and The Life of Labouchere, by A I Thorold, Constable & Co. 1913, p. 375]
Umballa now known as Ambala, city and District in the state of Haryana, India, on the border of the states of Haryana and Punjab in India. There is still a garrison in the cantonment. It is the scene of an important part of Kim (Chapter 2).
Lord Kitchener Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (1850-1916) British Field Marshal, diplomat, and statesman; Chief of Staff to Roberts in South Africa, and in practice second-in-command. See Charles Carrington, p. 273 for his letter to Kipling expressing thanks for the verse “Kitchener’s School”/
Orange River also known as Gariep or Groote River, it rises in the Drakensberg Mountains in Basutoland and flows into the Atlantic west of Port Nolloth; it forms part of the boundary of Cape Province.
Roberts Frederick Sleigh Roberts, first Earl Roberts of Kandahar (1832-1914) Field-Marshal, V.C. (1858); Commander-in-Chief in South Africa (1899-1900), succeeded by Kitchener. Kipling knew him in India see “The Three Musketeers” (Plain Tales from the Hills page 75, line 32, and Charles Carrington, p. 114. See also Kipling’s poems ‘Bobs’ and “Lord Roberts”.
Kipling and Leonard Ralph had lunch with Roberts at his headquarters in Bloemfontein (Ralph, War’s Brighter Side p. 113).
Cronje Pieter Arnoldus Cronjé, known as Piet Cronjé (pronounced ‘KRON-year’) (1836-1911) general of the South African Republic’s army in the South African wars of 1880-1881 and 1899-1902. See “The Comprehension of Private Copper” Traffics and Discoveries, page 27 line 16 and “The Captive”, Traffics and Discoveries, page 27, line 16.
R.A.M.C. The Army Nursing Service was formed in 1881 and nurses accompanied the army on campaign in Egypt and the Sudan. In 1887 Princess Christian, Queen Victoria’s daughter, gave her name to the Army Nursing Service Reserve which served with the British Army during the Anglo-Boer War. The force that went to South Africa was the largest ever sent abroad and nurses were desperately needed.
The Royal Army Medical Corps was established in 1898 when medical services were reorganised. It includes Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps established in 1902 after further reorganisation. [Information by courtesy of The Army Medical Services Museum]
hot press a particularly urgent methord of recruitimg men for the Navy – a party of seaman under an officer – the press-gang – would virtually kidnap men of suitable age; the practice was abolished in the 1840s.
Highland Brigade The Brigade suffered losses at Magersfontein including General Wauchope. Command was given to Major General Hector MacDonald, who led the Brigade for the rest of the war. They fought at the Battle of Paardeberg, and suffered heavy casualties on 18th September 1900.
Netley The Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Hampshire, England, opened in 1856 at the suggestion of Queen Victoria. The layout was criticised by Miss Florence Nightingale, who took a rigorous view of the need for cleanliness and good sanitation.
Sappers The Corps of Royal Engineers, called the Royal Engineers (RE), and also known as the Sappers; a corps of the British Army providing engineering support to the British Armed Forces. See Kipling’s verse “Sappers”.
Railway Pioneers the Railway Pioneer Refiment a locally enlisted force containing Americans and others. similar to that employed in rebuilding “Folly Bridge”. See Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth 1999, p. .255.
One American came over with mules and wished to join the Boers so he could fight the ‘monarchists’, but found the Boers spoke Dutch, so he joined the British side.
Gold Reef City Johannesburg – an important gold-mining centre, and now a major city of the South African Republic. The reef or “Rand”, is famous for being the source of 40% of the gold ever mined from the earth.
Chitral siege Surgeon Major Robertson was posted to the State of Chitral in 1893 as a political agent: in 1895 he brought about 400 soldiers from Gilgit to oversee the transfer of power after the murder of the Ruler. in a series of maneuvers, including an unsuccessful sortie on March 3rd, 1895, from his base in Chitral Castle.
The British suffered heavy losses and retreated to the castle, where they endured a month-long siege from hostile factions. The siege was raised on the 19th of April when a relief force, under Colonel Kelly, arrived and dispersed the hostile tribesmen..
Omra Khan Omrah, according to Hobson-Jobson (p. 637) is a plural of Amir and should be applied to the highter officials of a Mohammedan court – it is also means ‘Lord’ or high official. We have not traced this individual.
an undress rehearsal for the Day of Judgement In Christian tradition the Day of final Judgment of all nations by God will take place after the resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming of Christ. (Revelations 20,12-15). Kipling’s use of the phrase was later echoed in his description of the South African War by a British General in “The Captive” (first published in 1902) as: ‘A first-class dress-parade for Armageddon’. (Traffics and Discoveries page 27 line 3). Kipling, and many others, believed that a greater war would come, which indeed it did in 1914.
Army Service men previously the Royal Waggoners of 1794 which, after other reorganisations became the Army Service Corps in 1888.designated “Royal” in 1918. In 1965 the Corps became The Royal Corps of |Transport which, with other organisations, became The Royal Logistic Corps.in 1993.
Life Guards Soldiers from the ‘Household Cavalry’, originally the Sovereign’s guards, consisting: of the Life Guards and the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons).. The senior regular regiments of the British Army, they go back to 1660, and are the Queen’s personal bodyguard. They form Britain’s Household Division together with the five Foot Guards regiments (Grenadiers, Coldstream, Scots, Welsh, and Irish).
French’s division General John French (1852-1925) later a Field-Marshal and 1st Earl of Ypres, distinguished himself in command of cavalry in the Boer War. In 1914 he was Chief of the Imperial General Staff. and – when war with Germany broke out – commanded the British Expeditionary Force in France.
gentlemanly Mauser bullet / … explosive bullet … although the Boers were not a party to the Geneva Convention of 1864 that prohibited the use of explosive or expanding bullets, they respected it [ORG]. An expanding bullet would cause a much more damaging wound.
thinking nobly of his soul, and in no way approving of milk-diet. ” This is a slight misquotation from Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” Act IV sc.2. where Malvolio says ‘I think nobly of the soul, and in no way approve his opinion.’. [P.H.]
Dysentery see Dr. Gillian Sheehan’s Notes.
typhoid see Dr. Gillian Sheehan’s Notes.
Pneumonia inflammation of the lungs due to bacterlogical or viral infection. See below.
The man shot through the forearm thinks the bandages are too tight and are hurting his arm when it is really the gun-shot wound. The doctor gives him an injection of morphine. This relieves the pain so the bandages have miraculously loosened themselves.
child see the quotation from Dr. Tompkins in the headnonte.
Oxfords formed by the amalgamation of the 43rd (Monmouthshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) as the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Oxfordshire Light Infantry on 1 July 1881.
In 1908 they became the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry,
fanning a pneumonia case Dr Gillian Sheehan writes: The doctors and sisters only had surgical cases to deal with on that trip. A pneumonia case would have had a high temperature and they’d have been fanning him to try to cool him down. [G.S.]
The Army Medical Services Museum has kindly drawn our attention to a lecture on pneumonia by James Barr, M.D. that appeared in The British Medical Journal of June 16, 1900 (p.1461) setting forth his experiences with this disease. He observes that the treatment had not improved in almost a hundred years. The use of ice, poultices and cold baths is discussed – treatment that sometimes seems to do more harm than good and would probably have been almost impossible in a hospital train of the period.
Dr. Barr writes:
… I am a firm believer in the danger of continued high temperature, and I have adopted many methods to control it. I have tried icebags applied to the affected side as recommended by Dr. Lees; but while they afforded great relief to the pleuritic pain they never seemed to me to efficiently control the internal temperature; but on the other hand, I thought that occasionally they lowered the vitality of the affected part, and tended toward the deveolopment of empyema.
… if you wish to convey heat away from your patient by a current of air, there is no necessity for placing him in an ice chamber. Air is a very bad conductor of heat, and it chiefly removes it from the exposed surface by carrying the latent heat of evaporation, and having the vapour already in the atmosphere further heated by the warm body … A current of moderately warm dry air will abstract much more heat than a cold atmosphere saturated with moisture, and will certainly be much more agreeable to the patient…
Osborne biscuits Originally produced in 1860 as one of the first semi-sweet biscuits, they were intended to be called after Queen Victoria. She refused permission, but suggested they could be called after her home on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House.
send word home Kipling spent a good deal of time writing letters for the wounded when he was in South Africa. (Charles Carrington, page 306)
Celt The descendant of an ancient warrior people with a strong tradition of poetry and song, established in Western Europe over two thousand years ago before the Romans came. Celtic languages, and people of Celtic descent have survived in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. Kipling would have seen Celts as more fluent story-tellers than the English.
lying like a skirmish-line …. pom-pom a play on words – “lying” is used in two meanings – telling untruths and prone on the ground under the trajectory of the pom-pom (a light quick-firing gun). See “Columns”, the chorus of which runs:
… A section, a pompom and six ‘undred men.
[J. H. McG.]
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