On this dav Kipling had opened the new rifle range at Rottingdean, largely the result of his own efforts—“I believe it’s the first 1,000 yd range started by purely private enterprise in Gt Britain” (Letters, 111, 35). The meeting of the Navy League that evening was probably planned as a part of the opening celebrations, a contribution to the propaganda for preparedness that now increasingly occupied Kipling. The speaker on the occasion was Lieutenant Knox of the Royal Navy. (See For Party or Country by Frans Coetzee, OUP 1990, p. 84). Kipling’s description of Bloemfontein comes from the fortnight he had spent there in March and April of this year helping to edit the newspaper for the troops called The Friend.
ON SATURDAY evening, the evening of Trafalgar Day, Mr. Rudyard Kipling addressed the assembled xillagers in the School Room. Mr. Kipling, who acted as chairman, having talked of the British merchants’ ships that sail the seas the world over and the troopships that went to South Africa unchecked by foreign craft, he took up the parable of the figs. “Look into the shop window of Mr. Reed across the street,” said the eager, alert chairman, “and you will see it filled with food in tins—canned beef, tinned peaches, currants and a hundred other things brought to you in Rottingdean from across the sea. It is the same with the shops in every corner ol England. How would you get these things if your ships could not come home undisturbed by the ships of other nations?” “I wall tell you what I saw in Bloemfontein,” He went on. “I saw shop windows full of notices which said ‘No bread,’ ‘No soap,’ ‘No tooth-brushes,’ and that is what you would see in the shop windows of England on the day when our fleet ceased to be strong enough to control the seas.”
—East Sussex News, 26 October 1900.