Mrs. Kipling’s diary gives the context for this speech:
16 [December 1899]: “Rud occupied with volunteer business.”
17: “Rud starts the notice of a volunteer corps and is deeply absorbed in the working it out during the day.”
19: “Rud interested and keen about his volunteers and hard at work … in the evening comes the meeting for the volunteers at which Rud speaks. .33 men sign for volunteers”
MR RUDYARD KIPLING has of late been actively interesting himself with a view to the formation of a company of Volunteers at Rottingdean, and at a meeting of the parishioners called to consider the subject on Tuesday evening the author of “The Absent-minded Beggar” was the chief speaker.
He mentioned that he had had an interview with some of the officers of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, and learnt from them that if enough men could be got together in Rottingdean to form a separate company, the commanding officer would be disposed to look upon the project in a favourable light, and would be ready to lay the application before the War Office with a view to the establishment of a Rottingdean company. The number of men required to make a separate company was sixty, but he (Mr Kipling) was in hopes they would be able to get at least one hundred members.
The first thing they would have to do was for those who were willing to join to sign their names to a paper that he had in readiness and then go humbly to the officer of the regiment and ask him to submit the matter to the War Office. He hoped the men of the village would come forward and give in their names.
—Brighton Gazette, Hove Post, Sussex and Surrey Telegraph,
21 December 1899.