Steam Tactics

Notes on the text

These notes, edited by Alastair Wilson, rely much on our predecessors’ notes in the ORG. We have not distinguished between ORG text and NRG text, save where specific explanatory comment have been added in square brakets. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Traffics and Discoveries, as published and frequently reprinted between 1904 and 1950.


[Page 177, Title] Steam Tactics The Navy would say always Tattics! The term was adopted by the Royal Navy in the late 1860s for the manoeuvres needed to practise flag officers and captains in handling ships in a fleet when steam had superseded sail. These exercises commonly bore no more relation to battle tactics than parade ground drill does to infantry movements in the field, but they were an equally necessary element in training. Here, of course, the term alludes to the narrator’s steam-driven car.

[Page 177, line 2] narrow Sussex lane it is hard now to envisage the roads in England at this time: the coming of the railway, then almost at its zenith of ubiquity, some sixty years earlier, had resulted in neglect of the turnpike coach roads, while the by-roads were like the roughest of un-made roads today. Surfaces were of water-bound macadam, not unlike a gravelled road, and ruts and potholes were frequent – hence the frequency of punctures and broken springs to plague the early motorist. In the Middle Ages, the roads of Sussex had been notorious for their badness, and other than the five main roads from London to the coast and the three roads which traversed the county from east to west, like parallels of latitude on a globe, they were not much better at the start of the 20th century. And Kipling’s description of the road as a lane suggests that he and his engineer-chauffeur are on a minor road.

[Page 177, line 5] the carrier most villages had a ‘carrier’, a man with a horse and cart who transported goods over short distances. In 1902, he usually hauled goods from and to the nearest railway station, bringing groceries for the village shop, a new piano for the squire’s wife, small bicycle parts for the village blacksmith who was the local cycle repairer.

[Page 177, line 5] the wrong side of the road an Act was passed by Parliament in 1756 which governed on which side traffic should drive on London Bridge. From that beginning, the rule of the road which required vehicles to keep to the left has remained in force. But on a narrow lane, such rules had little meaning.

[Page 177, line 7] bell carried instead of a horn by the steam cars of the period. Since the Locomobile was American-built, this was probably following American railroad practice, whereby steam locomotives traversing public streets (as they did in some cities until the 1950s) were required to sound a bell; similarly at grade-crossings (level-crossings).

[Page 177, line 9] superior coachman an expert, proud of his master’s fine horses and carriage, was naturally contemptuous of a machine with a smell and no pedigree. It was perhaps rather early for him to foresee his own obsolescence.

[Page 177, line 11] a vociferous steam air-pump modern descriptions of the few old Locomobiles remaining make no mention of such a pump: however, if, as is suggested three pages further on, the car’s boiler had some form of forced draught, then an ‘air pump’ – more likely a fan – would be necessary It is possible that this is what Kipling meant.

[Page 177, line 13] a bowshot’s length it is said that Henry V’s veteran archers at Agincourt were accurate up to 300 yards and had a maximum range of 400 yards or more, but we need not suppose that the carrier’s horse covered quite the distance in the time stated, however alarmed by the air pump. [And just for fun, this Editor has calculated that if one took the “bowshot’s length” as no more than 200 yards, then the speed would have been some 56 miles per hour, and would have qualified the carrier’s horse to win the Derby!]

[Page 177, line 18] My engineer the story makes it clear that only an engineer could have kept a steam car on the road for long. His name, soon given as Leggat, was Filsey in the original magazine version. In later tales, it appears with two ‘t’s.

Mr. P.W. Inwood wrote:

My Chief Mechanical Engineer, Mr. A.F. Kent, M.B.E., who worked under me for many years at the Admiralty, told me that as a youngster he was sent by his firm, the manufacturers of Kipling’s first steam car (a Locomobile, I believe) to Kipling with the car to act as engineer and chauffeur. During the 1914-18 war, he was attached to Admiral Jellicoe in the same capacity. (This would have been when Jellicoe was First Sea Lord in 1916-17: Ed.) I had intended to get a story from him as a pendant to “Steam Tactics”, but he died recently” (about 1960). He was acquainted with all the mechanical vicissitudes that figure so prominently in the story. Clearly he was the original of Mr Leggat(t) and he had the same precise manner.

[Page 177, line 22/23] till the sights come on Hinchcliffe’s meaning is “wait till I’ve got all my ammunition ready, and have judged the target’s course and speed”. A destroyer making a torpedo attack at this date, when a torpedo could only be fired on a straight course, approached the enemy roughly head on, to close the range as quickly as possible, and to give the enemy the minimum target at which to fire. The torpedo tube was turned to face at 90º to the line of advance, and at the appropriate moment, the attacking destroyer put its helm over to swing the ship so that the torpedo tube was pointing a suitable distance ahead of the enemy: the torpedo sight was set so that the tube was pointing ahead of the sight, and as the destroyer swung, the sight traversed across the enemy’s line of advance. At the appropriate moment, the “sights came on”, and the torpedo was fired.

[Page 178, line 6/7] in puris naturalibus in a state of nature, stark naked. Here used jocularly, and incorrectly: another of Pyecroft’s malapropisms.

[Page 178, line 8] on leaf old-fashioned pronunciation of “on leave”: it was much used in the Navy, especially among ratings from the west country.

[Page 178, line 10] kopjes (pronounced ‘koppies’). A South African word for small hills, adopted during the Boer War period. Sussex hills may be small, but the valleys between them, especially in the Weald where the story starts, are small, steep and narrow.

[Page 178, line 15] derogation of good manners the Naval Discipline Act, commonly known as the Articles of War, read to the ship’s companies of H.M. Ships quarterly (or was, until about 40 years ago), laid down severe punishments for ‘every person subject to this Act who shall be guilty of any profane oath, cursing, execration …. or other scandalous action, in derogation of God’s honour and corruption of good manners’.

[Page 178, line 23] Linghurst with a few exceptions, mostly self-evident, the place names in this story are fictitious, though plausible. Some possible identifications are suggested in the attached note on the route through Sussex taken in the tale.

[Page 178, line 24] runagates runaways, vagabonds, rogues.

[Page 178, line 28] on the beach not to be taken literally: it is general navalese for “ashore”.

[Page 179, line 9] Twenty-five twenty-five miles per hour was a generous over-estimate of the speed made good by a steam car of the period – hence the “loyal”.

[Page 179, line 14] 30-knot destroyers the second large batch of destroyers (60 in number, built over ten years, and usually referred to as TBDs – torpedo-boat destroyers, their original purpose) were described as “30-knotters”, but this too was wildly optimistic in terms of actual speed in service.

[Page 179, line 16] land-crabbing steam-pinnace a figure of speech worthy of Pyecroft himself, embodying the motion of a ship’s boat with the shore going habits of a land-crab – somewhat like a Second World War amphibious vehicle.

It is probably no coincidence that the verb “to crab” had appeared in The Letters of Admiral Sir T. Byam Martin, Vol .I published in 1901 by the Navy Records Society, when Kipling was on the Council of the Society.

[Page 179, line 21] a question probably “Is he drunk?”

[Page 179, line 23] gadgets fittings, devices (nautical). This Editor was surprised to see the qualification “(nautical)” in the ORG, having known the word, in that meaning but in a general sense, since his childhood. But the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) shows that the original context was, indeed, nautical (in 1886), and this quotation from “Steam Tactics” is the second citation given in the OED.

[Page 179, line 25] traction-engine haulin’ gypsy wagons an amusement fair on the move, towed by a steam traction engine on the roadway. This one (right) is hauling cartloads of people at a village fete.
It is still possible to find cast iron notices by road bridges referring to the prohibition of “locomotive engines” of over a certain weight. Prior to World War I they were a not uncommon sight, particularly at harvest time when a threshing train would move from farm to farm, and they were used for really heavy haulage over relatively short distances. Between the two wars they were much less common, and had virtually disappeared by 1950, their place taken by the diesel tow-truck.

[Page 180, line 4] muckings grease and dirt.

[Page 180, line 13] superstructure properly, the upperworks of a ship – here, Hinchcliffe is referring to the car’s bodywork, which concealed the flash-boiler.

[Page 180, line 14] forced draught the power of any steam machine is directly related to its ability to boil water. Up to a limit, the more heat that can be applied, the greater, or faster, will be the generation of steam: and the amount of heat generated is related to the amount of air available for combustion. So, in high-power or compact engines, air was forced into the combustion space under pressure to enable more fuel to be burned economically.

[Page 180, line 26] expected to judge my water out of a little shaving-glass one of the prime concerns – one might say the prime concern – of an engineer in charge of steam machinery is the level of water in his boiler. Lack of water in the boiler can lead to severe consequences – in line with the consequences of letting a saucepan boil dry on the stove.

[Page 181,line 5] libretto the words of an opera. Here it is a figure of speech, the vehicle for Hinchcliffe’s operations. Again, Pyecroft is using a word of which he does not know the true meaning.

[Page 181, line 8] bulgine a black American word for ‘engine’. Captain W.B. Whall’s Sea Songs and Shanties includes two songs of the music hall type taken up by sailing ship mariners, “Run, Let the Bulgine Run” and “Clear de Track, Let de Bulgine Run”.

[Page 181, lines 8 and 9] nineteenth prox. The nineteenth of the following month, but Hinchcliffe’s leave expired in a fortnight (vide page 180, line 5) so Pyecroft should have made it the nineteenth inst. (instant), the present month. A common mistake, even among persons who should know better.

[Page 181, line 15] The petrol will light up in the Locomobile, vapourised petrol provided the fuel for the boiler, and an explosion if the car upset was always a possibility.

[Page 181, line 17] rambunkshus the Concise Oxford Dictionary (6th edition) gives:
rambunctious (-shus) a. Unruly; uncontrollably exuberant.

[Page 181, line 18] three hoops up full of beer, referring to the hoops of a cask.

[Page 181, line 25] evolution in its naval sense, meaning an exercise or drill, usually competitive.

[Page 181, line 31] beef-boat in those days, usually a cutter (a medium-sized open boat under sail), carrying out a routine trip to bring off supplies of fresh food from ashore.

[Page 181, line 33] ‘In bow! Way ‘nuff’ these are orders given in a pulling (rowing) boat when coming alongside a ship or jetty. “In bow” (or simply “Bow” or “Bows”) directs the bowman pulling the foremost oar to lay it in and get out a boathook, ready to hold the boat in position. “Way enough” means that the remaining crew are to stop pulling and lay their oars in, the boat having enough way on to get alongside without further effort from them.

[Page 182, line 10] mid-link reciprocating steam engines were reversed by a link-motion controlling the steam valves which admitted steam to the cylinders. Mid-link was a neutral position, midway between ahead and astern – the equivalent of the ‘neutral’ position in a conventional car’s gearbox.

[Page 182, lines 11 and 12] chief engineer … T.B.D. even in the colloquial use of “chief engineer” to mean the individual in charge of a ship’s machinery, regardless of his rank or rating, this must be considered one of Kipling’s technical slips. Contemporary Navy Lists show that a Torpedo Boat Destroyer, T.B.D. for short, was allowed a Chief Engineer, a commissioned officer ranking with a lieutenant of over eight year’s seniority. If one was not available, than an Engineer, ranking with a junior lieutenant, was usually appointed. In one or two instances, an Artificer Engineer, of warrant rank, was borne instead, but a rating, even with the chief petty officer status and skill of an Engine Room Artificer, was not considered up to the responsibilities in this class of ship. Pyecroft would probably have said “Chief E.R.A. – or Chief `Tiff – of the Djinn . . .”

[Page 182, line 24] I’ll teach you … tiffies “tiffies” is an abbreviation for “artificers”. These words must have been used by some officer to a crew of Engine Room Artificers either practising in a pulling boat for a regatta or as young ratings under instruction in a steam boat.

[Page 182, line 31] The Mountain …. Ma’ommed From the saying: If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed. This remark is usually attributed to Francis Bacon, 1st Baron Verulam and Viscount St. Albans (1561-1626), but in his Essay No. 12, “Boldness”, he uses “hill” and not “mountain”.

[Page 183, line 5] No. 267 a reference back to the story “Their Lawful Occasions” which immediately precedes “Steam Tactics” in Traffics and Discoveries. Readers of the first Windsor Magazine version of the tale might have wondered to what Kipling was referring. Other than through the medium of the introductory ‘letter’, they had not previously heard of Torpedo Boat No. 267, and their adventures during the annual manoeuvres, and so would not have known what it was that induced the narrator to allow Hinchcliffe to take control of the steam car.

[Page 183, line 14] the immortal Navy doctor perhaps Tobias Smollett (1721-71), one time naval Surgeon and author of Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, etc. Another possibility – although one may note that Kipling refers elsewhere to “Marryat’s immortals” – is that here Smollett’s scapegrace hero, Roderick Random, is meant, but we have searched the book in vain for “paved our way”. Conceivably the reference is to another surgeon whose “immortality” was short-lived. [This Editor, thanks to modern technology, has been able to search the text of Roderick Random to confirm this point, in a matter of seconds, rather than the hours of reading it must have taken our predecessors.]

However, Kipling changed the text from “Marryat’s immortal doctor” in the Windsor Magazine to the “immortal Navy Doctor” in the collected version. This Editor has not been able to find a suitable reference to a doctor, nor “paved our way” in either Mr. Midshipman Easy nor Peter Simple, probably the best known of Marryat’s sea tales, and the latter of which is quoted elsewhere by Kipling (Debits and Credits, “The Propagation of Knowledge”).

[Page 183, line 19] the rack the instrument of torture. In contrast to more reliable cars, the waywardness of the Locomobile put a strain on the driver that only increased with experience.

[Page 183, line 24] con and drive to con is to direct the steering of a ship, an operation quite distinct from managing her engines. Much has changed since Kipling put these words into Hinchcliffe’s mouth. It is now entirely commonplace in small craft to expect the coxswain to “con and drive”, and, with engine controls to be found on the bridge of large merchant vessels, the possibility exists of the captain of such a vessel both “conning and driving”, although this is not usually done.

[Page 184, line 1] steering-bar many early cars were steered with a tiller instead of a wheel.

[Page184, line 8] stokers upon their labours, tending the boiler furnaces with coal shovelled by hand, depended the steam pressure, which was measured in pounds per square inch.

[Page 184, line 22] at Bantry Bantry Bay, on the south-western tip of Ireland, was often used as an anchorage for the British fleet in the days before the Irish Republic became independent. It was particularly used for experiments with controlled minefields for the defence of harbours. Pyecroft had presumably been present at one such exercise.

[Page 185, line 4] muckin’s (muckings) here means gadgets, fittings. (See also, page 180 line 4 above.)

[Page 185, line 10] blame it all on the lower deck see our note on “Their Lawful Occasions” (Page 107, line 25). Relations between the Artificer ratings, and other members of the lower deck could become distinctly acerbic at times.

[Page 185, line 14] wakes the wake is the track left in the water, caused largely by the disturbance caused by the screw, which shows the course or courses that a ship has been steering. The remark about the snake is a traditional rudeness to a careless helmsman steering an erratic course.

Page 185, line 24] fairway in a nautical sense (as opposed to golfing), the channel: here, the middle of the road.

[Page 185, line 27] Nay, nay, Pauline see our note on “The Bonds of Discipline” (Page 49, line 6). The meaning is an emphatic “Not me!”

[Page 185, line 28] bed “As you make your bed, so you must lie on it” is a 16th century proverb.

[Page 186, line 5] Bruges Belfry the famous tower and carillon of this Belgian city (right) were destroyed in the First World War, but have since been rebuilt. Presumably, they passed Agg’s cart with the car’s bell being rung continuously – possibly somewhat provocatively, one may think, and likely to make even the most placid of horses jib.

[Page 186, lines 17 and 18] the old South-Easter at Simonstown Simon’s Town, headquarters of the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station at that time, has been remarked on in ‘The Captive’ and under ‘Simon’s Bay’ in “Judson and the Empire” (Many Inventions, page 331, line 15). Until an artificial harbour enclosed by breakwaters had been completed in 1909, H.M. ships had to lie at anchor or at moorings exposed to the strong prevailing south-east wind, once famous as “the Cape Doctor”.

To enable ships to communicate with the Dockyard for as long as possible on the frequent occasions when ships had to hoist their boats and raise steam to ensure safety as the wind approached gale force, a steamboat (in fact, a succession of steamboats) was provided with a specially strengthened hull for this purpose. Not unnaturally, she became known as “the South-Easter”. Having usually been discarded by some ship, she was unlikely to have started in the best of shape and rough usage in foul weather would tnd to make her increasingly temperamental.

[Page 187, line 5] tubes boiler tubes. It was a cardinal sin for a steam engineer to allow the water level in the boiler to drop so that the tubes, whether fire-tubes or water tubes became uncovered (in the first case) or empty (in the second), with disastrous consequences. Hinchcliffe is reacting as a well-trained engineer would.

[Page 187, lines 13 and 14] drag-ropes – little pipe-clayed ones: a reference to the field-gun competition, until 2000 a feature of the Royal Tournament held annually at Earls Court in west London as a showcase for the armed forces. At the time of the story, it took place at the Agricultural Hall in Islington (see the notes to “The Bonds of Discipline” (page 61, line 9) and “Their Lawful Occasions” (page 133, line 7) Pipe-clay was commonly used to whiten leather and equipment, particularly webbing and canvas equipment. A later generation knew the equivalent as ‘blanco’.

[Page 187, line 29] rallying-square the classic British infantry formation in the wars of the 18th and early 19th centuries when repelling cavalry. It had, at the time of the story, been again much in use as the formation in which the British met the Mahdi’s fighters in the Sudan. See also ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ with its reference to the battle of Tamai, in the eastern Sudan in 1885, when the Dervishes “broke a British square”. See also “Her Majesty’s Servants” in The Jungle Book (page 259 line 13) where a baggage camel describes his role in forming just such a square.

[Page 187, line 30] box buxus a hardy evergreen shrub of compact growth, much used for borders.

[Page 187, line 33] three-mile limit then the accepted limit of territorial waters, over which a nation might claim control and a right of arrest. ‘Hot pursuit’, the chasing of a vessel suspected of having broken some law, was not legal across the ‘three-mile limit’. Nowadays, the generally-accepted limit is 12 miles, but some nations claim more, and there are other “limits” usually relating to such matters as mineral rights, etc.

[Page 188, line 3] flanks the sides of a military formation, often vulnerable unless well-protected, or covered.

[Page 188, line 7] sudorific a drug or agent inducing sweat.

[Page 188, line 12] a Boxer a member of a Chinese anti-foreign secret society, whose Chinese name might reasonably be translated as “Righteous harmony fists”. In 1900, their attacks on foreign missions and the siege of the legations in Peking led to international intervention and what was called the Boxer War, in which Kipling’s friend Captain Bayly, formerly of HMS Pelorus, bore a distinguished part. (He was then captain of HMS Aurora, and took part in the defence of Tientsin and in the attack on Peking.)

[Page 188, line 18] stopped courteously a good custom of early motoring.

[Page 188, line 22 lodge cottage at the gate of a large estate, in those days occupied by an employee of the landlord.

[Page 188, line 25] the Service the Royal Navy.

[Page 189, line 9] bunkers the coal stowage, in those days. I.e., to refuel.

[Page 189, line 28] the forward eccentric-strap screw’s dropped off Kipling is blinding us with technical science: but in the great majority of steam engines, there were two eccentrics, forward and back, at 90º to one another on the crankshaft. They made the “link” (cf note on page 182, line 10) oscillate, and this controlled the movement of the valve, which admitted steam to either end of the cylinder to drive the engine. The strap (like the letter U with serifs), held the eccentric rod on to the eccentric. Without the screw, the rod would fall away from the eccentric, and would flail around underneath the car: and the valve would not receive its drive, with the symptoms Kipling describes.

[Page 189, line 33 and page 190 line 1] Out pinnace …an’ creep for it a reference to the naval method of recovering something lost overboard in comparatively shallow water to tow a multi-pronged hook, known as a grapnel, along the bottom. This process was known as “creeping”.

[Page 190, line 5] etymologists another of Pyecroft’s malapropisms, confusing etymologist, a student of words, with entomologist, a student of insects, who might be expected to behave as described.

[Page 190, lines 26 and 27] Nightmare’s engine room when we were runnin’ trials in 1897, Kipling had attended the acceptance trials of HMS Foam, a 30-knot destroyer just completed by Thornycroft’s yard on the Thames. (The identification of the destroyer in the ORG as the Mallard is almost certainly incorrect.) At full speed, destroyers approached the limits of what could be expected from reciprocating engines at that date (the first turbine-engined destroyers appeared at the time this story was written.) Charles Carrington gives Kipling’s vivid account of this experience on pages 252-4: Letters of Rudyard Kipling Vol 2, Ed. Pinney quotes the letter (to Doctor James Conland, dated June 1st 1897) in full.

[Page 191, line 14] semaphorin’ signalling by means of an operator’s two arms, with or without flags, or by two mechanical arms on a post, whose relative position indicates a letter

[Page 191, line 19] pepper-and-salt cloth of black and white threads woven together, showing flecks of each.

[Page 191, line 20] (ready-made) no Gentleman would ever wear a ready-made suit!

[Page 191, line 23] beam-engine the earliest form of steam engine, usually used for operating pumps, particularly in the Cornish tin mines: the implication is that the watch that the constable (as it turns out to be) is crude and cumbersome.

Waterbury a famous cheap watch made at Waterbury, Connecticut, USA. See
“The Tour” from The Muse among the Motors (again referring to an accusation of speeding):

The Dogberry, and the Waterbury, made
It fifty mile – five pounds. And Juan paid!

(Dogberry is Shakespeare’s constable from “Much Ado about Nothing”)

[Page 192, line 1] roose ruse Pyecroft is exercising his French – ruse de guerre (a trick to confuse the enemy) is implied – Agg is getting his own back.

[Page 192, line 3] waiting for you motor cars did not carry number plates in those days, and driving licences were not required, so it was necessary to arrest and identify the people concerned in a breach of the speed limit, then 12 miles an hour (19.3 km/hour).

[Page 192, lines 8 & 9] summary in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction – what used to be known as a Police Court, now a Magistrate’s Court.

[Page 192, line 31] Mr. Morse Samuel Finlay Breese Morse (1791-1872), American artist and inventor, devised the means of representing letters by dots and dashes, used in telegraphy, signalling by lamp, etc. [Actually, although much used in fiction – prisoners sending messages to one another by tapping on hot water pipes going from one cell to another, etc. – it is not easy to make Morse code in this way, since it is not possible to differentiate between a tap meaning a dot, and a tap meaning a dash, which should be three times as long. An experienced operator might, by noting the rhythms of an equally experienced operator sending the message, make a reasonable guess as to whether the letter was, say H – …. or V …_, but it would not be easy to ensure that the message got through ungarbled.]

[Page 193, lines 2-4] Then was seen with what majesty the British sailorman envisages a new situation a shameless echo of the noble passage from Napier’s History of the Peninsular War in which, describing the “Fusilier Brigade” at Albuera in 1811, he wrote: ‘Then was seen with what strength and majesty the British soldier fights …. Nothing could stop that astonishing infantry.’

[Page 193, line 7] ste’ cart steam car.

{Page 194, lines 5 & 6] we’re making quite a lot out o’ you motor gentry See “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” in A Diversity of Creatures page 163, where Sir Thomas Ingell is talking to his brother magistrates about enticing motorists to exceed the limit so that: ‘We rooked seventy pounds out of ‘em last month’. Many motorists will maintain that the authorities have the same attitude today.

[Page 194, line 11] anaconda a large snake which crushes its prey.

[Page 194, line 25] ratin’ rating – the status of a man (or, today, woman), other than an officer, in the Royal Navy. His substantive rating (Ordinary Seaman, Able Seaman, Leading Seaman, Petty Officer, Chief Petty Officer) established his position in the Table of Rank and Command; his non-substantive rating (or rate) depends primarily upon his technical skill – e.g., Gunlayer 3rd, 2nd, or 1st class. These are denoted by badges usually worn on the upper arm (left arm for substantive rate, right arm for non-substantive). An officer wore his badges of rank in the form of gold-lace stripes on his cuff.

[Page 194, line 27] bewrayed revealed, especially involuntarily. (Archaic.)

[Page 195, line 21] concentrated Boer in the Boer War (1899-1902), towards the end of 1900 the Boers dispersed their forces and adopted guerrilla tactics. Lord Kitchener’s reply was to remove non-combatants from their farms into concentration camps. One reason for this is apparent in the story “A Sahib’s War”, also in Traffics and Discoveries.

Kitchener’s actions called forth a storm of protest, not only from the Boers; there was sharp criticism from the Liberal Opposition in Britain and from Europe. Both at the time and later, however, there is no doubt that the Boers made rather more than the most of their alleged ill-treatment. One example, quoted by the then Duke of Bedford in his autobiography, A Silver-plated Spoon (1959), is that the prisoners’ diet included powdered glass! The only foundation for this was that isinglass, a perfectly harmless substance, was used in making jellies.

In Something of Myself (page 162), Kipling mentions that from Boer sympathisers in England: ‘One of the most widely exploited charges was our deliberate cruelty in making prisoners’ tents and quarters open to the north – which overlooked the fact that south of the Equator, this is the sunny side.’

[Page 196, line 11] traverse here used in the nautical sense of the word. Wind and waves frequently obliged a sailing ship to approach her destination in a series of tacks, and this zig-zag series of courses was known as a traverse (an archaic form of “transverse”): thence the word came to be applied to any devious form of action. According to Admiral Smyth’s Sailor’s Word Book (1867):

Traverse denotes the several courses a ship makes under the changes of wind and manoeuvres. From this zigzag set of lines we have Tom Cox’s Traverse: up one hatch and down another; others say three turns round the longboat and a pull at the scuttle. It is the work of an artful dodger.
Nearer our own times, a Member of Parliament has described another form of “traverse” he encountered in a Naval barracks during his naval service in 1939-45, namely carrying an empty box officiously about and using it as a seat when out of sight of a senior rating or officer. Today (2008), the more usual expression is “pulling – or working – a flanker”, and your present Editor could cite plenty of examples from his own experience.

Technically, “working a traverse” meant plotting or calculating the ship’s position after a series of courses as described. And “Traverse Tables” are a set of pre-calculated tables solving the problem in spherical trigonometry of the distance between any two positions, defined by latitudes and longitude, on the earth’s surface.

[Page 196, lines 21 and 22] the road – there are two or three like it in Sussex – turned down and ceased Kipling is being ironic: there were probably, literally, hundreds of such roads at that time: they are still numbered in their tens.

[Page 196, line 23] Holy Muckins! a “tiffy’s” variant of “Holy Moses!”

[Page 197, line 5] jaunty Meaning ‘policeman’. Naval slang for the Master-at-Arms, the senior rating in a big ship (and, incidentally, the only rating to carry a sword on ceremonial occasions): he was in charge of the ship’s police (the “crushers” – from their boots). ‘Jaunty’ is said to be a corruption of the French gendarme, a policeman.

[Page 197, line 12] spars stout poles, especially those used for the masts and yards in a ship or boat.

[Page 197, line 13] wickyup-thing A wickyup or wickiup is a loosely constructed hut of certain North American Indian tribes, but is not to be confused with a wigwam or tepee (four poles and a skin covering), though Pyecroft may have done this. Such a hut was also used by woodsmen in England. In this case, it seems to have been a stand of hop poles, recently cut out of the woods, awaiting transport to the eastern end of the county (they were not in hop country here) where they were used to support the network of wire and string up which the hop-bines (vines) climbed.

[Page 197, line 25] Agricultur’l Hall see above, page 187, line 13.

[Page 197, line 30] terror fermior Pyecroft’s misplaced pseudo-erudition again – terra firma – firm ground – is meant.

[Page 198, line 18] Olympia another of London’s big exhibition halls, in Hammersmith: built in 1885.

[Page 199, line 5] a dhow or two Tajurrah-way see the note on
“The Bonds of Discipline”, page 54, line 9.

Tajurrah was used by Arab sailing vessels (dhows) running arms and slaves across to Arabia. HM Ships were regularly employed to discourage the traffic and were rewarded by a bounty for the capture of an offending dhow. In 1964, the ORG noted that ‘according to the press, the trade is not completely extinct even now, but the number of HM Ships available is sadly limited and the traffickers are conscienceless and wily’.

Today (2008), the whole area is a hotbed of serious piracy, with no recognisable government ashore, and the international naval forces hamstrung by an over-nice concern for the legalities. The traffickers remain conscienceless and wily: if caught in the act, by a warship of, say, any European navy, they cannot be returned to what passes for Somali jurisdiction, because they face capital punishment. If returned to the UK, or whichever other country whose warship has captured them, they may indeed be tried under international law, but on completion of any sentence cannot be deported, because their human rights might be breached. Kipling and Pyecroft would have been incredulous and horrified.

[Page 199, line 10] Robert the English statesman, Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was responsible for founding the Irish police in 1814 and the English police in 1829. Policemen have since been expected to answer to the name of “Peeler”, “Robert” or “Bobby”.

[Page 199, line 20] cabinet photograph a photographer’s term for the next size of photograph (5 in. x 4 in. or 12.7mm x 10.16mm in Britain) above the carte de visite, which measured 3½ in. x 2¼ in.

[Page 199, line 25] St. Leonard’s Forest in Sussex, between Horsham and Crawley: such wooded country as remains lies rather to the south of the main road joining these two places.

[Page 200, line 11] the whale-backed downs the South Downs, the system of chalk hills which cross Sussex in an E.S.E. direction to end in the cliffs of Beachy Head (and which re-appear in France in Normandy), Kipling makes use of this phrase in his poem “Sussex” (verse 3, line 3: ‘Our blunt, bow-headed, whale-backed downs’).

[Page 200, lines 29 and 30] Home Counties the counties nearest to London – Surrey, Middlesex, Essex and Kent, and occasionally Hertford and Sussex. (Concise Oxford Dictionary). So the ORG said. Today it tends to mean anywhere within a 50 mile radius of London.

[Page 200, line 33] black-dashed, tonneaued the dash, or dash-board, was a screen, usually upright in early motor-cars, but frequently curved in the horse-drawn vehicles from which it derived, on the front of a vehicle to intercept mud, etc., thrown up by a horse or a car.

[Page 201, line 1] Octopod Why Kipling chose this word (meaning an eight-legged creature, usually a mollusc) for the name of a fine, fast, car is probably not obvious to most readers. However Michael Smith remarks that Professor Tompkins associated it with an eight-legged horse of Nordic myth, and this Editor considers that that is a very likely explanation.

It has been suggested that the “original” of the car described was Kipling’s second Lanchester, acquired about June 1902: but this is doubtful, since she (Kipling’s name for her was ‘Amelia’) was of no more than 18 horse-power, and of doubtful reliability. [See “the note from the ORG on Kipling as an early motorist]

It seems more likely that he modelled the car on one or other of the powerful motors which he encountered during a week-end spent with St. Loe Strachey at Guildford.) It is very doubtful if either of his Lanchesters could have made the round tour of Sussex, about to be described, in a day. The distance is about 150 miles, and the Amelias (his first Lanchester was also nicknamed Amelia) could barely average 20 mph (Amelia Mk I (sometimes known as ‘Jane Cakebread’ – see the note on Kipling as an Early Motorist) came back from Guildford to Bateman’s at 10 miles an hour, according to Kipling himself. And to cover 150 miles on the roads of 1902, and with the tyres of that time, without a single puncture would have been almost unheard of.

[Page 201, line 2] Kysh It has been variously suggested that Dr. Frederick William Lanchester (referred to in the introduction), who had become a personal friend of Kipling, might reasonably claim to be the “original” of Kysh: the name of Max Lawrence (Lanchester’s Works’ Manager) has also been put forward. It may also be suggested that he was compounded with a bit of Alfred Harmsworth, the newspaper magnate, later Lord Harmsworth, whose initial visit to the Kiplings at Rottingdean had sparked Kipling’s interest in motoring.

[Page 201, line 25] on the quarter-deck in the Royal Navy, when in harbour, the ship’s routine is run from the quarterdeck – that portion of the upper deck at the after end of the ship. It is where the ladder, or gangway, for admission to the ship is placed; and the Officer of the Watch is in charge of the area, and the running of the ship’s routine. The implication is that Pyecroft is in charge.

[Page 202, lines 6 and 7] the free winds of high Sussex whimpered across the ling they were on the high Wealden ridge, probably in the vicinity of Handcross: ling is a kind of heather.

[Page 202, line 22] whack share (colloquial).

[Page 202, line 33 and page 203, line 1] I’m glad it ain’t Saul … nor Nimshi this remark indicates a knowledge of the Old Testament, no doubt being due to Pyecroft’s being a Plymouth Brother, but with characteristic deviations like some of his less scriptural allusions. That is what our predecessors who compiled the ORG said. But when this tale was first published, the reader had no knowledge of Pyecroft’s association with Plymouth.

We would now suggest that Pyecroft’s knowledge of the Old Testament came from some other source – such as that he joined the Navy from one of the Marine Society’s training ships, in which a sound grounding in the Bible was taught (no less and no more valid than our predecessor’s suggestion). However that may be, Kysh’s ‘wonderful name’ obviously suggested Kish, the father of Saul (I Samuel 9,1-2). Saul may have brought back ‘Saul hath slain his thousands’ (I Samuel 18,7) while Nimshi recalled the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi: ‘for he driveth furiously’ (II Kings 9,20).

[Page 203, lines 8 and 9] twice the Furious against half the Jaseur in a head-sea the Furious was a cruiser of 5750 tons and 10000 indicated horse-power; the Jaseur an 810 ton torpedo gunboat of 3500 indicated horse-power. The implication is that the Furious, bigger and more powerful than the Jaseur in absolute terms, nonetheless has only 1.74 HP per ton of displacement, whereas the smaller Jaseur has 4.32 HP per ton of displacement. But in a head-sea, theFurious would be better able to make use of her power than would the Jaseur. Jaseur is the French name of the waxwing. The name came into the Royal Navy as a prize taken from the French in the Indian Ocean in 1807.

[Page 203, line 20 daped to dap is to fish by letting the bait bob in the water: an alternative meaning is to bounce (a ball).

[Page 203, line 21] solar plexus the complex of nerves at the pit of the stomach. A blow there can incapacitate by taking the breath away. However, ‘uncoiling’ it is a flight of fancy by the author.

[Page 203, line 27] Do it well overboard referring to being sick.

[Page 203, line 31] he flung a careless knee over the low raking tiller but the illustrator in the Windsor Magazine showed a car with a wheel.

[Page 203, line 33] yellow road in these days of nearly universal tar macadam road surfaces, we need to remind ourselves that at this date road surfaces were untarred, and more like a gravel-surfaced driveway.

[Page 204, line 12] Park Row is reached by one hill which drops 300 feet in half a mile … the curved bridge at the bottom Forest Row is probably meant: the hill is still there (though Kipling slightly exaggerated its steepness) as is the bridge at the bottom (though the curve has been eased).

[Page 204, line 18] in Surrey now: better look out today’s A264 (which, it is generally agreed, was the route being taken, crosses briefly into Surrey just east of Crawley. The inference is that the Chief Constable of Surrey had a reputation for being rougher with the motorist than his opposite number in Sussex. (Plus ça change …. Ed.)

[Page 204 line 20] Kent adjoins Surrey on the east.

[Page 204, line 32] by way of the Hastings road, … Cramberhurst Lamberhurst, on the Hastings road from London, today’s A 21, does indeed lie in a “deep pit”

[Page 206, line 6] disembogued the Oxford English Dictionary gives, as one meaning, the figurative one which Kipling is using here: ‘to discharge, pour forth; to empty by pouring forth the contents’.

[Page 206, lines 7 and 8] Nellie Farren Ellen Farren (right) 1848-1904, came from a family of actors, and between 1862 and 1891 played in burlesque, farce, old comedy and Shakespeare. Chiefly famous for her acting in burlesque, she had an amazingly vivid personality and was easily the favourite actress of the lighter stage of her day. Though it is hard to grasp from a photograph in the editorial files showing her as Principal Boy in Ruy Blas, her charm is well attested: Kipling mentions it again in “The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat” (A Diversity of Creatures, pages 183 and 187).

In the Windsor Magazine the reference is to Lottie Venne, rather than Nellie Farren. Lottie Venne was only four years younger than Nellie Farren, but lived until 1928. She was possibly second only to Nellie Farren in popularity in London. It may be suggested that Nellie Farren’s recent death when Traffics and Discoveries was published was the catalyst for this change in the text.

[Page 206, line 9] the Vokes family a precocious family of dancers, singers and comedians, pre-eminent in pantomime in London between 1868 and 1880. They often appeared in the United States and also visited Paris and Canada

[Page 206, line 10] Judic Anne Marie Louise Judic (1850-1911) A famous French actress and singer, who was a very great favourite in London. Mrs Belloc Lowndes refers to her warmly in Where Love and Friendship Dwelt, comparing her favourably with the great Sarah Bernhardt. There is a fuller note of her career in KJ 130 for June 1959, in a letter from A. J. C. Tingey (p.24).

[Page 206, line 20] martello towers these circular forts, spaced at irregular intervals along the south-east coast, from Seaford in East Sussex to Aldeburgh in Suffolk, were copied from a tower at Mortella Point in Corsica which put up a gallant defence against part of Lord Hood’s fleet in 1794. They were built between 1804 and 1812 as a defence against a possible invasion by French forces during the Napoleonic wars. (They were also built elsewhere in the British Empire during the 19th century.) Here the reference is to the six or seven towers which stood – some still stand – on the shores of Pevensey Bay, just east of Eastbourne: the “green flats” (lines 20-21) are Pevensey Level which, although now much built-over along the coastal fringe, is still well-used for grazing cattle.

[Page 206, line 22] J.P. Justice of the Peace. A lay magistrate appointed to administer justice in the lowest courts. The reference, four lines later to “unpaid judiciary” is to J.P.s.

[Page 206, line 28] Long Man of Hillingdon this was clearly suggested by the Long Man of Wilmington, a figure of a man 240 feet long, grasping a staff in each hand, cut through the turf to reveal the chalk below, on the hillside above the village of Wilmington, between Pevensey and Lewes. It is said to be Celtic in origin, though the earliest recorded mention is not until 1710. Such figures are not uncommon in southern England.

The one most nearly comparable in design, size and probable age is the Cerne Giant, near Cerne Abbas in Dorset, a man 180 feet long with a club in his right hand, claimed to be 2000 years old.

Also in Dorset, at Sutton Poyntz east of Weymouth, is a huge mounted figure but this goes back only to 1808,when it was cut to commemorate King George III’s visit to Weymouth. Unkind strangers point out that the monarch is shown riding away from Weymouth.

Near Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire is Whiteleaf Cross with some claim to antiquity. Wiltshire has nine or ten White Horses, notably at Mark Hill near Alton Barnes, Bratton Downs near Westbury, Cherhill and Pewsey, but none of these is quite as old as the one at Uffington in Berkshire; and some are quite modern. So, of course, are the regimental badges cut in the hillside in World War 1 by the soldiery from the camps at Fovant, just west of Salisbury.

[Page 206, line 31] dorp South African for a small village, usually uttered in a rather disparaging tone of voice. Trevington is a thinly-disguised Jevington, which lies two-and-a-half miles south-east of the Long Man.

[Page 207, line 6] Archangel of the Twilight Archangels feature in the theology of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. In the Christian faith there are seven well-known Archangels, and five lesser ones. None of them, it would seem, is specifically associated with twilight. In English literature, it may be suggested that Paradise Lost, John Milton’s epic poem (written between 1658 and 1667), contains the best-known references to the Archangels.

In Book 1, Satan (a fallen archangel who had rebelled against God) is described as follows:

His form had yet not lost
All her original brightness, nor appeared
Less than Archangel ruined, and th’ excess
Of glory obscured: as when the sun new-risen
Looks through the horizontal misty air
Shorn of his beams, or, from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes monarchs.

One of the alternative names for Satan is Lucifer, meaning “Morning Star” – and the Morning Star is visible at dawn twilight, before the sun rises. (We tend to think of twilight as being at evening, but of course twilight occurs just before sunrise, as well as just after sunset.) It would thus seem that Satan may be the archangel referred to, and the phrase may be interpreted as “drove like the devil”.
[Our thanks to George Simmers and Geoffrey Maloney who provided the reference and suggested interpretation: Ed.]

[Page 207, line 10] commodore the ORG noted that a commodore was ‘properly, a post captain with the temporary status of a flag officer; but at this period [1902] destroyer officers and ratings frequently conferred the title of “the commodore” [N.B., a lower-case ‘c’] upon the Commander in command of a flotilla of six or eight destroyers.’

For some three centuries and more, a commodore in the Royal Navy was, in effect, a temporary appointment: but in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, he became an anomaly. The Army and later the Air Force interposed a specific rank (Brigadier and Air Commodore, respectively) between the Colonel and the General List, and between Group Captain and the Air List: the Royal Navy had no such rank – most Captains (if they were going to become Flag Officers) went direct to Rear-Admiral.

If one was appointed as a Commodore, one reverted to Captain on completion of that appointment. (Thus, until 1999, you would never find retired naval officers of commodore’s rank, propping up the bar in the golf club, though you might find retired Brigadiers or retired Air Commodores). In 1999, the Royal Navy had to come into line with the other two services, and Commodore is now a proper rank, between Captain and Rear-Admiral. (It was perceived by the other services that Captains RN, enjoyed an advantage in entitlement to retired pay over their counterparts in those services, since every Captain RN, on attaining six years seniority – as most did – became entitled to a Commodore’s retired pay, whereas in the Army and RAF, only those promoted to Brigadier or Air Commodore (perhaps 50% of the Colonels’ or Group Captains’ list) were so entitled.

[Page 207, line 15] S’welp me a vulgar contraction of the conclusion of the oath sworn by witnesses in a court of law “… so help me, God.”

[Page 207, line 25] metalled roads a properly made road, as opposed to a cart-track. Road metal meant the stones and gravel which constituted the base and surface of a road in those days. It is still used (2008) to refer to the tar-macadam which makes the surface layer of most roads today..

[Page 208, line 7] sounding whale a whale is said to ‘sound’ when it dives from the surface, frequently flinging its tail up well clear of the surface as it does so.

[Page 208, line 8] fifteen-foot deep bridle-path a bridle-path is a public right of way for ridden or led animals (pack-horses) and pedestrians. In general terms, in England, public rights of way consist of highways, open to all traffic, vehicular, horse-drawn or pedestrian, subject to national and/or local bye-laws, e.g., as to load, speed limits, etc; bridleways, or bridle-paths, as above; and public footpaths, for pedestrians only (cf. An Habitation Enforced page 33, line 28).

In the Sussex Weald especially, and also in Devon, the tracks of many lanes and paths have been formed or eroded by the action of water over the centuries, and the lanes have become deeper with the passing years. The word “chute” (line 13) describes the appearance of this path exactly. Such ways are not easy to ride down on a horse, either.

[Page 208, line 12] hammer-pond as correspondence in the Kipling Journal suggests some confusion of thought about various types of pond described by Kipling, we summarise information kindly contributed by a number of members.

A pond, according to the dictionary, is artificially constructed by digging or damming, but English usage admits some exceptions, in typically English fashion.

A hammer-pond, also known as a furnace-pond, was constructed in the course of a stream or small river to collect a static head of water sufficient to work a pair of bellows for a forge or furnace, or to drive a wheel lifting a hammer which was dropped on an iron billet hot enough to be malleable. Many of those found in Sussex go back to the 14th century when the county’s iron industry was being developed. The name ‘hammer -” or “- hammer” usually indicates where such workings were sited (e.g., Hammer, Hammer Pot, Abinger Hammer, etc.).

Dew ponds are shallow ponds without an outlet,for agricultural or drinking purposes (livestock). The earliest were made by hill farmers and shepherds in Neolithic times to provide water when the low-lying land was dangerous or inaccessible. They are most common on the Sussex Downs (cf the poem ‘Only the dew pond on the height / Unfed, that never fails’). In Sussex, the watertight layer at the bottom of a pond is made up of puddled chalk – pulverised chalk, mixed with water to a plastic consistency, and spread over the bed of the excavation and the margins. Elsewhere, the bed may be puddled clay with straw interleaving two or more layers. Edward Martin, writing earlier in the 20th century observed:

The whole secret of getting the bottom to be waterproof lies in the finely-divided condition to which the chalk or clay is reduced. This is frequently done by driving a team of horses and a broad-wheeled cart round and round the pond for an hour or more each day, so as to reduce to powder any lumps that remain. An old labourer told me that when he was a boy he was employed for this purpose. After the broad-wheeled cart had done its work, the puddle was flattened out with a spade, until it was quite smooth. The margin was treated in the same way, and thus nearly all the rain that fell ran down into the pond. When the bottom is made of clay it is the practice to mix the puddle with a certain amount of lime, and this prevents the working of worms. These creatures can be very destructive to the waterproof bottom of a pond.

It is also suggested that the term ‘dew pond’ is a misnomer, since dew condensing out of the atmosphere could never do so in sufficient quantity to keep a pond filled. Rather, they should be called ‘mist-ponds’. The mist and rain keep the pond supplied in a place where there are no springs and streams.

A Mill-pond is generally similar to a hammer pond, requiring a flow of water, but its main function is to provide a reserve for the water-mill in time of drought and it may not require such a head of water.

Duck ponds and fish ponds were primarily for the purposes implied by their names: farm ponds and village ponds were primarily for watering livestock – though for 50 years, from about 1875 to 1925 village ponds were also much utilised as sources of water for steam-powered road engines. (cf, ‘The Vortex’, (A Diversity of Creatures, p. 385, lines 26-30). Many are rain catchment hollows, but some are fed by springs, and they may owe little or nothing to artificial operations.

[Page 208, line 31] woods … so untouched that William Rufus might have ridden off as we entered … William Rufus (c.1056-1100) was the son of William the Conqueror (Duke William of Normandy, who became William I of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. William Rufus reigned as William II from 1087 until his death thirteen year later by an arrow from an unknown hand, probably a Saxon one. He was called ‘rufus’ because of his red hair.

[Page 209] In his Kipling’s Sussex Revisited, R. Thurston Hopkins writes:

… beyond any question of doubt this scene (at the end of the tale) is framed by the Furnace Ponds of Leonardslee, near Lower Beeding, Here Sir Edmund Loder (2nd. Baronet, 1849-1920) converted the banks of the Hammer ponds … into sheltered gardens.
[In 2008, they are celebrated for their displays of rhododendrons and azaleas in late Spring.] On the slopes many foreign animals have been acclimatised, and the visitor will find in the paddocks antelopes, zebras, springboks, prairie dogs and kangaroos, while below, beavers build on the streams and lakelets.

The Kiplings visited Leonardslee from 15th to 17th July 1902, so the author would have had recent memories of the setting.

[Page 209, line 9] zebra it is customary to refer to the generality of a species of animal, especially game animals, in the singular, rather than the plural (e.g., he’s gone to hunt lion). Kipling uses the construction elsewhere (“A Walking Delegate” (The Day’s Work, page 76, lines 22- 33).

[Page 209, line 12] Burchell’s Equus Burchelli, the most common species of zebra in central Africa.

[Page 209, line 20] Captain Nemo the hero of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea (1869), one of the pioneering flights of scientific fancy by Jules Verne (1828-1905).


©Alastair Wilson 2008 All rights reserved