The Way that he Took

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 Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, as published and frequently reprinted between 1923 and 1950.

[Page 25 line 8] ambushed in this context concealed troops, waiting to surprise the enemy– here the classic ‘masked battery’.

[Page 25 line 12] gums in this context probably the eucalyptus tree (family Myrtaceae), of which there are some five hundred species.)

[Page 26 line 11] Leviathan a mythical sea-monster mentioned in the Old Testament and usually identified with the whale. Something very large.

[Page 26 line 17] loyal Dutch here used sarcastically.

[Page 26 line 25] Cape-cart two-wheeled horse-drawn vehicle with a characteristic hood.
tilted wagon a covered four-wheeled vehicle, drawn by oxen, horses or donkeys.

[Page 27 line 11] Mounted Infantry an apparent contradiction in terms, but they were foot-soldiers who had been given a little tuition in equitation so horses could take them into action, but they fought on foot. See the verses “M.I.” (It was said that if the Boers sighted a party of unidentified horsemen, they fired a shell in their general direction; if most of them fell off, they were British, if they galloped away smartly, they were Boers!)

[Page 27 line 14] precious forage Securing an adequate supply of fodder for transport animals was always a problem.

[Page 27 line 20] Ambulance Train See ORG Volume 5 p. 2249 for brief details of “With Number Three” collected in the Sussex Edition with the sub-heading “A Journey with a Hospital Train from Cape Town to the North during the South African War.” It is collected in Volume XXX, Sussex Edition and Volume XXIII the Burwash Edition with the verses: “Pharaoh and the Sergeant”.

Other items comcerning the war include -“White Horses” “Kitchener’s School” “The White Man’s Burden” “The Absent-Minded Beggar” (Set to music by Sullivan and, free of copyright, to raise some quarter of a million pounds for comforts for the troops, see Something of Myself, p. 150) and Byron Farwell, The Great Boer War (Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1999) , p. 54; “A Song of the White Men” “A New ‘Auld Lang Syne’” (collected in Volume XXXV Sussex Edition and Volume XXVIII Burwash Edition), and three untitled verses beginning: ‘All the world over, nursing their scars…’ collected in Definitive Verse.

[Page 27 line 25] a leaky tube Alastair Wilson writes: One of the 150 or so tubes that take the heat from the fire-box tube-plate to the smokebox at the front of the engine may “weep” or a tube split in the middle with a danger of extinguishing the fire and blowing-back into the cab to injure the crew. It is possible, however, once the boiler is blown down, the water-level reduced to below the offending tube(s) and most of the fire dropped, to plug the offending tubes – once identified – and proceed with reduced pressure to where a replacement engine is available. Three hours might well be sufficient for such a repair. [A.W]


For more on railways, see “The Bold ‘Prentice” later in this volume and “Among the Railway Folk” (From Sea to Sea, Volume 2).

[Page 27 line 29] Sister in this context a senior nurse – usually older than twenty-four [Page 28, line 9] and always treated with great respect by the soldiers as they served in or very near the front line.

[Page 28 line 14] Karroo an elevated plateau in south-west South Africa (right), some 4000 feet (1333 metres) above sea-level.

[Page 28 line 15] ballast in this context large gravel or small stones used for the bed of the railway.

[Page 28 line 22] they-ah her pronunciation of ‘there’ is a hint that she was brought up in South Africa – see page 32, line 16 and Page 51, line 9.

[Page 28 line 23] Oudtshorn about 220 miles east of Capetown.

[Page 29 line 20] Matjesfontein a halt on the railway just South of Kimberley where James Douglas Logan (1857-1920) purchased four farms which he developed as a spa and hotel. During the South Afircan War it became Headquarters, Cape Western Command, a Base Hospital and the site of an unsuccessful fight with the Boers in 1899.
lungs consumptives found the dry air beneficial

[Page 30 line 6] pump in this context, making him a little short of breath.

[Page 30 line 10] Vat jou goet en trek, Ferriera etc the song is again quoted on page 50 of this story and reminds the Captain of his meeting with the Sister. It is collected in Volume 16, Sussex Edition and Volume 14, Burwash Edition. The first line is quoted in “The Song of the Banjo”, and “Our Overseas Men” (Letters of Travel, p. 48) (ORG.volume 3, page

[Page 31 line 7] Transvaalers citizens of the Boer Republic settled in the 1830s and 40s by the ‘Voortrekkers’ from Cape Colony who wished to escape British rule. It became a British colony after the war and a Province of the Union of South Africa in 1910. (Byron Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1999 , p. 7)

[Page 31 line 8] Kimberley chief town and mining district some 650 miles by rail north-east of Capetown.
Rhodes Cecil John Rhodes, 1853-1902) Sometime Prime Minister of Cape Colony and architect of a united South Africa; a friend of Kipling who wrote his epitaph. See Charles Carrington, p.186 and passim, also Something of Myself, p. 96 and passim. The Boers regarded him as an enemy.

[Page 31 line 10] De Aar district, town and railway junction north-east of Capetown on the line to Kimberley and the North.

[Page 31 line 15] Prieska on the south bank of the Orange River at the foot of the Doringberg, Northern Cape.

[Page 31 line 16] Van Wyk’s Vlei a village in the Northern Cape.

[Page 32 line 19] schel- she nearly said skelm (pronounced with two syllables as skellum) meaning ‘rogue’ or ‘useless person’.

[Page 32 line 21] Oudtshorn on the railway between Capetown and Port Elizabeth.

[Page 32 line 22] Paarl a wine-growing district and summer resort 46 miles by rail from Capetown.

[Page 32 line 28] aide-de-camp an officer acting as assistant to a senior officer. In this instance social secretary to the Governor.

[Page 32 line 29] Government House residence of the Governor.

[Page 33 line) 4] Craddock now shown (with one “D”) on the railway north of Port Elizabeth,

[Page 33 line 10] all Greek a slang expression meaning ‘incomprehensible’.

[Page 34 line 20] kraal an African village enclosed by a fence, or, as in this case an enclosure of thorns

[Page 34 line 28] half-a-crown a beautiful sterling coin from pre-decimal days – two shillings and sixpence, or twelve and a half pence.

[Page 35 line 14] meer-cats Suricata tetradactyla, a type of mongoose found at the Cape.

[Page 35 line 15] buck in this context, perhaps the springbok (Gazella cuchore), the national symbol of South Africa.
Guy’s the famous hospital and medical school in London founded by Thomas Guy (1644/5-1724)

[Page 36 line 10] Kaffir in this context, applied to certain tribes in South Africa; not to be confused with inhabitants of Kafiristan, between Afghanistan and Kashmir.

[Page 36 line 11] sjamboked beaten with a whip made from rhinoceros-hide.

[Page 37 line 14] kopjes the characteristic hills of South Africa – commanding the plains, they were scenes of much fighting.

[Page 37 line 23] commando the classic military formation of the Boer Republics, all white males between 16 and 60 being liable for service and to attend annual military camps, somewhat similar to the system explained in “The Army of a Dream” (Traffics and Discoveries). See Nasson, Chapter 2 and passim.

[Page 38 line 8] Beaufort West on the railway between Worcester and Kimberley.

De Aar see page 31 line 10 above.

[Page 38 line 11] The President Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (1825-1904) President of the Transvaal 1883-1900.

[Page 38 line 13] Mausers rifles developed by the German Paul Mauser (1838-1914)

[Page 38 line 26] Port Elizabeth a port some 440 miles by sea east of Capetown.

[Page 39 line 4] Worcester about 70 miles north-east of Capetown.

[Page 39 line 8] Stormberg about 525 miles east-north-east of Capetown.

[Page 39 line 16] helio-station the heliograph was a signaling-system with mirrors which reflected the sun, using the Morse code. See the verse “A Code of Morals” for a light-hearted glimpse of it in use.

[Page 39 line 19] pickets in this context small parties of soldiers ahead of the main body of troops to give warning of an impending attack.

[Page 41 line 7] Koopman’s Kop kop is Africaans for a hill – Koopman is probably the farmer on whose land it is situated.

[Page 41 line 10] Zwartpan on the Zwartberg Range, east of Capetown.

[Page 41 line 20] Sunnyside we have found a Sunnyside Park Hotel at Parktown, outside Johannesberg but no report of any action there.

[Page 41 line 26] a Red-jacket regiment they must have recently changed into khaki uniforms

[Page 41 line 29] Stellenbosch a fertile farming and wine-growing area some twenty-five miles east of Capetown and an important British base during the war. Officers in need of further training were posted there, those who failed badly were sent home. See Kipling’s poem “Stellenbosch”.

[Page 42 line 17] bayonets short swords that fit on the muzzle of rifles, converting them to spears.

[Page 44 line 15] Stormberg an unsuccessful attack on a Boer position, 10 December 1899, by the British. (Byron Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1999 , p. 113)

[Page 44 lines 26-27) Colonel… newly appointed … by reason of his seniority an age-old controversy and a hint of trouble to come ; see page 53, line 13 onwards and “The Man who would be King” (Wee Willie Winkie, page 206, line 33 and onwards.)

[Page 45 line 3] echelon of squadrons…. cat’s cradle of troops etc. facetious and fictitious troop formations.

[Page 45 lines 6-11] sit their horses unremittingly etc. very poor horse management; the men should dismount every hour or so to give the horses a breather, and move as silently as possible to avoid warning the enemy of their approach.

[Page 45 line 16] Emmaus a village in ancient Palestine; we have not traced one in South Africa.

[Page 45 line 17] a sporting Lee-Enfield a lighter model than the Army issue.

[Page 48 line 24] dismount see the note to page 45, line 6 above.

[Page 49 line 4] Pretoria capital of the Transvaal.

[Page 50 line 15] well-equipped men the Boers replenished their stores and clothing from British trains, supply columns and those killed or captured. (See Byron Farwell, The Great Boer War, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1999, p. 269 passim).

[Page 50 line 21] Vat jou goet en trek, Ferriera See the note to page 30, line 10 above.

[Page. 51 line 9] a queer cadence in her speech She has a slight ‘colonial’ accent.

[Page 52 line 5] a compass … demented by the ironstone a magnetic compass would not indicate magnetic North in such surroundings.

[Page 53 line 14] Colonel this is another of Kipling’s unpleasant, incompetent and stupid colonels. Several appear in Plain Tales from the Hills and elsewhere.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved