Published in The Wykehamist, December 1915, pp. 473-74 Collected in A Book of Words, Macmillan, London, 1928.
Kipling was speaking at the opening of Winchester College’s new rifle range, dedicated to the memory of George Cecil (1895-1914), killed early in the First World War. Cecil was the son of friends of the Kiplings, Lord Edward Cecil (1867-1918) and Lady Edward, later Lady Milner (1872-1958), and grandson of the former Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury (1830-1903).
Kipling’s only son John had been killed at the Battle of Loos on 27th September, aged eighteen.
Kipling recalled George Cecil’s deeds and his death and paid tribute to the younger generation. He encouraged the current pupils of Winchester to prepare themselves for the future, many of them as soldiers. He was aware that, like George Cecil, many of them would die in arms. He also talked of the re-establishment of civilisation in which the survivors would play a part when the war was over.
Notes on the Text
(the page and line numbers below refer to the Uniform Edition of A Book of Words Macmillan, London 1928)
[Page 123, lines 12-13] the long retreat from Mons the allied armies retreated towards the Marne, and later Paris, after the Battle of Mons on 23 August 1914. There were heavy allied losses at the Battle of Le Cateau in late August and a number of smaller battles took place during the retreat.
[Page 123, line 14] Villers Cotterets a town in Picardy in Northern France. The British army fought a rearguard action in the nearby forest during the retreat from Mons, and George Cecil was killed during this action.
[Page 124, line 9] Sandhurst the Royal Military College in Surrey from 1802. Now the Royal Military Academy.
[Page 127, line 9] It is well to die for one’s country Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, Horace, Odes, III, 2.
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