David (and Jan) Crouch gave us a most interesting and informative talk about the life and work of Rudyard Kipling. They are members of the Kipling Society and are keen advocates of his place in our literary and social scene. Kipling’s literary work ( 1865-1931) is marked out in his poetic advocacy of the important but under-noted role of the ordinary soldier in the British Army and its wars. His poems and songs about “Tommy Atkins” depicted the stoical position of the soldier who fronted in the battles, but seldom received the acclaim given to the officers. His book of Bombardier stories was a great seller.
He was born in India to a wealthy family, was brought up in a largely Indian-run household, and throughout his life, he showed great love and admiration of the Indian people. His early literary career was started when he was a reporter for a leading Indian paper. From this came such masterpieces as “The Jungle Book” and “If” ; at a lesser level he wrote ditties for the music halls which became popular with the soldiery as marching songs and morale boosters.
Kipling’s social notability came from his concern for the war graves of the fallen in the Boer Wars and the 1914-18 campaigns. He became a member of the War Graves Commission, advocating the sanctity of the sites and the management of them. He wrote words of dedication that appear on all British war graves. In particular, he was concerned at the neglect of those for whom there was no known grave.. He worked to ensure that their name was recognised properly and heroically.
David and Jan’s talk was a cross-act with the narrative largely led by Jan, whilst the poetry and quotations were read by David. It was a craftsman‘s work – beautifully written and spoken with clarity and precision. A very great talk and one much appreciated by members.