My Boy Jack
Posted on January 18th, 2011

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge

 The English poet, short-story writer, and the novelist Rudyard Kipling was a fanatical believer of the British Empire instigated his son to join the Royal Army and fight against Germany during the World War 1.   His son Jack Kipling was deemed medically unfit for military due to his poor eyesight.  Although Jack failed in the medical test, Rudyard Kipling   influenced the Military hierarchy and managed to send him to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

 Jack Kipling was commissioned as a second lieutenant and joined the Irish Guards. Shortly after the passing out he was posted to the Western Front. He spent relatively a little time in the battlefield. Several days after his 18th birthday Jack Kipling died in action at the Battle of Loos in 1915.  Jack’s death was a shocking blow to Rudyard Kipling and his family was in a denial stage for a long time.  Until 1919, Rudyard family believed that Jack was wounded in the battle and taken as a POW.

 In 1915, soon after Jack was pronounced MIA (missing in action) Rudyard Kipling wrote his famous poem My Boy Jack

 My Boy Jack 

 “Have you news of my boy Jack?”
Not this tide.
“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Has any one else had word of him?”
Not this tide.
For what is sunk will hardly swim,
Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”
None this tide,
Nor any tide,
Except he did not shame his kind “”‚
Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

Then hold your head up all the more,
This tide,
And every tide;
Because he was the son you bore,
And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

 In 1919, Kipling family met a soldier who was in Jack’s platoon and witnessed the death of Lt (Jack) John Kipling. According to the soldier’s account, it was a rainy day and the trenches were filled with mud and water.  When the British trooped advanced near the German lines the enemy attacked them with machinegun fire.  Jack with his impaired vision may have had little chances. He sustained gun shot injuries to his leg and then to his chest. He died within several minutes.  His body wan never found.

 From the Great War to up to date millions of parents have lost their sons in numerous battles.  Their agony is parallel to the anguish experienced by Kiplings.

 In 1997, I worked as the Medical Officer In Charge at the Kollongoda Government Hospital in the Minipe region and one of my staff members named Podisekara lost his son during the Jayasikuru Military Operation.  Podisekara was an attendant attached to the Kollongoda Government Hospital and he was a good worker.  

 Podisekara ‘s boy was a private in the Sri Lanka Army and posthumously he was promoted to Lance Corporal rank.  It was a devastating moment and I still recall how Podisekara and his wife cried for their lost son. The mental agony that was experienced by Podisekara in 1997 was much similar to what Rudyard Kipling experienced in 1915.

 Jack and Podisekara’s son fought for their respective countries. Both died in action   young without getting a chance to experience life. Their deaths left a deep void in the hearts of their parents and they never had peace after the sons were gone.

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