John Kipling

By Guest Author: Jack Seabrook, aged 14

The name Rudyard Kipling would be familiar to most of you for he was the author of the children’s story “The Jungle Book”, but what about his only son, John Kipling.

John Kipling was born on 17 August 1897 in Rottingden, Sussex. He was the third and youngest child of Rudyard Kipling and his wife Caroline Starr Balestier.

John was only 16 when war broke out in 1914. He tried to enlist but was unsuccessful. He was rejected by the Royal Navy for being short sighted. The Army rejected him for similar reasons. It was looking unlikely that John would ever get into the Armed Forces, but his father who worked for the British Government writing propaganda was determined to help him.

His father used his friendship with 1st Earl Frederick Roberts to gain a commission for John. Roberts was commander of the British Army, along with being Colonel of the Irish Guards. Through this friendship, John on his seventeenth birthday was given some very surprising news he was commissioned to be a Second Lieutenant in the British Army.

After John completed his training he was sent to France in August 1915. His father Rudyard Kipling was already there, serving as a war correspondent.

The casualty rate for young junior officers in the trenches was extremely high and a junior officer was exactly what John was. Usually the average life expectancy for a junior officer in the trenches was six weeks, before becoming a casualty of war.

battle of loos x

In September 1915 John was reported missing in action during the Battle of Loos. There has been much controversy over the death of John Kipling, which continues even now. It is believed that a shell blast had blown off his face and that he died that day however this could not be proved at that time.

John’s parents were very concerned about their son and wanted to know what had happened to him. They searched Field Hospitals and they even asked fellow comrades, if they had any information about John.

On 7 October 1915 the Times newspaper published a notice that John Kipling was indeed “wounded and missing.”

Now believing that his son John was dead, Rudyard Kipling became inspired to write a poem that a few of you may have heard. It was also the basis for a 2007 film “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.

John Kipling died at 18 years of age, the only son of Rudyard Kipling. John had fulfilled his wish to serve in the armed forces though sadly this was to be short lived. This had been made possible by the endeavours of his father. These endeavours were to torment Rudyard Kipling for the rest of his life.

Having your son die at such a young age must be a heartbreaking experience, as it was for Rudyard Kipling. He deeply wanted to pay respects to his sons grave so spent his entire life searching for it. Sadly he died having never found it.

John’s grave was finally identified in 1922 in a cemetery in Haisnes, France. “Lieutenant John Kipling Irish Guards, 27 September 1915 Aged 18”.

There still remains controversy that this is not the true grave of John Kipling.

John Kipling Quiz

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