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My Boy Jack John Kipling

John Kipling in the uniform of the Irish Guards (cap badge, tunic buttons in fours).

Grave tombe

Lt John Kipling's "official grave".

John "Jack" Kipling (17 August 1897 - 27 September 1915) was the only son of the British author Rudyard Kipling. At only 18 years old, he was killed at the Battle of Loos while serving with the British Army during the First World War. He is a central character in the play My Boy Jack and its film adaptation.

Biographical notesEdit

Kipling was born at the home of his parents, The Elms, Rottingdean, Sussex in 1897. His parents were the author Rudyard Kipling and his American wife Caroline Starr Balestier. He was educated at Wellington College in Berkshire. He had an older sister, Josephine, but she died. He also had another older sister called Elsie, also with the nickname "bird".

Kipling the father was a keen imperialist patriot, and was keen that his son should see active service. John Kipling however was rejected by the Royal Navy due to severe short-sightedness. He was also initially rejected from the British Army for similar reasons. However, his father was friends with Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, commander of the British Army, and Colonel of the Irish Guards, and through this influence, Kipling was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion of the Irish Guards in August 1914.[1]

The casualty rate amongst junior officers in the trenches was extremely high, much higher than NCOs or other ranks - on average, a junior officer leading from the front survived six weeks before becoming a casualty (killed or injured).[2]

Kipling was reported injured and missing in action in September 1915 during the Battle of Loos. A shell blast had apparently ripped off his face. With fighting continuing, his body was not identified.

His parents searched vainly for him in field hospitals and interviewed comrades to try to identify what had happened. A notice was published in The Times on October 7, 1915 confirming the known facts were that he was "wounded and missing".

The death of John inspired Rudyard Kipling to become involved with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and write a wartime history of the Irish Guards. The poem My Boy Jack also alludes to the wartime loss of a son, although its themes are rather nautical.

The Grave of Kipling was reportedly identified in 1992, and he is officially listed as buried in St Mary's ADS Cemetery in Haisnes [3] However, other research suggests that this grave may be of another officer, that of Arthur Jacob of the London Irish Rifles.[4][5] A biography, including this research was published by military historian Tonie Holt to coincide with the film (see below).

My Boy JackEdit

The play My Boy Jack was written in 1997 by David Haig. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 2007. Daniel Radcliffe played Jack Kipling. It was critically acclaimed.


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