Fore & Aft

The Drums of the Fore and Aft is one of Rudyard Kipling’s children stories about a restless young drummer and his piper companion whose regiment has been all but routed by the Afghan enemy. Left behind on the battle field, ‘fortified by blind courage and canteen rum’, they play the The British Grenadiers, encouraging their demoralised regiment to return to the battlefield and snatch back victory. The two lads are killed, of course, but their actions save the regiment’s pride. The author probably based it on the defeat of the British at the 1880 battle of Maiwand. Kipling is too sentimental and patriotic for modern taste, but his story has all the worthwhile morality lessons one might expect from a high Victorian.

When we read of the suffering of persecuted brethren around the globe, may we take courage. The same God who supplies them with the strength they need to survive the North Korean slave labour camps or the Iraqi death squads, will provide for our needs also. And as they shed their blood and receive the martyrs’ crown, may our feeble complaints about ‘not finding the right church’ or ‘being too busy to pray’ fade from our lips.

Picture: The Drums of the Fore and Aft by E.M. Hale, 1852-1924, Leeds Art Gallery