Scottish, Irish, French, German, Austrian, Italian, Serbian, Russian, Americanand probably even Turk, who flocked to the colours in the Great War, knew justone line of French literature, it would have been the translation into their ownlanguage of Alexandre Dumas’ ‘Un pour Tous, Tous pour Un’. Dumas hasD’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers say this only once, but ‘One for All andAll for One’ resounded around a world so eager for this sentiment. It had anecho in Ireland:
Now boys pull together in all sorts of weather Don’t show the white feather wherever you goAct each as a brother and help one another Like true hearted men from the County Mayo.
A white feather had long been held in the British army and evidently outside it,to be a sign of cowardice. Its origin was in cockfighting where it was supposedthat a bird with a white feather was a cross-breed and an inferior fighter. Its usewas encouraged from the beginning of the Great War - men who were slow torespond to the nation’s call to arms were at risk of being given a white feather by the young women they knew. It was a very effective recruiting device.The millions of men – and the women behind them – who cheered for the GreatWar, had been brought up on loyalty, duty, blind obedience, and fear of beingshamed. Kipling was born into this world and by his works he reinforced itsvalues. He was rewarded by unusual success very early in life.More can be found on Patrick Neafsy than the typical soldier of the Great War for two reasons. The individual service records of many British regiments weredestroyed by bombing in the Second World War, but we are fortunate that thoseof the Irish Guards survive. We are also fortunate that as John Kipling had beenan Irish Guards officer, the regiment could ask his father to write their GreatWar history. The two volumes Kipling produced contain much detail that would be otherwise difficult to get at, if recorded at all.The sources available for this piece are therefore Kipling’s own works; whatothers wrote about Kipling, what Kipling wrote about the Irish Guards, and, asit turned out, a work from which Kipling chose to quote.