Outlook Issue 25 Spring 2018
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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The Drummer Boy
The statue of The Drummer Boy, which used to stand in front of the council offices on Melton Hill, has now been relocated to its new home on the Market Hill below the Shire Hall. On a freezing morning in early March, a brave crowd collected to witness its official inauguration and unveiling by the Mayor, Clare Perkins, to loud cheers and applause. The statue is one of the heroes of a Rudyard Kipling story ‘The Drums of the Fore and Aft’. Jakin and Lew, a pair of ne’er-do-well, drinking, smoking, fourteen-year-old orphans, who join the band of a rather unsteady regiment, are nicknamed ‘Fore and Aft’. When the soldiers are sent to a frontier battle in Afghanistan, Jakin and Lew find themselves left alone in no-man’s-land when the regiment breaks and runs under a fierce Ghazi attack, but these two bravely rally the troops by continuing to play a march (rather badly) on their own before they are unfortunately killed. The statue was sculpted in 1901-1902 by Arnold Allen Cecil Keppel (1858-1942), who became the 8 th Earl of Albermarle in 1894. The Keppel family came to England from the Netherlands with William and Mary, and included an admiral and one previous earl, who was sent into the army, aged 16, after being expelled from Westminster School, just in time to join a British Infantry square at the Battle of Waterloo. Leader of men Keppel was not a professional artist, but a politician (an MP from 1892-94). He then became a peer on succeeding his father to the earldom, and was also a soldier who commanded the Prince of Wales’ own Civil Service Rifles from 1892-1901. He led the Infantry section of a 1,500 strong corps of City of London imperial volunteers in the Second Boer War in 1900. The volunteer forces were often kept away from direct combat roles in the Boer War; however, Keppel’s companies, though inexperienced, distinguished themselves at the Battle of Dornkop on 29 May 1900. The fact that Keppel had led an inexperienced unit going into battle against a determined and resourceful enemy means that the story of ‘The Drums of the Fore and Aft’ would certainly have had real resonance for him. John Davis