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72 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and deeply moving, 7 Mar 1999
By A Customer
The English writer Rudyard Kipling spent the last twenty years of his life in an obsessive, fruitless search for his only son John (Jack), who had gone missing during the Battle of Loos in 1915. John was barely 18, had only got into the army through his father's influence (he was medically unfit), and was last seen struggling through the carnage, shot in the mouth and weeping. His body was never found.
Major and Mrs Holt are renowned experts on the First World War and this is probably their best book yet. (The title is taken from Kipling's poem 'Have You News of My Boy Jack?') Many biographies of Rudyard Kipling describe the loss of John, but this is the first biography of John himself. Through painstaking and meticulous research, the Holts have built a detailed reconstruction of John's life and character. The story is told with honesty and compassion, but without lapsing into sentimentality. It is fascinating, compulsively readable, and deeply touching. The book also contains new evidence to suggest that, sadly, the recent "discovery" of John Kipling's grave is almost certainly erroneous.
Those who have read other books by Major and Mrs Holt will be familiar with their warm but down-to-earth narrative style. In this case, however, they have not only written a first class biography of a tragic victim of the Great War, they have, in some small measure, given John Kipling his life back. -- Rebecca Mazonowicz (author of 'This Wretched Splendour')
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book, 1 Mar 2010
This book really moved me. Im fascinated by Rudyard Kipling and this gives a very small insight into the genius mind of Mr Kipling. Very sad tale of being a parent and war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A death at Loos..., 31 Mar 2013
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: My Boy Jack? (Paperback)
If you drive around certain areas in northeast France and Belgium, you will come across small cemeteries, seemingly every few miles. Most of these are British cemeteries - now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. If you stop and walk amid the graves, you'll see most are identified by a cross or Star-of-David and bear a soldier's name, rank, and age. They mark the remains of members of the armies of, first, the British Empire, and later British Commonwealth countries, killed in action in Europe in WW1 and WW2.

But some of the graves are not marked with the names of the soldiers buried within. The bodies of those soldiers remained unidentified; too grievously injured to make recognition possible. Sometimes the rank of the unidentified soldier CAN be identified by whatever uniform he may have worn when his body was found. And for all those young men whose bodies were never found - blown apart in battle, perhaps - most cemeteries also have a memorial where those names are listed.

And in one of these small cemeteries lies the newly identified body of Lt John Kipling, son of Rudyard Kipling, who was killed on September 27, 1915, at the Battle of Loos. John Kipling died in his first battle. He was a few weeks past his 18th birthday when he died, but had joined the Irish Guards when he was 17. John's father was a proponent of the war and had pulled some strings to get his only son in the Guards, despite John's weakened eyesight. After John was reported to his parents as "missing", the Kiplings pulled out all the stops trying to find what happened to their son. They had many important friends and family members in high government and army positions, but there was never any definitive proof where young John was killed. His body was never identified and his name was posted on a war memorial. And then, eighty years after his death, a body of a "lieutenant", previously unidentified, was dug up and identified as that of John Kipling. He was reburied under his own name. But was the body really that of Lieutenant John Kipling? Was he still a 2nd lieutenant when he was killed, or had his advancement to full lieutenant been finalised? These and many other questions are considered in "My Boy Jack", written by British historians, Valmai and Tonie Holt.

Tonie Holt and Valmai Holt are "Major and Mrs Holt", writers of guide books and owners of a battle field touring company. And if the Holts can guide as well as they can write, their tours must be very good, indeed. In this book, "My Boy Jack", the Holt's write a concise biography of Rudyard Kipling and his family, and also provide a masterful look at the politics and military actions of the time. The Holts also writes about the formation of the "Imperial War Graves Commission" and how Kipling was one of its earliest advisers. And the last part of the book examines how DNA and other modern scientific advances have aided in the possible identification of those bodies previously unidentified. But there's no definitive proof that the body examined in 1992 WAS that of John Kipling. The Holts present both sides of the controversy and lets readers decide. They also include updates from 2001 and 2006 in the Kindle edition.

The Holt's book is an exceptional look at a young man and his famous family and their position in English society. John Kipling's death was only one of many but has been commemorated beautifully by Valmai and Tonie Holt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Happy Shopper, 30 Oct 2010
W. Marshall - See all my reviews
This review is from: My Boy Jack? (Paperback)
This is a wonderful, poignant, tragi-comic book, even for those who are not (yet) Kipling fans. I dislike and try to avoid cliches, but once started, I found it difficult to put down
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Kipling family and the First World War, 2 July 2013
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This review is from: My Boy Jack? (Paperback)
Tonie and Valmai Holt have written some of the best guidebooks to Battlefields of the First World War, and have led tours there for many years. This, like all their books, is meticulously researched and extremely well-written.

We read of Rudyard Kipling, in late Victorian and early Edwardian times considered Britain's greatest living writer and poet, and one of the most famous men in the world, concentrating on his family life. After the tragic early death of his eldest daughter, Kipling became engrossed in all areas of the life of his young son, sending him to Wellington College, a military public school, even though Eton, where his friends and cousins went would have been a kinder choice for the boy.

Kipling used his influence to get the delicate John Kipling a commission in the 2nd Irish Guards, but within weeks of going to the Western Front John was reported as missing at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. The sad acceptance that he was dead and the search for his body occupied the Kiplings for many years, and led to Rudyard's deep involvement with the Commonwealth War Grave Commission.

In the final section of the book the Holts take us step by step through the recent decision to identify the grave of an unknown lieutenant of the Irish Guards as that of John Kipling, questioning whether the facts really support this re-identification. They don't, and I understand that these days the CWGC are well aware of their probable blunder.

This is a valuable book which casts new light on Kipling as a husband and parent, and there is new biographical material on John Kipling. We also get an excellent view of the much-neglected battle of Loos - at that time the biggest battle in which the British had ever fought.

But the drawback of the book is the amount of padding - we are given far too much flabby detail - letters are quoted in full when a summery would be fine, and unnecessary verses of poems quoted. A thorough pruning would make this an even better book which could still have been every bit as scholarly as it undoubtedly is already. Then, suddenly, in the last chapter the Holts are in their element: "Is it really Jack?" is tersely and logically-written and the arguments set out with devastating efficiency; and of course, sadly, the answer to the chapter question is almost certainly "no". Rather fascinatingly, at the very end of the newest edition the Holts give a far more likely candidate for the body in the grave of the Irish lieutenant at St Mary ADS Cemetery.
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My Boy Jack?
My Boy Jack? by Valmai Holt (Paperback - 18 Oct 2007)
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