Juliette Low had many, many friends from among the military–especially the British armed services, as she lived in England for much of her adult life. She felt she got along well with soldiers and officers. She enjoyed learning about the places they were posted and visiting them there when possible. She wrote letters to her military friends in peacetime and during war. Gen. Sir Robert Baden-Powell may be the best-known of Daisy Low’s military friends, but he was neither the first nor the last of them.
World War I was one of the most terrible conflagrations of all time. Although Daisy was born just before the U.S. Civil War, assisted ill soldiers during the Spanish-American War, and had several acquaintances who served in various postings during the British colonial wars, World War I was particularly horrific because of weapons like chemical gasses and airplanes, and then the influenza pandemic that kept killing even after the guns fell silent.
When World War I began in 1914, Daisy was in England. She watched proudly as old friends donned their uniforms again and joined the battle against the Central Powers. It was more difficult to see their sons and nephews go off to the front. Among the latter was Jack Kipling, the only son of the famous author of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, and his American wife Carrie Kipling. Carrie was a distant relative of Daisy’s, and they had all met not long after Daisy had married and relocated to Great Britain nearly twenty years earlier.
|Carrie and Rudyard Kipling|
Jack Kipling was just seventeen years old when war broke out, and his eyesight was so appallingly bad that he could read only the very top letter on the eyesight chart. Twice he tried to enlist in the British army, and twice he was denied. Driven by patriotic fervor–and over Carrie’s objections–Rudyard Kipling asserted his celebrity status and pulled strings to get Jack into the Irish Guards. Jack trained as an officer for six months, emerging as a lieutenant. He was deployed the day after his eighteenth birthday. In less than a week, Jack Kipling was missing in action.
His parents were distraught. Frantic, Carrie and Rudyard Kipling begged everyone they knew to help them locate their son, including Daisy Low.
Because Daisy was an American and because in 1915 the United States had not yet joined the war, she could communicate with an important source that the Kiplings could not reach: the American Consular Service in Berlin. It was a little, but an important thing to do: Daisy compassionately wrote a letter of inquiry about young Jack Kipling. On behalf of the grief-stricken parents, Daisy Low mailed a letter to England’s enemy, Germany, to ask the American diplomats there if they could please track down the son of the great Rudyard Kipling.
The response from the American Consular Service brought no answers. There were no answers to be had. Not until two long years had passed did a comrade-in-arms vist the Kiplings to confirm what they suspected. Their only son had died at the terrible Battle of Loos in wretched agony.
Very few Europeans were untouched by the first world war. Daisy knew too many young men who perished. Her heart broke every time she learned of one of their deaths. There was no comfort she could give to their parents, her friends. Daisy and Rudyard could swap stories of their experiences in India. With Carrie she could reminisce about the United States and the friends they had in common. But Daisy could share neither Rudyard’s tormenting guilt nor the Kiplings’ unspeakable pain of the loss of their child. She could only pray.
Photos from findagrave.com