Two incorrigible fife and drum boys serving in the British Army on the Afghan frontier hunger for their first taste of combat, despite the reputation of their regiment for cowardice. Story by Rudyard Kipling.

First published as No. 6 in the Indian Railway Library as Wee Willie Winkie and Other Child Stories in 1888 and collected in Wee Willie Winkie and Other Stories in 1895, and in numerous subsequent reprints of that collection.

The story

An untried British regiment is sent to the front in a border war, and finds itself faced by a fanatical band of Muslim fighters, powerful hairy men armed with long knives. The British are driven back and retreat in panic and confusion, but two young drummer boys, Jakin and Lew, are left stranded on the battlefield between the armies. Fortified by blind courage and canteen rum, they decide to shame their regiment into returning to the battle. They march up and down across the front to the strains of “The British Grenadiers”. The regiment turns back and advances on the enemy, this time successfully. The boys are killed, but the battle is won.


It is generally agreed that this story is founded on fact, and that the fight in the story is probably an amalgamation of the disastrous British defeat at Maiwand in July 1880, and the victory at Ahmed Khel on 19 April of the same year, during the 2nd Afghan War (1878-1890)

Lieutenant Colonel R.C. Ayers confirms that there is little doubt that Kipling used the 2nd Afghan War as the setting for “The Drums of the Fore and Aft”, and that Ahmed Khel was the model for the battle he depicts:

As three British/Indian battalions formed up for this battle, a strong force of Ghazis charged from the line of the Afghan regular battalions and initially drove back the 59th Foot who were very hard pressed and giving ground, before the flanking Gurkha and Sikh battalions came to their aid and the charge was repulsed. In the end, with cavalry and infantry support, the Afghan force was driven from the field. There are also echoes of the battle of Charasia from that war, where a battalion of Punjab Infantry, which had previously shown a distinct unwillingness to fight, was brigaded with Highlanders and Gurkhas and another Punjabi battalion to stiffen its resolve.


Escape – The Brute

Escape’s “The Brute” was adapted from the 1906 short story by Joseph Conrad. The story can be found in A Set of Six (1908), a collection of his short stories available online at Wikisource. To read more about Escape’s adaptations of ‘The Brute” and “Typhoon,” click here to read an article published in Conradiana.

As the episode opens in the year 1900, The Apse Family is about to be christened and launched. Young Charley Wilmot and his father go down to the docks to watch, and Charley wishes desperately that he could fulfill his apprenticeship on the beautiful new ship.

As they watch the ceremonies, the unexpected happens. The ship is “launched in blood” and quickly gains a reputation as a murderess, a “brute.” With every voyage, the ship’s reputation for death and trouble increases.

Eventually, Charley does get assigned to The Apse Family as third mate. His older brother, Ned, is first mate and together they hope to break the jinx. Will they, or will “The Brute” continue to cause destruction?

“The Brute” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield and produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell. Dan O’Herlihy played Ned Wilmot and Eric Rolf played Charley Wilmot. Also appearing were Nina Codden, Jeff Corey, Wilms Herbert, and Parley Baer. This episode aired on April 11, 1948.


What a better way to enter the new year than with a double dose of ESCAPE

Escape – Action

Escape’s “Action” was adapted from the 1928 short story by Charles Edward Montague about a suicidal mountain climber.

Christopher Bell, a man with a creeping numbness on one side of his body, believes that the only future ahead of him is one as an invalid. With nothing left to gain by living, he travels to Zinal, Switzerland, where he plans to end his troubles on a mountain cliff.

As he begins his ascent up the Schallijoch Glacier, a pick axe suddenly comes tumbling down from above. Annoyed at first, he soon realizes there are two people above him who need help. He springs into action, and in doing so, changes his life.

“Action” was adapted for Escape by Les Crutchfield and produced/directed by Norman MacDonnell. To their credit, this is one of those instances where Escape’s adaptation could be considered more enjoyable than the original story. Joseph Kearns played Christopher Bell, Louis Van Rooten played Dr. Gollen, and Joan Banks played Mrs. Gollen. Also appearing were Erik Rolf, Marta Mitrovich, Jeff Corey, Ray Lawrence, and Berry Kroeger. This episode aired on April 4, 1948.


Escape – Misfortune’s Isle

Escape’s “Misfortune’s Isle” was adapted from the short story of the same name by Richard Matthews Hallet, which can be found in the November 9, 1929 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. This episode borders on self-parody, but if you read Hallet’s story first, you’ll know why. “Misfortune’s Isle” is a confusing episode based on a short story that probably wasn’t a good choice. The original story has no humor or romance but Escape threw some in.

The episode opens in Manila in the 1790’s, as Captain Arad sails into port. He learns that a band of pirates attacked the city the night before, and though they got away, his first mate knows who they were. Captain Arad talks to the Spanish captain-general, Don Narciso, into letting them go after the pirates hiding on Misfortune’s Isle. The King has offered a large reward to anyone who can rid the islands of pirates, but Arad only wants to get to the island to take advantage of the natural resources, like antimony and edible bird’s nests (for bird’s nest soup).

They set sail and run into a typhoon. Then, Captain Arad finds that Don Narciso’s wife has stowed away.

When Captain Arad and his crew reach the Misfortune’s Isle they find the pirates’ stockade, but also discover that their ship is stuck in the mud, their cannons don’t work, their gun powder is wet, and help is two days away. On the beach, a tribe of Dyaks waits to attack them using poison from the sacred but deadly upas tree.

Can they escape Misfortunes’ Isle?

“Misfortune’s Isle” was adapted by Les Crutchfield and produced/directed by William N. Robson. Paul Frees played Captain Arad, Virginia Gregg played Dona Delfina, William Conrad played Jean Paul, Berry Kroeger played Don Narciso, and Tony Barrett as Mike O’Cane. This episode aired on March 21, 1948.


480307 – e031 Jimmy Goggles The God

Escape – Jimmy Goggles the God

Escape’s “Jimmy Goggles the God” was adapted from the 1898 short story of the same name by H.G. Wells. The original story, written as a narrative, appears to have been too short for a half hour broadcast. Escape kept most of Well’s story intact, but expanded the ending, punched up the drama to make it more exciting, and excluded the outdated racial slang. (The text of Well’s “Jimmy Goggles the God” is available online at Wikisource.)

As the episode opens, George reflects back on the wreck of the Ocean Pioneer forty years earlier. He and two other survivors had joined forces with a fourth man to find the wreck and retrieve a fortune in gold dust.

George was chosen to go down to the Ocean Pioneer in a hefty rubber diving suit nicknamed “Jimmy Goggles.” While he was trying to retrieve the gold, the other three men were attacked and killed by native Papuans. When George finally emerged from water, the natives mistook him for a god.

Having no choice but to continue the impersonation, George looks for a way to escape. One of the natives offers him a deal, but can Herbert trust him? Will the missionary who finds him be any help?

“Jimmy Goggles the God” was produced and directed by William N. Robson. Paul Frees, in one of his best acting roles, played George. Also appearing were Berry Kroeger, Luis Van Rooten, and Parley Baer. This recording cuts off before the credits are given, so the name of the person who adapted this story for radio isn’t certain. This episode aired on March 7, 1948.


Escape – The Grove of Ashtaroth

Escape’s “The Grove of Ashtaroth” was closely adapted from the 1910 short story by John Buchan, First Baron Tweedsmuir (1875-1940). Buchan was a British novelist and politician who is best known for the book The Thirty-Nine Steps.

This is an episode that is helped along by reading the original work, which is available online at Feedbooks. The short story was written as one long narrative by a character who doesn’t give his name. So, in the radio version, Escape assigned the character the name of the author.

“The Grove of Ashtaroth” is not an environmentally-friendly story. It involves destroying an ancient grove of trees to undo the spell it has placed on one man. While this is being done, a goddess begs them to stop. Apparently, they think she is scary and evil, so they don’t stop until they have killed and destroyed absolutely every living thing in the grove.

As the episode opens, John Buchan and his friend Lawson are exploring Africa when they come to a place so perfect that Lawson decides to settle there. John is surprised by his friend’s reaction, but doesn’t believe his idea to be a bad one.

Three years later John returns to find Lawson in terrible condition and in bad humor. He appears to have arrived at a bad time, but Lawson won’t say why. His foreman, Mr. Jobson, knows that it has to do with the grove of trees on the property. The grove summons Lawson in the night…

Can the two of them find a way to release Lawson from the spell he is under? Or, will they destroy a beautiful thing forever?

“The Grove of Ashtaroth” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. William N. Robson produced and Norman MacDonnell directed. Paul Frees played John Buchen and William Conrad played Lawson. Also appearing were Kay Brinker, Raymond Lawrence, and Eric Snowden. This episode aired on February 29, 1948.


480228 – 029 How Love Came To Prof Guildea (west coast)

Escape – How Love Came to Professor Guildea

Escape’s “How Love Came to Professor Guildea” is based on the short story of the same name by Robert S. Hichens. Although the radio-play is well adapted from the original work, this episode does have its moments of being silly instead of suspenseful. The original short story, which was published in 1900, is available online as a Gaslight e-text and is worth reading.

Professor Guildea is an important man of science. He lives in a comfortable London home with servants that he barely acknowledges and a pet parrot leftover from one of his experiments. Professor Guildea detests affection and mocks love. Yet, he does have one friend, Father Murchison, a man who could not be more different than Professor Guildea. Father Murchison is filled with love for mankind and empathy for others.

One night, Professor Guildea calls Father Murchison to his house because he is convinced that there is an entity inhabiting his home. He cannot see the entity, but he feels its presence. The invisible intruder holds a great affection for Professor Guildea, but the affection repulses him. Father Murchison believes his friend is going mad, but then Professor Guildea shows him that the parrot sees and mimics the invisible entity.

“How Love Came to Professor Guildea” was adapted for radio by Les Crutchfield. Luis Van Rooten played Professor Guildea and Parley Baer played Father Murchison. Paul Frees played the parrot. This episode aired on February 22, 1948.