Home People Brothers in Arms Soldiers’ Songs of the Great War

Soldiers’ Songs of the Great War

This collection is not the result of academic or historical research but is merely a selection of some of the songs which were sung in the NAAFL* canteens, NCOs' messes, and in Service Clubs and heard during 22 years military service and collected from many other sources long forgotten. The words were often scribbled down after the parties, mostly referred to as concerts, smoking concerts, or just plain 'pissups' were over. Sometimes, after a smoking concert, a singer would scribble the words of the song that he had sung on a scrap of paper or a cigarette packet. But that was not the only source of this collection. Sometimes bowdlerised versions were found in novels and nonfiction books of service life, serious war films, and also taken from barrack room ballad records, the radio, and elsewhere. During those years there was no intention to compile a list of soldiers' songs or to list their source. The songs were often amusing, bawdy, and bitingly humorous usually at the expense of high ranking officers and SNCOs. They were just part of service life. The origin or sources of most of these songs cannot be dated since it seems that they may have belonged to other campaigns and wars long since forgotten. The lyrics of the same songs may have had many variations, but their themes remained the same.

The background to the songs was service life which, for 'other ranks', could often be humiliating and stressful and the punishments meted out often out of all proportion to minor offences. There is no intention to compare peacetime service with any thing remotely like the horrors of the Great World War but some of the bullying by NCO.s would hardly have been Out of place in a 1911 century lunatic asylum. They could and sometimes did make life thoroughly miserable for those under them; their obscene abuse was commonplace.

There are very few records readily available of the songs that British soldiers have written and sung throughout many years and this is probably because there are more obscenities in these songs than there are currants in an Eccles cake. In the past they were considered to be too outrageous and lewd to be heard in polite company. Barrack room ballads and rugby songs are still considered objectionable by many people. And this is despite the vulgarity and obscenity of some modern pop songs especially RAP. If this is true it is possible that the bawdy folk songs of previous ages, including soldiers folk songs are likely to disappear.

When we judge the suitability of soldiers' songs to be broadcast or published we should be aware of the background of these songs and of the un-named service men who wrote them. If we are to preserve some of our military social history then soldiers' folk songs and music should be published as they are. Perhaps until 40 years ago men who served as 'other ranks' could be treated rather worse than imprisoned criminals of today. In those years there were no conjugal visits from wives and sweethearts for young men in detention (military prisons) or for those stationed for two and a half years in places such as Egypt, Libya, Aden, Malaya, or Iraq and other areas where normal female companionship was non existent. An overseas tour of service really meant two and a half years of imposed celibacy. It was the norm; but it was unnatural and it was never considered. And yet isolation from female company drove many young men to promiscuity - if it was available. Unattached young European women were rarely seen, and fraternisation with local women was officially frowned upon. In some Middle Eastern countries one could hardly dare glance at a local female without risking severe consequences from local men. Of course service life also had a great many advantages over civil life, such as a healthy life style, time off for sport and for education, responsibility, travel, regular meals, adventure and steady but paltry pay. But above all there was companionship and a willingness to share the good and the bad times with other young men, which in sociological terms is referred to as 'male bonding'. This is probably the most important point in discussing or evaluating soldiers' songs.

The term 'soldiers' songs' should be defined and an explanation offered as to how they differ from songs of war and patriotic songs. One definition could be that the lyrics must have been written by a soldier, a sailor, or airman and that the lyrics should be for, or about, any member of the services and his activities, such as his duties or needs. The words of soldiers' songs are often very witty and humorous and the tunes very catchy but many are humorous drivel. The airs may come from anywhere and indeed they are often well-known hymns and popular tunes written by professionals for theatre and other forms of entertainment. The songs were not sung to specific original music but were parodies of well known music. It is not surprising that many soldiers' songs were parodies of hymns. For example the hymn, 'Take it to the Lord in prayer' became 'When this Bloody War is over' and the hymn, 'Abide with me' became 'There's a Street in Cairo full of sin and shame.' These are what may be termed 'soldiers songs' whereas the songs 'Keep the Home Fires Burnings and 'I'll Make A Man of You' are not because they were written by professional musicians. It may be of interest to know that "Bless ~Em All" started as "F*** rEm All" in the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916 and was not intended for publication. Many of the songs from a longer time ago came from the ranks of those with only an elementary education, were perhaps semi-literate and who would not aspire to commissioned rank. War songs are quite definitely not Soldiers' songs. It is very unlikely that any soldier ever sang this sort of beautiful drivel:

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fifes
To all the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

Sir Walter Scott. (War Songs 1908). C. Stone)

But soldiers did sing:
'Rule Britannia, marmalade or jam
Chinese firecrackers up your arsehole - bang bang bang bang bang'.

This poem, written by A.P. Herbert may never have been put to music but he was soldier who knew the reality of war. He was certainly not enthusing about glory when he wrote:

This is the Fourth of June.
Think not I never dream
The noise of that infernal noon,
The stretchers' endless stream, The tales of triumphs won,
The night that found them lies,
The wounded wailing in the sun,
The dead, the dust, the flies.
The flies! Oh God, the flies
That soiled the sacred dead,
To see them swarm from dead men's eyes
And share the soldiers' bread.
Nor think I now forget
The filth and stench of war,
The corpses on the parapet,
The maggots on the floor.

Since they are only remembered from the renderings by the singers it follows that the lyrics changed frequently. They are the songs of the lower ranks evoked under circumstances of abuse, humiliation, strict discipline and harsh punishment and whose group composition was constantly changing due to postings to other units,' promotions and replacements. They are the songs of men who lived under a high incidence of abuse, injuries and death. They are the songs of men who had no power; men who had no choice but to go to almost certain death or severe injury when ordered. The men sang about their hopes, miseries and fears more than anything else. These miseries can be noted from the songs in the booklet; they are the likelihood of violent death, mud, bullying NCOs, leave that was rarely given, lack of sleep, separation from wives, sweethearts and families and the lack of female company. In these songs there is no bravado, little boasting but a great deal of humour, and poking of fin at the depressing and ludicrous discipline of some service life.

Soldiers' songs were sung in canteens and certainly not at concert party entertainment provided officially, and blessed by the presence of officers and their ladies in the front seats. Smoking concerts were often impromptu and not in any way official or even banned. Even if the canteen was run by the padre (as on one Rhodesian station 1940s), he would quite definitely not be present at the smoking concert. In a smoking concert large quantities only of beer were consumed since spirits were not allowed to be sold to the 'other ranks'. It was there that songs would be sung by individuals but if a song was well known, all would join in. At the end of each song all would join in and sing "That was a very fine song; sing us another one, just like the other one. Sing us another one do." Perhaps another singer would then try to sing. It is entirely possible that old soldiers would be disappointed to read the bowdlerised versions of the songs which they once sang. However, when writing about them for people who have only had the comfort of a normal ordered life and of freedom, there is no alternative other than to euphemise. The songs are harmless and do not encourage immorality as modern popular songs seem to do. It is the obscenity which makes the songs objectionable to those unfamiliar with the imposed and very often harsh restraints the of service life of many years ago.

Since the role of women in the services has increased over recent years and the armed forces now have more educated and highly skilled people to operate modern equipment it is possible that obscene language has very much lessened but certainly obscenity even in ordinary conversation was the norm in the 60s and 70s. Indeed it may still be commonplace but only a serving soldier would know. In order to get a true perspective of their songs it is necessary to examine the use of obscenities by soldiers of the past. We may then be able to judge the songs and situations objectively and with understanding. We must neither justify nor condemn out of hand. We must examine them bearing in mind the varied facets of service life in times of war and peace and ask ourselves would we have joined in the singing or would we have walked away from our comrades.

Men enjoy each others company especially when their other natural needs are being satisfied and even when they are not; but this is not a discussion of the sociology of male behaviour and bonding under stress. . It would seem that when men get together each has to fit into his role within the group. Each has to affirm his masculinity and that affirmation becomes proof of his ability to 'fit in'. Many male organisations have secret signs, rituals and passwords but even outside these clubs and societies men must still play their part with each other in social groups. Could bad language, for example, be or have been in the past a secret code of sorts? "it's us chaps who swear and tell smutty jokes and sing bawdy songs ? women don't do that?" Could the use of certain expressions and songs be an affirmation of group solidarity? ("We're a shower of bastards, Bastards are we..." song no. 36.) There is no need look deeply at the subject - we all know that communal singing is entertaining for men and women. To sum up we can say that soldiers singing together seem to fill some of the requirements of male bonding. The songs themselves and their rendering seem to say: "We are male, we are a band of brothers, and we stick together and support each other. There's us and there's them (Officers and NCOs) who don't have to suffer the indignities, and humiliation that we are subjected to. They have authority' but we can poke fun at them in a way that they cannot control and although oppressed we can protest. And we damn well enjoy singing about our complaints and mistreatment."

The use of obscenities in ordinary soldiers' conversations may appear offensive but it was not meant to be. No thought was given to the meaning of foul words. They were merely adjectives or adverbs which may or may not have indicated the way the speaker felt about the object, or subject matter. When a soldier exclaimed "Christ" or "Jesus" he may have not understood that he was being blasphemous. And "flick me" was not a request. Quite simply soldiers' language has always been coarse. There would almost always be the use of sexual or blasphemous terms in a conversation or comment about, a guard duty, a parade, an order that forced a soldier to leave a comrade lying on the concrete parade ground were he had fainted, a kit inspection, and so on, The speaker however would have no deliberate intention to be salacious, uncouth, blasphemous, or dissolute. The words used could have had no meaning whatsoever in the conversation but they may certainly have been used to express the soldiers' feelings. The obscenities used are emotive and not referential; they are not acceptable in normal conversation but even if they were, they would not encourage immorality or perversion. The intentions and conditions in which the words were used must be considered. We may abhor the use of foul language but our judgement should depend upon the intentions of the soldiers and on the unnatural conditions under which they lived and died. Service bad language is not used to pervert or to spread immorality. To sum up briefly; there should be a support for many soldiers songs as they are and have always been because they dismiss the heroics, patriotism, flag-waving, and speeches designed to encourage young men to enlist in the services in turbulent times. And they poke fun at the unpleasant conditions imposed upon servicemen. The unacceptable language is not important. And in particular the songs expose the great lie: Dulce est decorum pro patria mori. They poke fun at exalted death and injury on battlefields so beloved of poets and novelists of the last two centuries.

They are a very small part of British military/social history because:

1. They exposed the perceived stupidity of the system dictated by old and out of date senior officers 'who jumped over each others backs' for prestige and promotion

2. They expressed resentment against a class system in which they were pawns whose lives could be used and squandered by 'God like' red tabbed officers. They claimed that the senior officers who often lived miles behind the lines were arrogant and out of touch. And they said that the very junior officers and senior NCOs (though by no means all) were the bullying agents of the 'higher ups'.

3. The songs expressed the soldiers' longing for an idealised normal and emotionally satisfying life.

4. The songs were fun. They were part of a celebration of friendship and brotherhood and of release into warmth and comfort. Soldiers did not sing while freezing in a trench, under attack, being shelled, or up to their knees in mud. It is doubtful if they sang while painting coal white.

5. Soldiers sang because it expressed their joy in health, young manhood and friendships. And singing may have scared away their fear of what lay before them.

The songs were harmless, irrational and inconsequential. Frequently they were songs of sex ribaldry from deprived young men with no intention at all of promoting immorality or perversion. Some wartime songs were sentimental or patriotic but they were not soldier's songs and they were not sung in smoking concerts. Finally all that one can say about them is that they are largely forgotten and even in our coarsened society still not considered suitable to be heard in polite company. Though our whole society has coarsened it is doubtful if soldiers' songs, harmless though they are, will ever be accepted. If one cares to look through the lyrics of the soldiers' songs in the booklet they will see these themes on almost every page.

None speaks of a glorious death.

1:- Tune:- In my little grey home in the west
In our little wet home in the trench
That the rain storms continually drench
There’s a dead cow near-by with its hooves in the sky
And it gives off a terrible stench.
Beneath us instead of a floor
Is a layer of cold mud and some straw.
The Jack Johnsons we dread
As they speed overhead
In our little wet home in the trench.

2:- Tune Glory Alleluia
The army corps commander had 100,000 men
The army corps commander had a 100,000 men
The army corps commander had a 100,000 men
But the Red Tabs went and frittered them all away
Glory glory alleluia,
Glory glory alleluia
Glory glory alleluia
But the Red Tabs went and frittered them all away

3:- Tune? The next man who dies
We meet ‘neath the sounding rafters
And the walls around are bare
As they echo to our laughter
T’would seem that the dead were there.

So stand to your glasses steady
‘Tis all we have left to prize
Quaff a cup to the dead already
And one to the next man who dies.

Time was when we frowned on others
We thought we were wiser then
But now let us all be brothers
For we never may meet again

Cut off from the land that bore us.
Betrayed by the land we find
The good men have gone before us
And only the dull left behind.

So stand to your glasses steady
This world is a web of lies
Then here’s to the dead already
And hurrah for the next man who dies.

Here’s an end to this mournful story
For death is a distant friend
So here’s to a life of glory
And a laurel to crown each end
(RFC/RAF Mess Song)

4:- Tune:- Here we are again
Here we are! Here we are! Here we are again
Paddy and Taff and Jock and Jack and Joe
When there’s trouble brewing
When there’s something doing
Are we down hearted? No!
Let ‘em all come!

Here we are! Here we are! Here we are again!
We’re fit and well and feeling right as rain.
Never mind the weather, now we’re all together
Hullo! Hullo! Here we are again

Variation or second verse

Coal fatigue, Coal Fatigue, here we are again
Forty tons of coal to shift each day -.cor blimey!
Get your pick and shovel:- do it at the double:-
Are we down hearted? – No; let it all come

Coal fatigue coal fatigue, coal fatigue again,
It’d be enough to kill old Kaiser Bill.
But if you get your dinner you’re really on a winner.
So coal, coal, coal fatigue again.

5:- Tune:- Bring back my Bonnie to me
Last night as I lay on my pillow
Last night as I lay on my bed
I dreamt our old sergeant was dying,
I dreamt that the old sod was dead.
Send him, Oh send him,
Oh send our old sergeant to hell,–to hell
Oh keep him, Oh keep him
Oh keep the old bastard in Hell

Variation or second verse

I once took my wife for a ramble,
A ramble, - along an old shady lane
She caught her right foot in a bramble
And arse over tit-- she came...
Oh! Sergeant oh! sergeant
Don’t pinch my rum ration from me,
From me. Oh sergeant Oh sergeant
Bring back my ration to me

6:- Tune:- Mademoiselle from Armentieres
Two German officers crossed the line - parle vous
Two German officers crossed the line –parlez vous.
These German officers crossed the line
On the lookout for some women and some wine
Inkey pinkey parlez vous.

They came to an inn on top of a rise -parlez vous
A famous inn of bloody great size – parlez vous
They saw a maid all dimples and sighs
They both agreed she’d lovely eyes”
Inkey pinkey parlez vous.

Oh landlord you’ve a daughter fair – parlez vous
Oh landlord you’ve a daughter fair parlez vous
Oh landlord you’ve a daughter fair
With lily white tits and golden hair
Inkey pinkey parlez vous.

Nein, nein mein Herr she’s much too young -parlez vous
Nein, nein mein herr she’s much too young –parlex vouz
Mais non, mon pere, I’m not too young
I’ve often slept with the parson’s son
Inkey –pinky parlez vous

The rest of the tale I can’t relate –
parlez vous
It’s a very old story but up to date –parlez vous
The story of man seducing a maid
It could offend – you’re too sedate
Inkey Pinkey -parlez vous.

7:- Tune:- Hold your hand out naughty boy
Keep your head down Fritzy boy
Keep your head down Fritzy boy
Last night in the pale moon light
We saw you – we saw you
You were mending your broken wire
And we opened rapid fire
If you want to see your mother
And your fatherland
Keep your head down Fritzy boy.

Hold your hands up Fritzy boy
Hold your hands up Fritzy boy
Just tonight in the pale moonlight
We saw you -we saw you
We were laying some more wire
And we nearly opened fire.
If you want to see your mother
And your fatherland
Keep your hands up Fritzy boy.

Keep your head down, Fusilier
Keep your head down, Fusilier
There’s a bloody great Hun
With a bloody great gun
Who’ll shoot you;
Who’ll shoot you
There’s a sniper up a tree,
He’s waiting for you and me,
If you really want to see ole
Blighty once more
Keep your head down Fusilier.

8:- Tune:- I want to go home
I want to go home. I want to go home
I don’t want to go in the trenches no more
Where whizzbangs and shrapnel
They whistle and roar.
Take me over the sea
Where the Alleyman can’t get at me
Oh my! I don’t want to die.
I want to go home.

I want to go home, I want to go home
Coal boxes and shrapnel they whistle and roar
I don’t want to go in the trenches no more
I want to go over the sea
Where the Kaiser can’t shoot bombs at me
Oh my! I don’t want to die
I want to go home.

9:- Tune:- I wore a tunic
I wore a tunic; a dirty khaki tunic
And you wore your civvie clothes.
We fought and bled at Loos
While you were on the booze
The booze that no-one here knows.
You were with the wenches
While we were in the trenches
Facing an angry foe.
Oh you were a-slacking
While we were attacking
The Germans on the Menin road.

10:- Tune:- They wouldn’t believe me
And when they ask us how dangerous it was
Oh! we’ll never tell them. No we’ll never tell them.
We spent each day in some café
And chatted French girls night and day;
It was the cushiest job we ever had.
And when they ask us
And they’re certainly going to ask us
The reason why we didn’t win the Croix de Guerre
Oh! we’ll never tell them, no we’ll never tell them
There was a front - but damned if we knew where.

11:- Tune:- She Was Poor But She Was Honest
She was poor but she was honest
Victim of the Colonel’s whim
First he wooed her then seduced her
And she had a child by him.

It’s the same the whole world over,
Isn’t it a bleedin’ shame!
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure
And the poor what gets the blame.

Then she went away to London
For to hide her grief and shame
But she met an army captain
And she lost her name again

(It’s the same the whole world) etc.

In the little Country cottage
Where her saddened parents live
Though they drink the fizz she sends ‘em
Yet they never can forgive.

It’s the same etc.

Now she’s standing in the gutter
Selling matches a penny -a –box
While he’s riding in his carriage
With an awful dose of pox

It’s the same etc.

See him in a grand theayter
Eating chocolate in the pit
While the poor girl what he ruined
Wanders round through mud and shit

It’s the same etc

See him in the House of Commons
Making laws to put down crime
While the victim of his passion
Slinks around to hide her shime
.
It’s the same etc

Now she’s livin’ in the cottage
But she very rarely smiles
And her only occupation
Is cracking ice for grandad’s piles.

12:- Tune Christmas Day In The Workhouse
It was Christmas Day in the cookhouse,.
The happiest day of the year,
Men’s hearts were full of gladness
And their bellies full of beer
When up spoke Private Shortarse
His face as bold as brass
Saying, “You can keep your Christmas pudden; you can stick it up your arse”

It was Christmas day in the harem,
The eunuchs was standing around
And hundreds of beautiful women
Was stretched out on the ground,
When in walked the bold bad sultan
Through his marble halls
Asking “What do you want for Christmas. Boys?”
And the eunuchs answered
“Balls!”

13:- Tune:- Hush! Here Comes A Whizz-bang
Hush! here comes a whizz-bang
Hush! here comes a whizz-bang
Now you soldier boys
Run down those stairs
Down in the dugout and say your prayers.
Hush! here comes a whizz-bang
And it’s heading straight for you.
And you’ll see all the wonders of no man’s land
If a whizz-bang hits you.

14:- I don’t want to join the army
I don’t want to join the army
I don’t want to go to war
I’d rather stay at home
Around the street to roam
Living on the earnings of a lady typist.
I don’t want a bayonet in my belly
I don’t want my bollocks shot away
I’d rather stay in England
Merry merry England
And fornicate my bleedin’ life away
I don’t want to be a soldier
I don’t want to go to war
I’d rather hang around
Piccadilly underground
And live off the earnings
Of a high born lady.
I don’t need no Froggy women
London’s full of girls I’ve never had.
Dear Oh Gawd almighty
I want to stay in Blighty
And follow in the footsteps of me dad.

15:- Air:- Hymn’ What a friend we have in Jesus’
When this bleedin’ war is over
No more soldiering for me
When I get my civvies clothes on
Oh, how happy I shall be.
No more church parades on Sunday
No more asking for a pass
I shall tell the sergeant major
To stick his passes up his arse

When this lousy war is over
Oh how happy I shall be
When I get my civvie clothes on
And I return from Germany.
I shall sound my own reveille
I shall make my own tattoo
No more N.C.O’s to bollock me
No more rotten Army stew.

N.C.O.’s will all be navvies
Privates ride in motor cars:-
Officers will smoke their Woodbines,
Privates puff their big cigars.
No more ‘Stand-To’ in the trenches
Never another church- parade;
No more shiv’ring on the fire step,
No more Tickler’s marmalade

16:- Fred Karno’s Army
Tune:- The Church’s One Foundation
We are Fred Karno’s Army
The rag time infantry
We cannot fight.
We cannot shoot
What bloody use are we
And when we get to Berlin
The Kaiser he will say
“Hoch, hoch, mein Got
What a bloody rotten lot
Are the ragtime infantry".

We are Fred Karno’s Army
Fred Karno’s our O.C.
Charlie Chaplin is our captain
What a funny lot are we.
And when we get to Berlin
The Kaiser, he will say
“Hoch, hoch, mein Got
What a funny bloody lot
Are the men of the RFC”

17:- Guillemont
Tune:- Moonlight Bay
We were pushing along
In Guillimong
We could hear the Boche a-singing
They seemed to say,
“You have stolen our trench
But don’t go away,
And we’ll pepper you with gas shells
All the day”
We were waiting for them
Later in the day
You could hear us singing
“Don’t lose your way,
This was your old trench
Just step this way
And we’ll give you souvenirs
To take away”.

18:- If you were the only Boche in the trench
Tune:- If you were the only girl in the world.
If you were the only Boche in the trench
And I had the only bomb,
Nothing else would matter
In the world that day
I would blow you to eternity.
A chamber of horrors
Just made for two
With nothing to spoil our fun;
There would be such
A heap of things to do
I should get your rifle
And your bayonet too
If you were the only
Boche in the trench
And I had the only gun.


19:- Charlie Chaplin
Tune:- Little Redwing
The moon shines down
On Charlie Chaplin
He’s going balmy
To join the army
But his little baggy trousers
They need a-mending
Before they send him
To the Dardanelles

The moon shines bright
On Charlie Chaplin
But his shoes are cracking
For want of blacking
And his baggy khaki trousers
Still need mending
Before they send him
To the Dardanelles.


20:- Leap Frog
Tune Mine eyes have seen the glory (Nearly)
One grass-hopper jumped right over
Another grass-hopper’s back
And another grass-hopper jumped right
Over that other grass-hopper’s back.
A third grass hopper jumped right over
The two grass-hopper’s backs
And a fourth grass-hopper jumped right
Over all the other grass-hoppers’ backs
They were only playing leap frog
They were only playing leap frog
They were only playing leap frog
When one grass-hopper jumped right Over another grass-hopper’s back.

One staff officer jumped right over
Another staff officer’s back
And another staff officer jumped right Over that other staff officer’s back
A third staff officer jumped right over
The two staff officer’s backs
And a fourth staff officer jumped
Right over all the other staff
Officers’ backs
(They were only playing leap frog) etc

21:- A Rotten Song
Oh my! What a rotten song,
What a rotten song
What a rotten song
Oh my! What a rotten song
And what a rotten singer too.

22:- Who Killed Cock Robin?
Who Killed Cock Robin?
“I,” said the Hun
“With my machine gun,
I killed Cock Robin”

All the pilots who were there
Said “f***-it we will chuck it
When they heard Cock Robin
had kicked the f****** bucket
When they heard Cock Robin
Had kicked the bucket.

Who saw him hit?
“I” said old Fritz
“I saw him hit
And I saw him fall in bits”

(All the pilots who were there) etc

Who saw him die?
“I” said the spy
“With my beady eye
I saw him die”

Then all the pilots in the air
Went a strafing and a bombin’
When they heard of the death
Of poor Cock Robin
When they heard of the death
Of poor Cock Robin.

23:- There’s a long, long trail a winding
There's a long, long trail a-winding
Into the land of my dreams,
Where the nightingales are singing
And a white moon beams.
There’s a long, long night a-waiting
Until my dreams all come true
Till the day when I’ll be going down
That long, long trail with you.

24:- Pack up your troubles
Pack up your troubles
In your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile
While you’ve a Lucifer
To light your fag
Smile boys, that’s the style
What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worth while
So pack up your troubles
In your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile.

25:- Good-bye-ee
Good-bye-ee, good-bye-ee
Wipe the tear baby dear from your eye-ee
Though it’s hard to part I know
I’ll be tickled to death to go
Don’t cry-ee, don’t sigh-ee
There’s a silver lining in the sky-ee
Bon soir old thing!
Cheer-i-o chin chin
Na-poo, toodle-oo
Good bye-ee

26:- The bells of hell go tinga linga ling
The bells of hell go tinga linga ling
For you but not for me
And the devils
How they singa linga ling
For you but not for me
Oh death where is thy stinga linga ling
Oh grave thy victoree
The bells of hell go tings linga ling
For you but not for me

The bells of hell go tinga linga ling
For you but not for me
And the angels
They sing tinga linga ling
They hold the goods for me.
Oh death where is thy stinga linga ling
Oh grave thy victoree
The bells of hell go tinga linga ling
For you but not for me.

27:- Who stole the rum last night?
Tune Who were you with last night?
Who stole the rum last night?
Who stole the rum last night?
Was it the sergeant who lifted the jar?
Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
Who stole the rum last night?
Out in the pale moon light?
I’m going to tell the colonel
When I get back.
You stole the rum last night

28:- Tune Tipperary
That’s the wrong way to tickle Marie
That’s the wrong way to kiss
Don’t you know that over here lad
They like it better like this.
Hooray pour la France
Farewell Angleterre
We didn’t know how to tickle Marie
But now we’ve learnt how.

It took a long time to get it hairy
T’was a long time to grow
It took a long time to get it hairy
For the tooth-brush hairs to show
Good bye Charlie Chaplin
Farewell tufts of hair
T’was a long,
long time to get it hairy
Now my upper lip’s quite bare.

(The War Office rescinded its order regarding moustaches. Hence this verse.

29 My old man’s a dust-man
My old man’s a dust-man
He fought at the Battle of Mons
He killed a dozen Germans
With only a couple of bombs.
One lay here, and one lay there
And one around the corner.
And another poor sod with his leg hanging off
Was crying out for water

30 The old barbed wire.
Tune ?
If you want to find the sergeant
I know where he is, I know where he is
If you want to find the sergeant
I know where he is.
He’s lying on the canteen floor
I’ve seen him, I’ve seen him
Lying on the canteen floor
I’ve seen him,
Lying on the canteen floor.

If you want to find the sergeant-major
I know where he is, I know where he is
If you want to find the sergeant-major I know where he is
He’s boozing up the privates’ rum
I’ve seen him
Boozing up the privates’ rum

If you want to find the C.O.,
I know where he is, I know where he is
If you want to find the C.O.,
I know where he is
He’s down in the deep dug-outs
I’ve seen him I’ve seen him he’s
Down in the deep dug-outs
I’ve seen him
Down in the deep dug-outs.

If you want to find the old battalion
I know where they are
I know where they are
If you want to find the old battalion
I know where they are
They’re hanging on the old barbed wire
I’ve seen ‘em, I’ve seen ‘em
Hanging on the old barbed wire.
I’ve seen ‘em
Hanging on the old barbed wire.

31:- Joe Soap’s Army
Tune:- Onward Christian Soldiers
Forward Joe Soap’s army
Marching with out fear
With our brave commander
Safely in the rear.
He boasts and skites from morn till night And thinks he’s very brave but the men Who really did the job
Are dead and in their grave
Forward Joe Soap’s army
Marching without fear
And our brave commander
Safely in the rear.

32. Your king and country need you
Oh, we don’t want to lose you
But we think you ought to go
For your King and Your Country
Both need you so
We shall want you and miss you
But with all our might and main
We shall cheer you, thank you
Kiss you when you come back again.

(These parodies are the soldiers reply)

We don’t want your loving
And we think you’re awfully slow
To see we don’t want you
So please won’t you go
We don’t like your sing-songs
And we hate your refrain
So don’t you dare sing it near us again.

Now we don’t want to hurry you
But it’s time you ought to go
For your songs and your speeches
They bore us so.
Your coaxings and pettings
Drive us insane
Oh we hate you, and’ll boo you
And hiss you
If you sing it again.

33. Loch lomond
I’ll take the tripod
And you take the gun
And you’ll be in action before me
And if you get shot
I’ll take the bleedin' lot
And I’ll eat your rations
In the morning.

34. Oh, It’s a lovely war
Up to your waist in water
Up to your eyes in slush
Using the kind of language
That makes the sergeant blush
Who wouldn’t join the army?
That’s what we all inquire
Don’t we pity the poor civilians?
Sitting at home by the fire

Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war,
Who wouldn’t be a soldier, ay?
Oh, It’s a shame to take the pay;
As soon as reveille has gone
We feel just as heavy as lead,
But we never get up till the sergeant
Brings our breakfast up to bed

Oh, oh oh it’s a lovely war
What do we want with eggs and ham
When we’ve got plum and apple jam?
Form fours right turn
How shall we spend the money we earn?
Oh, oh, oh, it’s a lovely war.

35. This is the Flying Corps.
Tune:- There is a happy land
This is the Flying Corps
So people say
Where air mechanics
Lay the drains
For two bob a day.
Oh! You should hear them sing
“Roll on when my four* is in
Then back home my hook I’ll sling
And there I’ll stay.

*Reference to the four year period of enlistment

36:- We’re a shower
Tune:- RFC/RAF March
We’re a shower of bastards
Bastards are we.
We are the Airworks
Arse holes of the universe
We couldn’t be worse
Yes! we’re a shower of bastards
Bastards are we
We’d rather f*** than fight
For liberty.

37:- Stand by your beds (General Salute)
Stand by your beds
Here comes the Air Vice Marshall
He’s got several rings
But he’s only got one arsehole.

38:- Take me back to dear old Blighty
Take me back to dear old Blighty
Put me on the train for London Town
Take me over there
Drop me anywhere
Liverpool, Leeds or Manchester
Well I don’t care!
I should love to see my sweetheart
Cuddling again we soon would be
So tiddley iddley ighty
Hurry me home to Blighty
Blighty is the place for me.

39:- Glorious.
Glorious! Glorious!
One barrel of beer among the four of us
Thank the lord there are no more of us
'Cos one of us could drink the bloody lot.

Bombed last night
Bombed the night before
Gonna get bombed tonight
If we never get bombed any more.
When we’re bombed
We’re scared as we can be.
God damn those bombing planes
That come from Germany.
They’re over us, they’re over us
Only one shell hole for the four of us
Thank the lord that three can run
So one of us can fill it all alone.

Gassed last night, gassed the night before
Gonna get gassed tonight
If we never get gassed any more.
When we’re gassed
We’re as sick as we can be.
Cos phosgene and mustard
Gas is much too much for me.
They’re warning us, they’re warning us*
One gas mask among the four of us.
Glory be to god that three of us can run
So one of us can use it all alone.

*Klaxon gas alarm.

40:- Just a song at twilight.
Refrain:-
Just a song at twilight
When the lights are low
And the whispering shadows
Softly come and go.
Though your heart be weary
Sad the day and long
Still to us at twilight comes
Love’s own song
Comes love’s own sweet song.

41:- The Gunner’s Lament
I’m sorry now that I’m a flyer
I don’t want to get shot down
Now I’m really very willing
To make myself a killing
Living on the earnings of obliging ladies

I don’t want a bullet up the rear end
I don’t want my bollocks shot away
If I’ve really got to lose ‘em
I’d prefer it was with Susan
Or Dolly or Polly
Or any whore at all

42:- Miles and Miles behind the lines
Tune?
We had a windy sergeant,
A very windy sergeant
Early every morning
When we were standing to
He was pottering in the dugout
With his four by two
Miles behind the lines.

And we had a sergeant major
Who never fired a gun
And He got the DCM
For things he never done.
And mentioned in dispatches
For drinking privates rum
And when he sees the Alleyman
You should see the bastard run
Miles and miles behind the lines.

43:- I’ll make a man of you.
A recruiting song.
(A parody that this song seems to ask for. See Addendum)

On Monday I touched her on the ankle
On Tuesday I stroked her on the knee
On Wednesday a sweet caress
And I felt inside her dress
On Thursday she was smiling sweetly
On Friday I had my hand upon it
On Saturday she gave my tool a tweak
And on Sunday after dinner
I had my dingus in her
Now I’m paying seven and six a week*.

*Old coinage - Seven shillings and six pence paid by an unmarried father for the upkeep of his child

44 Two marching chants
No Tune:-
Called loudly on the march. First heard it at RAF Weeton, No 8 School S of Technical Training, 1947
Little fly upon the wall
Don’t you feel the cold at all?
With no vest and no shirt and no Chemise,
Of course I feel the f****** cold
I’m as cold as a frog in an ice bound pool
As cold as the end of an Eskimo’s tool
As cold as an icicle all glossy and glum
As cold as the fringe around a
Polar bear’s bum
As cold as charity and that’s bloody chilly
But I’m not as cold as my mate Billy
He’s dead poor bastard

My daughter’s wedding day.

1st voice - Today’s my daughter’s wedding day
Ten thousand pounds I’ll give away

Others - Hip hip hip hurray! loud cheers.

On second thoughts I think it best
I’ll lock it in my old oak chest

2nd Voice:- What! You tight fisted old bastard

3rd voice:- You’re as tight as a duck’s arse

Get rid of him! Etc., etc., And so on


45:- Father’s pants will soon fit Willie
Tune:- Bread of Heaven
Father’s pants will soon fit Willie
Will he wear them?
Will he hell!
Will he wear them? Will he wear them? Will he wear them?
Will he hell!
Will he wear them?
Will he hell!
Father’s pants will soon…(repeated endlessly or until exhausted)
46. The Soldiers’ Prayer. (Tune ?)

A soldier and a sailor were talking one day:-
Said the soldier to the sailor let us both kneel and pray
And for each thing that we pray for, may we also have ten
At the end of each chorus we will both say Amen!

What shall we pray for? We’ll pray for some beer
Glorious glorious glorious beer
And if we have one pint may we also have ten
May we have a f****** brewery said the sailor Amen!

The next thing we’ll pray for we’ll pray for some love
We hope he will send it to us from above
And if we get one girl may we also have ten
May we get a knocking shop said the soldier Amen.

The next thing we’ll pray for we’ll pray for our Queen
What a kind hearted bastard to us she has been
And if she has one son may she also have ten
May she get a football team said the sailor Amen!

The next thing we’ll pray for we’ll pray for some leave
Glorious wonderful marvellous leave
And if we get one day may we also get ten
May we get a month of Sundays they both said Amen.

Now all you young officers and NCOs too
With your hands at your sides and with F*** all to do
When you stand on parade abusing us men
May the Lord come and F***you. They both said Amen!

47:- Suvla bay.
In an old Australian homestead
With the roses around the door
A girl received a letter
Just newly from the war
With her mother’s arms around her
She gave way to sobs and sighs
And as she read the letter
The tears fell from her eyes
Why does she weep?
Why does she sigh?
Her loves asleep so far away
He played his part that august day
And left her heart on Suvla Bay.

48:- Rooty (Bread)
At times we gets some rooty
To civvies known as bread
It ain’t as light as 'fevers' (feathers)
And in ain’t exactly lead.

But we gets it down us somehow
And we never sends it back
Though it’s covered up with whiskers
What’s rubbed off from the sack

We gets no eggs for breakfast
They sends us over shells
And we dives into our dugouts
And we don’t care if they smells.

49:- Song of the Lavender Street Girls.
(What a Friend we have in Jesus)

Me no likee Blitish airman
Yankee pay five dollars more
Yankee call me Honey Baby
Blitish say me f*****g whore

You not kind English soldiers
Yankee sailors come ashore
Yankee sailors plenty money
We no shag for you no more.

50:- Raining
(Hymn Tune “Holy, Holy, Holy”
Raining, raining, raining,
Always bloody well raining
Raining all the morning
Raining all the night

Grousing, grousing, grousing,
Always bloody well grousing
Grousing at the rations
Grousing at the pay.

Marching, marching marching,
Always bloody well marching
Marching in the morning
Marching in the night.

Marching marching marching,
Always bloody well marching
When this war is over
We’ll bloody well march no more.

51:- I have no pain, Dear Mother,
Tune:- “My love is like a red red rose”
I have no pain, dear mother now,
But oh! I am so dry.
Connect me to a brewery
And leave me there to die.

52:- John Brown’s baby
Tune John Brown’s Body
John Brown’s baby has a pimple
On his arse
John Brown’s baby has a pimple
On his arse
John Brown’s baby has a pimple
On his arse
And the poor child can’t sit down.

53:- What do you want…?
Tune:- What do you want to make those eyes at me for?
What did you want to go and crash
Like that for?
It’s the second time today.
You make me mad-you make me sad
First it was a Rumpety,*
Then a brand new Spad.
What do you want to fool
Around like that for?
First you banked and then
You slipped away.

But never mind, you’ll go
Up again tonight
With umpteen bombs,
All loaded with dynamite.
Then if you make another crash like last time,
Then you won’t draw next week’s pay.

*Rumpler– A Maurice Farman Shorthorn aircraft

An R.F.C. Mess song parody.

54:- Napoo .fini.
Tune:- Keep the home fires burning
Keep the 2cs turning
Watch the windsocks squirming
The Raf* has chugged its insides out.
All on his bleedin’ own.
Can’t yer ‘ear it grinding?
‘Oo the ‘ells a-pining?
Don’t yer ‘ear the fabric rip?
List ter its sad sad moan!

*An engine produced by the Royal Aircraft Factory.

55:- My girl from Battersea.
Tune:- My girl from Tennessee.
My girl from Battersea
She thinks the world of me
Tattooed from head to toe
That’s why I love her so
Right round her bottom jaw
Is the Royal Flying Corps
And right across her back
She has the Union Jack
And up and down her spine
She has the fleet in line
And on her lovely hips
Is a fleet of battleships
But under each kidney
She has a bird’s eye view of Sydney
How I love her
How I love her
My girl from Battersea.

56:- General Shute?
Tune:- Wrap me in my tarpaulin jacket
The General inspecting the trenches
Exclaimed with a horrified shout,
‘I refuse to inspect a division
Which leaves excreta about’

But nobody took any notice
No one was prepared to refute
That the presence of shit was congenial
Compared with the presence of Shute

And certain responsible critics
Made haste to reply to his words
Observing his staff of advisers
Consisted entirely of turds

For shit may be shot at odd corners
And paper supplied there to suit
But shit would be shot without mourners
If someone shot that shit Shute.

57:- We are but private soldiers weak
Tune:- We are but little children weak.
(Methodist Hymn)

We are but private soldiers weak
Our pay is only seven bob a week
What e’er we do by night or day
It makes no difference to our pay.

Our hours a day are twenty four
And thank the Lord there are no more
For if there were we know that we
Would work another two or three.

There is one thing we do believe
That we’re entitled to some leave.
We don’t know why we’re so cursed
We’ll get our old age pension first.

58:- Thirteen Pence a day*
Tune:- ? A street ballad mid 18th century?
Come and be a soldier lads.
Come lads come.
Hark don’t you hear
The fife and the drum?
Come to the Battlefield
March march away
Come and lose your eyes and limbs
For thirteen pence a day.
Remember we are soldiers lads
The bravest of the brave
Come and be a soldier,
Then you’ll be a slave.
Stand before the Colonel lads
But don’t you dare to cry
For if you’re not happy lads
They can flog you ‘till you die.

*Not known to have been sung at all but the sentiments say much about soldiers’ lives and their songs.

Share/Save/Bookmark
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 27 May 2008 10:59 )  

Search with Google

Join the WFA

Join the WFA

Join the WFA online, by post, or at a Branch near you!

Site news

The WFA's site is undergoing a major rebuilding programme at the moment. We are moving to a new, faster server, with a new version of the content management system that has powered the site successfully since 2008. We will introduce a slightly different look and feel to that currently.
You may spot the phrase "Warning: Illegal string offset 'active' in .... " on parts of the website. Do not be alarmed! These are simply alerts but they do not constitute a danger to you or your computer. They are the result of a recent (current) server software upgrade that means there is a minor issue when listings are generated.
The website content (and, for the most part, its structure) will be unchanged and is indeed being expanded and improved. Search will be much more able to find the material you want in a site of almost 4,000 articles, and we will make other improvements such as content tagging.
We hope the work will be complete by December 2014.

Join us on Facebook

Support the WFA

If you have found this website to be of help to you, please support us.

donate_WFA

wfa-worldpay

Sponsored Links