1. I Haven't Seen Old Hitler A song from the closing period of
the war, still alive in the oral tradition.
2. The D-Day Dodgers It was widely believed that Lady Astor, MP,
had referred to troops in Itaiy as 'D-Day dodgers' because they missed the
1944 landings in Normandy. In fact, these men had seen some of the ugliest
fighting in the war. This song - a riposte from the front - became a
forces' favourite. The original appears to have been written by
Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire
Brigade, but the lyrics underwent many variations. This version was
collected by Denis Healey when a sapper with the 8th Army in Italy.
3. Ode to a Gezira Lovely Gezira, an island in the Nile,
possessed a sports club much frequented by Allied officers in North Africa.
A version of this ode appears in an Imperial War Museum document, Army
Songs, compiled by the Intelligence Corps at 8th Army HQ in Italy,
4. Tins The humble petrol tin was adapted for many domestic
necessities in wartime. This tribute originated among coastal command
squadrons stationed in Iceland from 1941. From Ward-Jackson's Airman's
5. The Ballad of Wadi Maktilla A song collected in 1940 by
Hamish Henderson, an intelligence officer who served with the 51st
Highland Division. The song commemorates 'a somewhat abortive raid by the
2nd Camerons on an Italian outpost about 12 miles east of Sidi Barrani.'
From Roy Palmer.
6. The Dying Soldier A stark narrative set at Kohima on the
Indo-Burmese border, to the tune of the Red River Valley. From Roy
7. Service Police Song A parody sung to the tune of Offenbach's
Gendarmes' Duet. Written for an RAF station concert party. From
8. Kiss Me Goodnight, Sergeant-Major A hit song written in 1939
by Art Noel and Don Pelosi. Though a product of Tin Pan Alley, it displays
a subversive humour that places it firmly in the low concert tradition.
Note the comb-and-toilet paper chorus.
9. Thanks for the Memory Wartime parody from the collection of
Roy Palmer. The 1937 hit, written by Leo Robin and Ralph Rainger, was much
adapted in World War Two. WAAF officers on a Gas Course in 1941 sang of
the 'respirator drill, which shook but did not kill - Pathetic it was.'
10. Come on Chaps One of many similar ribaldries current in
World War Two. All shared the same formula: the rhyme calls for an
obscenity which is never in fact voiced. (Army Songs)
11. The Firth of Forth A song marvellously 'browned off in mood,
which was sung with many variants by RAF squadrons in World War Two. The
targets in the last verse are the 'Ops Room twots' - personnel in
Operations Room, Headquarters.
12. Down the Mine A deeply affecting song written by Arthur
Smith of Leven, Fife, who was one of many British POWs held by the
Japanese at Kinkaseki, Formosa (now Taiwan). Inmates were made to work in
a copper mine. The bunsho dono was the camp commander; a chunkle
was a pick. From Roy Palmer.
13. The Sailor's Wife World War Two version of a popular Royal
Navy song which is 19th-century or earlier in origin.
14. Longmoor One of many wartime parodies of The Mountains of
Mourne. Longmoor Camp is in Hampshire; a similar song targeted
15. I Don't Want to Join the Army (medley) The song - a soldiers'
favourite in both world wars - leads into a medley of barrack-room verses.
Fred Karno was a comedian noted for his ineptitude; the RSC was the Royal
Service Corps. The lyric 'I've Been in the Saddle,' originally sung by the
cavalry regiments, was also relished by WW2 infantrymen. This track is not
for the fainthearted.
16. Bloody Orkney Crushing boredom in an out-of-the-way
garrison town. The original, about Orkney, was written by Captain Hamish
Blair but many variants were devised. Denis Healey knew it as Sheffield
in the Blitz. Airmen sang of 'Bloody Shrimpton-Bassett'.
17. We Are the Boys Collected by Dave Townsend from the singing
of Ron East of Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire.
18. Africa Star A soldierly disrespect for campaign medals is
exhibited in this song which, like the D-Day Dodgers, takes a
sideswipe at Lady Astor. From Roy Palmer.
19. The Sinking of the Graf Spee Song celebrating the sinking of
a German pocket battleship by three British cruisers in December 1939. Roy
Palmer recalls a Dick Bamber of Tandragee, who 'remembered singing this
song in pubs during the war and not having to buy a drink because of it.'
20. My Bomber Lies over the Ocean 'A pretty little bomber song
sung by 175 and other squadrons from 1942' (Ward-Jackson).
21. When this Bloody War is Over A World War One song still
widespread in World War Two. The hymn tune is What a Friend We Have in
22. The Gay Caballero A bawdy tale very popular with wartime
sevicemen. Versions appear in Roy Palmer and in Army Songs.
23. Onward 15 Army Group Morale in Italy declined late in the
war as fighting dragged on and, one after another, Allied commanders left
for other theatres. General Mark Clark was an American who took charge of
15 Army Group. This piece, collected by Denis Healey, is also found in
24.The Highland Division's Farewell to Sicily A composition by
Hamish Henderson - one of the finest songs of World War Two. The dialect
does not obscure its mood of haunting regret for the 'puir bliddy bastards',
weary of war, who rest at the waterside. The tune is Farewell to the
Creeks, a Gordon pipe march.
25. 'Bless' 'em All This song was current in the forces long
before 1940 when Jimmy Hughes and Frank Lake copyrighted an arrangement of
it. Bless 'em All was the title of their wartime hit. Servicemen
used a different verb - so do we.