When the war is over We're going to live in Dover, When the war is over we're going to have a spree, We're going to have a fight In the middle of the night With the whizz-bangs a-flying in the air.
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Though we cannot picture a peace which will be in no way associated with high explosives, we can dream in the midst of the conflict of the desirable things that civil life would bring us. What time we waited for Kitchener's Army in Flanders and lost all hope of ever seeing it, this song was sung up and down the trenches by the Territorials and Regulars.
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Who are the boys that fighting's for, Who are the lads to win the war, It's good old Kitchener's Army. Here are a few others which have echoed in billets and dug-outs from Le Harve to the Somme, and which have accompanied the wild abandon of drinking nights in Poperinghe and Bethune. Over the sandbags helmets you'll find Corpses in front and corpses behind. Far, far from Ypres I long to be, Where German snipers can't get at me, Think of me crouching where the worms creep, Waiting for the sergeant to sing me to sleep.
Sing me to sleep in some old shed, The rats all running around my head, Stretched out upon my waterproof, Dodging the raindrops through the roof, Dreaming of home and nights in the West, Somebody's overseas boots on my chest. The Tommy is a singing soldier; he sings to the village patronne even when ordering food, and his song is in French. The soldier has in reality very few songs; he has many choruses which get worth from the mood that inspires them and the emotions which they evoke.
None will outlast the turmoil in which they originated; having weathered the leaden storms of war, their vibrant strains will be choked and smothered in atmospheres of Peace. When I said I wanted to dedicate "Soldier Songs"to you I did not then anticipate inflicting upon you so lengthy a dedicatory letter; but when writing of the men of the British armies, old and new, I find it difficult to be concise. WAS it only yesterday Lusty comrades marched away? Now they're covered up with clay.
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Seven glasses used to be Called for six good mates and me -- Now we only call for three. Little crosses neat and white, Looking lonely every night, Tell of comrades killed in fight. Hearty fellows they have been, And no more will they be seen Drinking wine in Nouex les Mines.
Lithe and supple lads were they, Marching merrily away -- Was it only yesterday? WE'RE goin' easy now a bit, all dressed in blighty blue. The ole sweats -- All that is left of the ole sweats. More went away than are with us to-day. Gawd I but we miss 'em, the ole sweats. The ole sweats -- Devils for fun were the ole sweats, In love or a scrap sure they always went nap, They 'adn't 'arf guts had the ole sweats. The new 'uns it's said they are smart on parade, But, Gawd, there is none like the ole sweats. The ole sweats -- The grub it was skimp with the ole sweats.
A Moment to Remember: High hopes and shattered dreams in wartime London
But if rashuns was small 'twas the same for us all, Same for the 'ole of the ole sweats. Well, if you want a sooveneer, a bit of blighty blue, There's empty tunic sleeves to spare, a trousers leg or two, And some day when you see us stand on Charing Cross parade, Present a boot before us just to 'elp us at our trade. The ole sweats -- Tuppence a shine with the ole sweats. So you'll give us a show when you see us, we know, Us that is left of the ole sweats. There's hay to save and corn to cut, but harder work by far Awaits the soldier boys who reap the harvest fields of war.
The column's lines are broken, there are gaps in the platoon, They'll not need many billets, now, for soldiers in Bethune, For many boys, good lusty boys, who marched away so fine, Have now got little homes of clay beside the firing line. The gunners will clean them at dawning And slumber beside them all day, But the guns chant a chorus at sunset, And then you should hear what they say.
Whizz bang! Big guns, little guns waken up to it. We're in for heaps of trouble, dug-outs at the double, And stretcher-bearers ready to tend the boys who're hit. And then there's the little machine-gun, -- A beggar for blood going large. Go, fill up his belly with iron, And he'll spit in the face of a charge. The foe fixed his ladders at daybreak, He's over the top with the sun; He's waiting; for ever he's waiting, The pert little vigilant gun.
Chorus Its tit-tit! Hark the little terror bristling up to it! See his victims lying, wounded sore and dying -- Red the field and volume on which his name is writ. The howitzer lurks in an alley, The howitzer isn't a fool, With a bearing of snub-nosed detachment He squats like a toad on a stool. He's a close-lipped and masterly beggar, A fellow with little to say, But the little he says he can say in A most irrepressible way. Chorus OO -- plonk! The bomb that bears the message riots through the air.
The dug-outs topple over on the foemen under cover, They'll slumber through revelly who get the message there! The battery barks in the spinney, The howitzer plonks like the deuce, The big nine point two speaks like thunder And shatters the houses in Loos, Sharp chatters the little machine-gun, Oh! Up the ladders!
And carry on with it The guns all chant their chorus, the shells go whizzing o'er us: -- Forward, hearties! Forward to do our little bit! A sentinel on guard, my watch I keep And guard the dug-out where my comrades sleep. The moon looks down upon a ghost-like figure, Delving a furrow in the cold, damp sod. The grave is ready and the lonely digger Leaves the departed to their rest and God. I shape a little cross and plant it deep To mark the dug-out where my comrades sleep. A candle stuck on the muddy floor Lights up the dug-out wall, And I see in its flame the prancing sea And the mountains straight and tall; For my heart is more than often back By the hills of Donegal.
OFF DUTY THE night is full of magic, and the moonlit dewdrops glisten Where the blossoms close in slumber and the questing bullets pass -- Where the bullets hit the level I can hear them as I listen, Like a little cricket concert, chirping chorus in the grass. In the dug-out by the traverse there's a candle- flame a-winking And the fireflies on the sandbags have their torches all aflame.
As I watch them in the moonlight, sure, I cannot keep from thinking, That the world I knew and this one carry on the very same. I use my pick and shovel To dig a little hole, And there I sit till morning -- A listening-patrol. A silly little sickle Of moon is hung above; Within a pond beside me The frogs are making love: I see the German sap-head; A cow is lying there, Its belly like a barrel, Its legs are in the air. The big guns rip like thunder, The bullets whizz o'erhead, But o'er the sea in England Good people lie abed. And over there in England May every honest soul Sleep sound while we sit watching On listening patrol.
The guns speak loud: he hears them not; The night goes by: he does not know; A lone white cross stands on the spot, And tells of one who sleeps below. The brooding night is hushed and still, The crooning breeze draws quiet breath, A star-shell flares upon the hill And lights the lowly house of death. Unknown, a soldier slumbers there, While mournful mists come dropping low, But oh! My wants are few, but what I need Ain't not so much of bully stew, Nor biscuits, that's a mongrel's feed, But, matey, just 'twixt me and you -- When winks the early evening star, And shadows o'er the trenches come -- I wish the sergeants brought a jar, And issued double tots of rum.
FOUR by four, in column of route, By roads that the poplars sentinel, Clank of rifle and crunch of boot -- All are marching and all is well. White, so white is the distant moon, Salmon-pink is the furnace glare And we hum, as we march, a ragtime tune, Khaki boys in the long platoon, Ready for anything -- anywhere. Lonely and still the village lies, The houses sleep and the blinds are drawn, The road is straight as the bullet flies, And we go marching into the dawn; Salmon-pink is the furnace sheen.
Where the coal stacks bulk in the ghostly air The long platoons on the move are seen, Little connecting files between, Moving and moving, anywhere. Now when the star-shells riot up In flares of red and green, Each fairy leaves her buttercup And goes to see her queen. Where little, ghostly moonbeams stray Through mushroom alleys white, The fairies carry on their way A glow-worm lamp for light. For them the journey's always short; They're happy as you please, A-riding to the Fairy Court On backs of bumble-bees. The cricket and the grasshopper Are thridding in the grass, And making paths of gossamer For fairy feet to pass.
I've lugged it from Bethune to Loos and back from Loos again, I've found it on the battlefield amidst the soldiers slain. A little battle souvenir for one across the foam That's if the French authorities will let me take it home. I've got a long, long sabre as sharp as any lance, 'Twas carried by a shepherd boy from some- where South in France Where grasses wave and poppy-flowers are red as blood is red, I took the shepherd's sabre for the shepherd boy lay dead.
I'll take it back a souvenir to one across the foam. That's if the French authorities will let me take it home, That's if our own authorities will give me leave for home!!! THE night is still and the air is keen, Tense with menace the time crawls by, In front is the town and its homes are seen, Blurred in outline against the sky.
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