Send out the boys of the girls’ brigade

I’m thinking again about the chapter on soldiers’ songs that I’m writing for a collection on the the First World War and the Arts.
In September 1914, a Times reader shared ‘the latest popular marching song from Aldershot’, whose words, he said, were the work of a sergeant in the Gordon Highlanders:

Send out the Army and the Navy,
Send out the rank and file.
(Have a banana!)
Send out the brave Territorials,
They can easily run a mile.
(I don’t think!)
Send out the boys of the girls brigade,
They will keep old England free,
Send out my mother, my sister and my brother,
But for goodness sake don’t send me.

(All other versions of the song make the last line ‘For Gawd’s sake’. I don’t know whether the bowdlerisation here was done by the soldiers, the letter-writer or the sub-editor at the Times. I suspect the sub-editor.)

Since the Gordon Highlanders were part of the regular army, and since this account is very near the beginning of the War, I’ve started to wonder – does this song actually pre-date the War? (The sergeant who claimed authorship may well have added his own twist to the lyrics, of course.) Any ideas?
The song is an interesting one. Many of the soldiers’ songs were adaptations of music-hall numbers, but this one traveled in the reverse direction. It began the War as a marching song, but in 1917 was incorporated into ‘The Conscientious Objector’, presented by Alfred Lester, and attributed to the writers D. Burnaby and G. Rice

Perhaps you wonder what I am,
I will explain to you,
My conscience is the only thing,
That helps to pull me through.
Objection is a thing that I
Have studied thoroughly,
I don’t object to fighting Huns,
But should hate them fighting me.

Send out the Army and The Navy,
Send out the rank and file,
Send out the brave old Territorials
They’ll face the danger with a smile.
Send out the boys of the Old Brigade
Who made Old England free
Send out me brother, his sister and his mother
But for Gawd’s sake don’t send me.

Non-combatent battalions
Are fairly in my line
But the sergeant always hates me
And he calls me “Baby mine”,
But oh, I got so cross with him
I rose to the attack
And when he called me “Ethel”
I just called him “Beatrice” back!

Send out the Army and The Navy,
Send out the rank and file,
Send out the brave old Territorials
They’ll face the danger with a smile.
Send out the boys of the Old Brigade
Who made Old England free
Send out me brother, his sister and his mother
But for Gawd’s sake don’t send me.

We have a nasty officer,
He is a horrid brute,
Last Friday he was terse with me
‘Cos I did not salute.
But I cut him twice today,
Then he asked the reason please?
I said, “I thought, dear Captain,
That you still were cross with me.”

Send out the Army and The Navy,
Send out the rank and file,
Send out the brave old Territorials
They’ll face the danger with a smile.
Send out the boys of the Old Brigade
Who made Old England free
Send out the bakers, and the bloomin’ profit-makers
But for Gawd’s sake don’t send me.

One Comment

  1. Jonathan Lighter
    Posted June 2, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    The chorus was still sung, as I understand it, in WW2.

    Not only was it attached to “The Conscientious Objector’s Lament,” by Burnaby and Rice (co-composer of the original harmless “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”), the “Lament” is closely connected with “I Don’t Want to be a Soldier,” still current with, er, far more colorful language.


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