Category Archives: songs

The Edinburgh Companion to the First World War and the Arts

Of all the research I’ve done over the past few years, the job I’ve most enjoyed has been finding out about the songs that British soldiers sang songs. This was for my contribution to the Edinburgh Companion to the First World War and the Arts. Big thanks to editors Anne-Marie Einhaus and Katherine Baxter for […]

We all live at Number 24

I’m reading Ernest Raymond’s The Jesting Army (1930). The army   is near Gilban (in Egypt), heading towards the Battle of Romani (August 1916). The soldiers are singing: …certainly not Tipperary, which had been discarded immediately the newspapers made it into the Soldiers’ Song [….] but in high chorus they invited someone to wash them […]

Soldiers singing, at the end of the war

Last year I was working on a chapter about soldiers songs for the forthcoming Edinburgh Companion on the First World War and the Arts. Yesterday I came across a paragraph that I wish I’d seen before  finishing the chapter. It’s from the New Statesman, October 19, 1918:

On the night that the old cow died

You look for one thing and find another. I was checking a reference in the New Statesman of 1917 (in the pleasant Archive Room of the newly restored Central Reference Library in Manchester), and flicked through the rest of the bound volume to see what else was interesting. Much was – a grudging review of […]

Who’s the man with the big red nose?

The most enigmatic of the songs collected in F.T. Nettleingham’s Tommy’s Tunes (1917) is, in its entirety, this: (Click the picture for a better view) Wondering what this was about, I’ve searched the Internet, and found an Australian drinking song – I think the sort where you have to down the pint before they end […]

Lieutenant F.W. Nettleingham

In the Bookman for 1917 I’ve found a photo of a hero of mine – Lieutenant F. W. Nettleingham, the compiler of Tommy’s Tunes, the first and best collection of soldiers’ songs.

Who is ‘A.C.A.’?

Here’s the beginning of an article in the Times for 29th September, 1914: In all, the paper prints six of these efforts, each putting topical words to a traditional tune. So who is ‘A.C.A.’? If he’s familiar to officers from their schooldays, does this make him the author of a textbook, or perhaps the editor […]

Hooray for Drivel

‘Mr. Robert Graves is interested in the ‘ballads’ that came into existence among the British troops during the war, but these are the merest drivel as he would agree.’ John Spiers, Scrutiny (June 1935)

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 […]

‘The Tribunal’

Councillor Hopwood (to a conscientious objector at Shaw Tribunal, asking for exemption): I think you are exploiting God to save your own skin. It is nothing but deliberate and rank blasphemy. A man who would not help to defend his country and womankind is a coward and a cad. You are nothing but a shivering […]