The Daily Telegraph Dictionary of Tommies’ Songs and Slang 1914-18 by John Brophy & Eric Partridge
The opening words of this book are “This book is a jewel” and it is!
The book is a reprint brought back to life by Malcolm Brown. The opening chapter, by Brown, gives a background to the book, the reason it was written and a bit about the authors.
The book itself is in two parts – Part One being the “Soldiers’ Songs” and Part Two, “Soldiers’ Slang”. It is interesting to see some of the slang still used today, although maybe with a slightly different emphasis.
Soldiers being soldiers, many of the songs are related to booze or ‘wimmin’ or both! One such song, reminding us of soldiers No1 thoughts, short and sung to the tune of ‘My Love is like a red, red rose’ was:
But oh! I am so dry
Connect me to a brewery
And leave me there to die!
Click here to buy Tommies Slang from Amazon
Tea, Rum & Fags by Alan Weeks
Sustaining Tommy 1914 – 18.
Again this is not a book about how the battles were fought and what Generals did or did not do. It is the story of life in the trenches, using letters from those that were there. It covers how catering for the army changed over the period of the war.
To start with units carried their own food and cooked it as and when. Later in the war this became more organised and units had cooks on establishments preparing meals. However, these meals then had to be taken up to the trenches, and that was another bit of trench life that had to be dealt with, keeping the food warm and intact on the journey from the field kitchen to the front trenches. There are several stories of men being out on advanced piquet’s not being fed for days and having to live on what they took with them.
A really good book which gives a real feel for how the ordinary soldier survived the horrors of trench warfare. The book also picks out the differences between officers and other ranks, especially in the earlier years of the war. Although rationed similarly, officers could afford to supplement their rations from their own incomes, which often made a huge difference to the menus on offer.
My one major bug-bear about this book is the author and/or indexer have become completely confused between the Cameronians and Cameron Highlanders with the indexer crediting the Cameron Highlanders with extracts which have come from a Cameronian. Easy enough I suppose but not to be expected in a book so well researched as this. Well worth the reading though and a good one to have on the WW1 bookshelf.
Cheer Up, Mate by Alan Weeks
In this book Weeks has moved on a war to WW2, although a lot of the humour is interchangeable with WW1.
Weeks was a young boy during the Blitz and remembers a lot of what happened. In this book he brings back some of his memories but also snippets from letters and newspaper articles and cartoons. This book though is not just about the humour, it moves through the war in chronological fashion and puts the humour into context letting the reader know what was happening in the war and what gave rise to the funny story, joke or cartoon.
We are not not just taken through service humour as WW2 saw the advent of civilians being on the front line, well in Britain anyway. So the civilian jokes etc, which is just as cutting a service humour, are an integral part of the book. It is a book of Second World War humour and whichever part of the population was affected by the war is included.
Again a good book giving the background to the lives of ordinary people and not just the historians dry descriptions of which General did what or not. Well worth reading and remembering that virtually nowhere was safe between1939-1945, but it did not stop people having a laugh.
These three books are well presented, all three have numerous illustrations which add to the books greatly and are really good for the person interested in these periods; to read about what ordinary people actually thought and did and how they survived through adversity. If you are well read about WW1 and know the battles, these books will fill in the gaps about what happened before, during and after the attacks to the Tommy in the Trench and in the rear areas. They will put a bit of humanity into the usual stilted historical description of war. Get all three books, they are not expensive, but they will enhance your bookshelf greatly.
3.5 for all three books
The Daily Telegraph Dictionary of Tommies’ Songs and Slang 1914-18 by John Brophy & Eric Partridge published by Frontline Publishing
Click here to buy Tommies Slang from Amazon
Tea, Rum & Fags Sustaining Tommy 1914 – 18 .by Alan Weeks published by The History Press
Click here to buy Tea, Rum & Fags from Amazon
Cheer Up, Mate by Alan Weeks published by The History Press
Click here to buy Cheer Up, Mate from Amazon