“Soldiers of the First World War subverted contemporary tunes to produce a potent mix of stoicism, humour, irony and ribaldry to counteract the reality of life in the trenches.”
To the melody of When You Wore a Tulip, they sang:
I wore a tunic…
I wore a tunic, a lousy khaki tunic,
And you wore your civvy clothes.
We fought and bled at Loos
While you were home on the booze
The booze that no one here knows.
Oh you were with the wenches
While we were in the trenches
Facing an angry foe.
Oh you were a-slacking
While we were attacking
The Jerry on the Menin Road.
To the hymn tune, The Church’s One Foundation they sang We are Fred Karno’s Army. Fred Karno was a British comedian of the day.
We are Fred Karno’s army, we are the ragtime infantry.
We cannot fight, we cannot shoot, what bleeding use are we?
And when we get to Berlin we’ll hear the Kaiser say,
‘Hoch, hoch! Mein Gott, what a bloody rotten lot, are the ragtime infantry’