Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War

Soldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great WarSoldiers’ Songs and Slang of the Great War by Martin Pegler
ISBN: 9781472804150
Published by Osprey Publishing on August 20th 2014
Genres: History, Military, General, World War I, Europe, Great Britain, Technology & Engineering, Military Science, Social History
Pages: 408

Featured Review

Soldiers’ Song and Slang of the Great War is an update and enlargement of a book first published in 1931. The current book includes phrases that were deemed inappropriate in earlier editions. The slang is both mystifying and well known. For example, a “goo wallah” is the sanitary man. Other items such as a “flapper’s delight” for a young officer are self-explanatory even now.

The songs lack any musical notations and only the lyrics are printed. Many use melodies set to well-known tunes—those by Gilbert and Sullivan seem to be popular as are folk melodies from the British countryside. The lyrics are commentaries on life at the front, the memories of home, and patriotic themes. By war’s end parodies are widespread. Songs from America and France are included, even “Adieu la Vie” (Chanson of Craonne) which was banned in France until 1974. The English translation is buried in the appendix, but is worth finding. The song is an indictment by the soldiers in the field of their treatment by the French army and government.

The Home Front in the Great War covers the British home front and the Hull area in detail. There is a chronological section at the beginning that provides an overview of events back in “Blighty,” followed by short essays on the efforts by groups from the Royals to the YMCA to support of the war effort. The report on the Boy Scouts is especially laudatory.

Both books use a good variety of images and are entertaining to read. Unfortunately, neither book has an index, making it almost impossible to use them for reference purposes.

Anne Merritt