Wednesday, January 31, 2007


 I found the text on the net, but inbult formatting problems led me to just transcribe the darn thing myself. But it's a good piece of work and I think it was worth it.

Noel Coward-1943
Colonel Montmorency who was in Calcutta in ninety-two
Emerged from his retirement for the War
He wasn't very pleased with all he heard and all he saw
But whatever he felt he tightened his belt and organized a Corps
Poor Colonel Montmorency thought considering all the wars he'd fought
The Home guard was his job to do or die
But after days and weeks and years, bravely drying his many tears
He wrote the following letter to the Minister of Supply
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Or failing that a hand grenade will do
We've got some ammunition, in a rather damp condition
And Major Huss has an arquebus that was used at Waterloo
With the Vicar's stirrup pump, a pitchfork and a stave
It's rather hard to guard an aerodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
Were getting awfully tired of drawing lots
Today we had a shipment of some curious equipment
And just for a prank, they sent us a tank that ties itself in knots
On Sunday's mock invasion, Captain Clark was heard to say
He hadn't even got a brush and comb
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Colonel Montmorency planned, in case the enemy tried to land
to drive them back with skill and armoured force
He realized his army should be mechanized, of course
But somewhere inside, experience cried "My Kingdom for a horse"
Poor Colonel Montmorency tried, at infinite cost to time and pride
to tackle his superiors again
Having just one motorbike, fourteen swords and a marlin spike
He wrote the following letter in the following urgent strain
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
We need it very badly, I'm afraid
Our local crossword solver has an excellent revolver
But during a short attack on a fort, the trigger got mislaid
In course of operations planned for Friday afternoon
Our orders are to storm the Hippodrome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
Could you please oblige us with a Bren gun?
the lack of one is wounding to our pride
Last night we found the cutest, little Germanparachutist
He looked at our kit and giggled a bit, and laughed until he cried
We'll have to hide that armoured car when marching through Berlin
We'd almost be ashamed of it in Rome
So if you can't oblige us with a Bren gun
The Home Guard might as well go home
I came across this on a collection of songs from WWII. The Bren gun, I discovered after some online research, is a lightweight machine gun. For those who don't know, a marlinspike looks like a huge needle (they can be up to two fee log) that is used for splicing rope or line. Fishermen use them, and so do loggers. the stirrup pump is a small hand operated vacuum pump used to fight fires. Not much of an arsenal.
Noel Coward's tongue was planted firmly in his cheek when he wrote this but, when you stop and think about the circumstances it's laughter to keep from crying (or screaming). This song very graphically reminds us just how desperate conditions were for England during a large part of the war. Between the fall of France, until Hitler turned his ambitions to the east and Russia, England was alone. The US didn't get pulled into the war until Pearl Harbor. And if the Germans hadn't declared war on us after we declared war on Japan it would have been nearly impossible to divert resources to the European war.
Funny thing is, apparently more than a few folks were up in arms over the song. Seems that they felt is was disrespectful or something. Actually, although the song makes me laugh, it was really dead serious. Somehow the idea of a bunch of over the hill civilians even thinking they could stand up to the Wehrmacht, well, we'll never know, because the Germans never invaded England. Looking back, we can chuckle over a song that seems a lot like whistling while you take a shortcut through a graveyard.

1 comment:

tenyearnap said...

Variations on the Bren gun were made and used right up into the 1990s. The song is an interesting piece of history. Thanks for sharing.--Cin