Bless 'Em All

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For the 1948 British film, see Bless 'Em All (film).
"Bless 'Em All"
Song by George Formby, Jr.
Written 1917
Writer(s) Fred Godfrey, Robert Kewley

"Bless 'Em All", also known as "The Long And The Short And The Tall" and "Fuck 'Em All", is a war song. The words have been credited as being written by Fred Godfrey in 1917 to music composed by Robert Kewley. It was first recorded by George Formby, Jr. in 1940.

The song has also been credited to Jimmy Hughes, Frank Lake and Al Stillman.[1][2]

History[edit]

Godfrey claimed to have thought up the lyrics for the song while serving with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) at Dunkirk during the First World War, recalling in a 1941 letter to the Daily Mirror: "I wrote “Bless ’Em All” while serving in the old RNAS in France in 1916. And, furthermore, it wasn’t "Bless.'" Although the song is credited to him, it is unclear if he actually wrote the lyrics, and his service record indicates that he joined RNAS January 1917.[3] Les Cleveland (1984) writes that a version of the song titled Fuck 'Em All was a popular protest song by airmen serving on India's North West Frontier during the 1920s, and may have originated from there. It later gained popularity among British and Commonwealth troops during the Second World War, and with a change of lyrics became a patriotic tune after being performed by singers such as Gracie Fields and Vera Lynn.[4] It was also recorded by George Formby and others. Ward Brown noted that "(...) The line You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean seems to reflect the point of view of soldiers about to be sent to a fighting front on the other side of an ocean - presumably the Atlantic. This would point to an American origin for the song, rather than a British one, though there is no clear evidence for such an origin".[5] However the 'ocean' referred to, given a British-Indian origin, is much more likely the Indian Ocean - although the English Channel would do just as well for the purposes of the song.

Lyrics[edit]

Bless 'em all,
Bless 'em all.
The long and the short and the tall,

Bless all those Sergeants and WO1's,
Bless all those Corporals and their blinkin'/bleedin' sons,
Cos' we're saying goodbye to 'em all.
And back to their Billets they crawl,
You'll get no promotion this side of the ocean,
So cheer up my lads bless 'em all

Flying version[edit]

A version of the song specifically about pilots and flying – which the AFI Catalog of Feature Films credits as "words and music by Jimmy Hughes, Frank Lake and Al Stillman[1][2] – has the verse lyrics:

Bless the instructors who taught us to die
They say that we're lucky 'cause we're still alive
For if ever the engine should stall
We're in for a heck of a fall
No roses or violets for flat-footed pilots
So cheer up my lads bless 'em all[6]

Irish version[edit]

A satirical version of the song became very popular in Ireland during the Second World War (known in neutral Ireland as the Emergency). The song was a reaction to the widespread rationing of tea, sugar, tobacco and other goods due to the drastic drop in imports, particularly from Britain.[7] It poked fun at Ireland's Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and Minister Seán McEntee who were blamed for the shortages and rationing. The line "the long and the short and the tall" had particular sarcastic resonance because De Valera was tall while McEntee was very short.

The Irish version of the song included the lines:

Bless 'em all,
Bless 'em all.
The long and the short and the tall,

Bless De Valera and Seán McEntee,
They gave us the black flour,
And the half-ounce of tea.
They rationed the cocoa and all,
But rationed themselves not at all.
They're bringing starvation
To our little nation,
So cheer up St Vincent de Paul.

In popular culture[edit]

Films

Television

  • Archie Bunker sings a few lines of the song in the final seconds of the season one episode "Success Story" of the TV show All in the Family.
  • In the Magnum, P.I. episode "Echoes of the Mind Part I" Jonathan Higgins listens to a record of the song.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Chain Lightning at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ a b c Twelve O'Clock High at the American Film Institute Catalog
  3. ^ "Bless 'Em All page". Bless ’Em All: The Songs of Fred Godfrey. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  4. ^ Cleveland, Les (1984). "Soldiers' Songs: The Folklore of the Powerless". Buffalo State University. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Brown, Dr. Ward C. "Soldiers' Songs from the Boer War to Vietnam" in Kaufmann, Vera (ed.) (1999) A Retrospective Look at the Popular Culture of the Twentieth Century, New York.
  6. ^ Chain Lightning showing on TCM.com, March 14, 2017
  7. ^ O'Sullivan, Kevin (ndg) "De Valera, black flour and the Emergency or, tings I lernt over de Christmas" Pue's Occurrences

External links[edit]