Bless 'Em All

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"Bless 'Em All"
Song by George Formby, Jr.
Written1917
Songwriter(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 in 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 to be 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

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.[6] 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.

In popular culture[edit]

Films

Television

Literature

  • William Hjortsberg's biography of Richard Brautigan, Jubilee Hitchhiker, includes an account of Brautigan in 1967 joining several other poets and artists in a Chinese restaurant to celebrate Basil Bunting, who'd been invited to read at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Bunting led everyone in "an old British-army or service-person-overseas kind of song where everybody gets screwed." Hjortsberg calls it "Troop Ships Are Leaving Bombay," the first line of Formby's original lyric.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Chain Lightning at the American Film Institute Catalog
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ O'Sullivan, Kevin (ndg) "De Valera, black flour and the Emergency or, tings I lernt over de Christmas" Pue's Occurrences
  7. ^ Lyrics in Fehrenbach, T. R. (1963) This Kind of War: The Classic Korean War History, 1998 reprint, ISBN 1-57488-161-2

External links[edit]