A rumour spread during the war that the term was publicized by Viscountess Astor, a Member of the British Parliament, who supposedly used the expression in public after a disillusioned serviceman in Italy signed a letter to her as being from a "D-Day Dodger." However, there is no record that she actually said this, in or out of Parliament, and she herself denied ever saying it.
Reference to a "D-Day Dodger" was bitingly sarcastic, given the steady stream of allied service personnel who were being killed or wounded in combat on the Italian front. A "Dodger" is someone who avoids something; the soldiers in Italy felt that their sacrifices were being ignored after the invasion of Normandy, and a "D-Day Dodger" a reference to someone who was supposedly avoiding real combat by serving in Italy, whereas the reality was anything but.
The Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers
Several versions of a song called "D-Day Dodgers", set to the tune Lili Marlene (a favourite song of all troops in the desert — the British Eighth Army was a veteran formation from that theatre before landing in Italy), were sung with gusto in the last months of the war, and at post-war reunions.
The song was written in November 1944 by Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade, who was with the 78th Infantry Division just south of Bologna, Italy. There were many variations on verses and even the chorus, but the song generally and sarcastically referred to how easy their life in Italy was. There was no mention of Lady Astor in the original lyrics. Actually, many Allied personnel in Italy had reason to be bitter, as the bulk of material support for the Allied armies went to Northwest Europe after the invasion of Normandy. They also noted sardonically that they had participated in several "D-days" of their own before the landings in Normandy became popularly known as "D-Day". The expression was used to refer to any military operation, but the popular press turned it into an expression synonymous with the Normandy landings only. Italian campaign veterans noted that they had been in action for eleven months before the Normandy D-Day, and some of those had served in North Africa even before that.
The numerous Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries across Italy are compelling evidence of the fighting which took place during campaigns such as Operation Avalanche and the subsequent Battle of Monte Cassino.
Although Hamish Henderson did not write the song, he did collect different versions of it and it is attributed to him in the sleeve notes of the Ian Campbell Folk Group's "Contemporary Campbells". Many different variations have been recorded.
We landed at Salerno, a holiday with pay,
Jerry brought the band down to cheer us on our way
Showed us the sights and gave us tea,.
We all sang songs, the beer was free.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, way out in Italy.
The Volturno and Cassino were taken in our stride
We didn't have to fight there. We just went for the ride.
Anzio and Sangro were all forlorn.
We did not do a thing from dusk to dawn.
For we are the D-Day Dodgers, over here in Italy.
On our way to Florence we had a lovely time.
We ran a bus to Rimini right through the Gothic Line.
On to Bologna we did go.
Then we went bathing in the Po.
For we are the D-Day Dodgers, over here in Italy.
Once we had a blue light that we were going home
Back to dear old Blighty, never more to roam.
Then somebody said in France you'll fight.
We said never mind, we'll just sit tight,
The windy D-Day Dodgers, out in Sunny Italy.
Now Lady Astor, get a load of this.
Don't stand up on a platform and talk a load of piss.
You're the nation's sweetheart, the nation's pride
We think your mouth's too bloody wide.
We are the D-Day Dodgers, in Sunny Italy.
When you look 'round the mountains, through the mud and rain
You'll find the crosses, some which bear no name.
Heartbreak, and toil and suffering gone
The boys beneath them slumber on
They were the D-Day Dodgers, who'll stay in Italy.
So listen all you people, over land and foam
Even though we've parted, our hearts are close to home.
When we return we hope you'll say
"You did your little bit, though far away
All of the D-Day Dodgers, way out there in Italy."
Recordings of D-Day Dodgers
- Ian Campbell Folk Group on Contemporary Campbells (1965)
- The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem on Home Boys Home (1968)
- Ian Robb on From Different Angels (1994)
- Pete Seeger on Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (1996)
- The Yetties on Argo LP "Up in Arms" (1974) track listed as "Lili Marlele"
- The Houghton Weavers on Songs of Conflict (2012)
- The Spinners (UK folk band) on By Arrangement (1973)
- The Leesiders (UK folk duo) on The Leesiders (1968)
- D-Day Dodgers: The Canadians In Italy 1943-45 by Daniel G. Dancocks sketches the history of Canadian military participation in the Italian Campaign.
- War Story D-Day Dodgers by Garth Ennis and John Higgins was a graphic novel published in 2001 by Vertigo DC Comics. It contains a version of the song.
- Operation Husky
- Operation Shingle
- Allied invasion of Italy
- Gustav Line
- Volturno Line
- Winter Line
- British military history of World War II
- Fourteenth Army (United Kingdom), the Forgotten Army
- Palmer, Roy (1990). 'What a Loverly War!' British Soldiers' Songs from the Boer War to the Present Day. London: Michael Joseph. p. 227.
- A Canadian version goes: We landed at Pachino, a holiday with pay
Jerry brought a band out, to cheer us on our way
Showed us the sights, and gave us tea
We all sang songs, the beer was free
Dancocks, Daniel - D-Day Dodgers: The Canadian in Italy 1943-45
- A Canadian version goes "The Moro and Ortona were taken in our stride.
- The verse sung on the recording Sod's Opera goes: Anzio Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. and Sangro Archived September 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. were a farce, we did fuck all, sat on our arse.
- Sod's Opera recording.
- Nick Guida. "Home Boys Home: at the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem". Clancybrothersandtommymakem.com. Retrieved 2012-02-12.