Song Lyric Sunday: General Length or Size of Things

The prompt for Song Lyric Sunday from Jim Adams is Long/Short/Small/Tall. The song must contain one of these words in either the title or the lyrics.

Welcome to Bless ‘Em All aka The Long and the Short and the Tall. No small I’m afraid – the sizes mentioned are in reference to members of the armed forces.

This ditty apparently started life as a protest song and became popular among British airmen serving on India’s North-West Frontier during the 1920s. Only they didn’t sing bless, they used a four-letter word that rhymes with pluck.

An early version written in 1917 is credited to Fred Godfrey (lyrics) and Robert Kewley (music), but the credits for a later cleaned up one, go to Al Stillman, Jimmy Hughes and Frank Lake. Confusing, isn’t it? Especially when you look at the dates.

The first known recording of the song is by George Formby in 1940. George was a ukulele playing, comedic actor, hailing from Lancashire in England. He was a massive star in the 1930s and 1940s.

I often wonder if he ever sang the original incarnation of Bless ‘Em All because he wasn’t shy of belting out double entendres. In 1936, the BBC banned his song When I’m Cleaning Windows because of its lewdness. And believe me, it is quite racy.

But here’s George on his best behaviour…

Bless ‘Em All

They say there’s a troopship just leaving Bombay, bound for old Blighty shore
Heavily laden with time expired men, bound for the land they adore.
There’s many an airman just finishing his time, there’s many a twerp signing on.
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads, bless ’em all.

Bless ‘em all, bless ‘em all, the long and the short and the tall
Bless all the sergeants and W. O. ones,
Bless all the corp’rals and their blinkin’ sons,
‘Cos we’re saying goodbye to them all, as back to their billets they crawl
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads, bless ’em all

They say if you work hard you’ll get better pay
We’ve heard all that before
Clean up your buttons and polish your boots
Scrub out the barrack room floor
There’s many a rookie has taken it in, hook line and sinker an ‘all
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads bless ’em all.

Bless ’em all, bless ’em all, the long and the short and the tall,
Bless all the sergeants and W. O. ones,
Bless all the corp’rals and their blinkin’ sons,
‘Cos we’re saying goodbye to them all, as back to their billets they crawl
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads, bless’em All

Now they say that the Sergeant’s a very nice chap, oh what a tale to tell.
Ask him for leave on a Saturday night and he’ll pay your fare home as well.
There’s many an airman has blighted his life through writing rude words on the wall
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads bless ’em all

Bless ’em all, bless ’em all, the long and the short and the tall,
Bless all the sergeants and W. O. ones,
Bless all the corp’rals and their blinkin’ sons,
‘Cos we’re saying goodbye to them all, as back to their billets they crawl
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean, so cheer up my lads, bless’em all

Nobody knows what a twerp you have been, so cheer up my lads, bless ’em all.

Songwriters: Any number of people – take your pick
© Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

9 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday: General Length or Size of Things

  1. Wow, what a great song with the newer lyrics! Being a former Marine, the f-word wouldn’t have set too well with me back in the day. History repeats itself considering the way American troops were treated after serving in Vietnam. For all those critics, they need to spend some time defending their country and enduring the scars of war and they may see our freedoms in a whole new light. I like the newer lyrics much better. 🙂

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