Peace And Freedom
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Don't Call Me Tommy Atkins
In 2005 I read "Forgotten Voices of the Great War", edited by Max Arthur, and was incredibly moved by it. A few weeks later, (on Jo's birthday) I sat all day at the pc writing this. The stories all come from that book, with a little invention of my own. The "pit" that the wounded soldier rolled into was a latrine pit.

Don't Call Me Tommy Atkins       © Bill Prince 2005
Don't call me Tommy Atkins, for that's not my name at all
Tommy was a lad I went to school with
If you have to call me something, my name is Billy Small
And a man's name isn't something you should fool with.
Don't talk to me of Empire, it doesn't mean a thing
Not to common folks as far as I can see
Perhaps it makes a difference to a Kaiser or a King
But it matters not a jot to you and me

I hate the bloody Germans, and I hate the bloody French,
I hate the bloody officers, I hate the bloody stench
And I've never seen a General trembling in a trench
Six miles behind the lines is where you'll find them
And the cheerful bloody Charlies, I hate them every one
They think that just the sight of them will terrify the Hun
They come over here from home and think it's all a bit of fun
They're singing "Pack up all your troubles, never mind them"

"It'll all be done by Christmas", that's what they said at first
'Though I was never one that thought it true
And no-one who's not been here and seen it at its worst
Can understand just what we're going through
For there's water to your armpits, or there's mud up to your knees
It's two months since I've had a bath or shave
You're bitten half to death by all the rats and lice and fleas
And your mates are all the family you have

We found a young lad dying, all blood and guts and shit
He was screaming for his mother when we found him,
But our frozen fingers lost him, and he rolled into a pit
And we couldn't get him out before it drowned him
And little Johnny Harris, he was barely seventeen
For he'd lied about his age at the recruiting
When we pulled him from the dugout, we couldn't stop the screams
For he couldn't stand the noise of all the shooting

I got sent back home to Blighty for a little spot of leave
I was thinking it were grand to be alive
But when I went out one evening I scarcely could believe
The looks I got because they think you're on the skive
While my uniform was washed I was in my civvy clothes
And got a feather from a pair of silly wenches
I said "Thank you very much, I've always wanted one of those,
'Cos we cannot get them out there in the trenches"

Well it's not much of an army now, they're sending us the dregs
For there's no-one left at home that's any good
There are thousands that've been sent home without their arms and legs
And the lucky ones are buried in the mud
They tell us that we're winning, though it's tedious and slow
And each victory seems trivial and small
For we're back in the same trenches that we left two years ago
And all that killing has been done for bugger all

So don't call me Tommy Atkins, for that's not my name at all
Tommy was a lad I used to know
We left him back at Neuve Chapelle, among the first to fall
In a bloody field a thousand years ago
No, don't call me Tommy Atkins, for Tommy's dead and gone
Just like all the other lads I went to school with
But their names are all that's left of them, now I'm the only one
And a man's name isn't something you should fool with.

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