More Musical Musings

We received a number of letters from readers who were intrigued by Jack Lambert’s “Reflections From the Cockpit,” the collection of aviator songs and verse that appeared in the January 2007 issue. For many it evoked great memories; it even inspired a few readers to contribute songs they once sang. Here are two of the responses and additional information:

I just read “Reflections From the Cockpit,” and I thought you might like to see a couple of songs I remember from my time in New Guinea during World War II:


(Sung to the tune of “Blues in the Night”)

From Nadzab to Gusap,
From Gusap to Wewak,
Wherever the Ramu flows—
I’ve been in some big fights,
And fought me some Zeros
But there is one plane I know—
The Tony’s a bastard,
A worrisome thing who’ll leave you to sing
The New Guinea Blues!

Now the bombs are falling,
Hear the sector calling,
“Beaver—come back here and get ’em.”
Now my engine’s spittin
Now my guns are quittin—snafu.
Oh give me the greenlight,
This Thunderbolt ain’t right.
I’ll turn in my wings and start in to sing
The New Guinea Blues.

The second song was sung to a rather catchy tune, though unfortunately I don’t remember its title. But here are the words:

By a New Guinea waterfall
On a bright and sunny day
Beside his shattered P-38
A young Pursuiter lay.
His parachute hung from a nearby tree,
He was not yet quite dead,
So listen to the very last words
The young Pursuiter said:
“I’m going to a better land
Where everything is bright,
Where whiskey grows on telegraph poles,
Play poker every night.
We haven’t got a thing to do—
Just sit around and sing
And all our crews are women,
Oh death, where is thy sting?”

Lt. Col. Norman E. Ponder Jr.; U.S. Air Force (ret.)

Pelham, Ala.

What a great article! I so much enjoyed the “Fortress Leaving Calais” portion that I must follow up with an inquiry.

I have loved the drinking song “Bless ’Em All” ever since I heard it in Twelve O’Clock High and several British flicks, but I never found a recording or a printed version of it. I know that it was used in most of the services, with appropriate verses. To your knowledge, is there any record of this song and any number of its verses available today?

Gordon D. Heaton

Via e-mail

We found a wealth of information on the song “Bless ’Em All,” which was also known as “The Long, the Short and the Tall.” Here’s a sample verse, apparently one of the originals, that was listed on the Web:

Bless ’em all, bless ’em all
The long and the short and the tall.
Bless all the sergeants and the W.O. Ones.
Bless all the Corp’rals and their blinking sons.
For we’re saying good-bye to them all
As back to the barracks we crawl.
You’ll get no promotion this side of the ocean
So cheer up my lads, Bless ’em all.

While the song is generally associated with World War II, it was most likely introduced to England circa 1916 by Fred Godfrey. Some sources speculate that “Bless ’Em All” may have originally been written about British troops returning from India.

Although it was not published during World War I, possibly because early versions were too salty to print, it quickly became a popular drinking song. There were countless versions. For example, according to one online account, nurses and doctors often wrote their own lyrics—mostly consisting of body parts.

At the outset of WWII the lyrics were officially cleaned up and published by Keith Prowse Music (cover at left). British film star George Formby Jr. may have been the first to record it, in November 1940, but it soon became a hit around the world—thanks in part to its frequent use in wartime films such as 1949’s Twelve O’Clock High. In fact, a 1961 film even took its title from the song: The Long and the Short and the Tall, which focused on Britons fighting the Japanese in Malayan jungles. For more details, see http://www.fred


Originally published in the May 2007 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.