National Service

There was three things in Civvy Street wot gave me untold pleasure,
Me Boston cut, me Windsor knot, and me creepers made to measure.

On me first day in the Army, though, they gives me quite a scare,
For a moosh they calls the Provost Sarge nabs me crossing square,
Shouts ‘e in voice so loud and clear it rends the morning air:
“Oi, soldier. ‘Ere. Double, lad. Wot yer doin’ wiv all that there?”

Says I to ‘im in tone of slow deliberation:
“I’ve got a permit from the Spivs’ Association.”
At that he laughed, he didn’t even ask to see me card,
Just “Wochyersel. For you, my son, I’ll make things mighty ‘ard.”
Then round to Regimental Barber, he plonks me in the chair.
And in a jiff I’d lorst me quiff and all me wavy ‘air.

But that weren’t all I was to lose,
For next they whips me lovely shoes.

It ‘appened when I’d been a soldier almost for a week,
And wiv all the ruddy marchin’, corns was coming on me feet.
So up I nips to Barrack Room, pulls orf each boot wiv glee,
And swops ‘em for me creepers and yeller socks, yer see.

’Twas at that fateful moment that the Corp comes to me bed space,
He looks me up, he looks me dahn, Gawd! You oughter ‘av seen ’is face.
‘im bein’ a National Serviceman I thought he was a sport.
Gern! Took ‘im 15 seconds dead to place me on report.

Next day he marches me – no ‘at or belt – before the blinkin’ beak.
LEFT-RIGHT, LEFT-RIGHT, MARK-TIME and HALT, so quick I ‘ad no time to speak.
Said Corp ”I’ve charged ‘im under Section 40.”
Said Major “You are very, very naughty;
I fear you can’t do this with me’ and gave me seven days’ CB.
Then added as an afterthought, “Spiv’s shoes in camp you will not sport.”

Well, wiv that you’d think I’d ‘ad me lot,
But arf a mo, I’ve yet to tell yer ‘ow I lorst me knot.

On the Friday after finishing orf me seven days’ confined,
CO decided he’d inspect (wot a blasted bind).
Ah well, says I, feelin’ me crop, the ol’ man won’t catch me,
Me boots was bulled so ‘ighly me reflection I could see.

On the day of the inspection I ‘eld my ‘ead up ‘igh,
Smartest soldier on parade without word of a lie.
When CO glanced dahn at me boots ‘e ‘ad to turn away,
The light it nearly blinded ‘im – reflection of sun’s ray.

I smirked wiv pride as CSM came up to whisper in me ear,
“A stripe wivout a doubt” thinks I, holding back a cheer.
Says he – “YOU CLUMSY, CROSS-EYED, STUPID, IDLE, IDIOTIC CLOT,
You’ve been and gorn and tied yerself a ?*=xx!? Windsor knot!”


My dad, Brian, gave me many things – not least a love of poetry. He was an inveterate scribbler. And he scribbled these lines whilst doing his National Service as a young man in the early 1950s. Brian was born in Finchley, North London so the words are best read in a “Lahndon” accent.

Picture credit: Imperial War Museum.

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