The Munro Letters 1914 - 1917 : Letters Home from the Front - World War I
Date of Letter:
In which G. B. Chisholm, from Flanders, relays to Melville Munro a poem written by a soldier at the front. Included in the poem are slang words commonly used by WW1 English soldiers.
Soliloquy in Flanders


Now strafes the M.G.O. the Boche's dump
Now Archibald speeds on her misty way
The homing Taub: now burst the latest crump
And Mother thrice salutes the waning day.
Seven pip emma: peaceful is the Hun;
Golden o'er Wipers gleams the setting sun.


All day coal-boxes, whizz-bangs, and white hopes
Plastered our pitch, and sausages, served hot
By Minnie: safe we lay (knowing the ropes)
And reckoned which were duds & which were not,
But Granny's men this night will sit up late,
Planning with glee, no ordinary Hate.


The anarchist on Frightfulness intent,
(Bombs are his stunt) deals jam tins to his crew
Plotting to get the wind up, make a dent,
In the strong point at C.5.a.4.2.
And if the Dutchman's bullets pass him by,
Read all about it in tomorrow's "Lie".


Ah me! to be again in Bartiérs
Or in the windy squares of far Baloo
Where Jocks and Flatcaps, Terriers & K's
Strive the bewildered damozels to woo,
With - "Ollyrman no bonn, Mamsell - compree?
You be my girl "après la guerre finit"?


Or better far, to be in Blighty now!
Where red-tabs ban the limp gorblimy hat,
Where the first leaver spins the tale of how
A "Blach Maria" did this, a "Johnson" that,
While timid stay at homes in darkness stepp'd
Feeling cold feet at thought of being Zepp'd.

Away false visions! Here our "Regent Street"
Is paved with trench-grids, Here our "Hazellurst"
Is but a rat-ringed dugout where we eat.
Maconachies while Oxo slake our thirst,
Now haste for my share of bully stew,
Last coming late, they greet me with "Napoo".

(Written by a soldier at the front)


1. Strafe - from German strafen - to punish
2. Boche - abusive name for Germans. Origen unknown
3. Dump - place where engineers' stores, boards, sandbags are brought by transport for use in trenches each night
4. Archibald - Affectionate name for anti-aircraft gun (probably from "Archibald, certainly not," on account of its usual ineffectiveness)
5. Taub - Anglicized version of Taube - the commonest type of German monoplane
6. Crump - a medium sized high explosive shell
7. Mother - British 9.2 inch gun (affectionate term)
8. Pip emma - Signallers & telephonists rendering of "P.M."
9. Wipers - English soldiers solution of "Ypres"
10. Coal boxes, Black Marias & Jack Johnsons are synonymous terms for shells of from 8" to 17" with black smoke
11. Whizz-bangs - shells from small, high velocity field guns - shrapnel
12. White hopes - H.E. [high explosive] shells of from 4.2" to 8", white smoke
13. Plastered - covered every inch of
14. Sausages - large oblong grenades, up to 2 ½ feet long, fired by "Minnie" (from German "Minenwerfer" or bomb thrower)
15. Dud - a shell which fails to explode
16. Grammy - British 15" gun (very affectionate term)
17. Hate - Frightfulness & expressions for aggression
18. Stint - from English stint - role
19. Jam tin- - old time fuse bombs made from jam tins
20. Get wind up - to cause panic
21. A reading from a squared & numbered military map
22. The Lie - The Lie or Daily die - vulgar term for the official "Summary of Information"
23. Bartiers - renowned café in Armentieres
24. Baloo - One of the myriad excuses for Bailleul
25. Jocks - Scot; Flatcaps - English; Terriers - Territorials; K's - New Army
26. i.e., L'Allemand n'est pas bon, Mlle, comprennez-vous (Summary of the usual knowledge of French)
27. Apres la guerre finit - first line of disreputable song.
28. 1-England from Hindu "belaiti" England. 2-Wound causing rest in England
29. Red tabs - staff officers, who wear red lapels
30. Gorbling - adjective indicative of swank
31. Cold feet - nervous apprehension
32. Zepped - Bombed by a Zeppelin
33. Names of communication trenches, dug-outs, etc.
34. Trench grids - boards with cross strips used for trench floors
35. Dugout - a home excavated or built with sand bags
36. Maconachies - Meat & vegetable rations, tinned, often issued instead of fresh meat
37. Bully stew - stew made from coarse, compressed beef in tin cans
38. Napoo - Corruption of "il n'y a plus" used for "finished" or "no more" at all times

Haven't time to write a letter Pork, How do you like the poetry; All those expressions are in common use out here. Gug is right with us now, in reserve. Best to the bunch, Brem, Art, Whitaker, Splint Risk, Art Heaven, etc.

Toujours le vôtre

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