“Gentlemen Rankers” by Rudyard Kipling (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

Published on Aug 2, 2011

A “Gentleman Ranker” was an enlisted man who was officer material because of his background, education and social standing. He might have been determined to serve in the ranks or decided to do so in preparation for becoming an officer later when he felt that he understood what it was to be a common soldier. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gentlema…

Worsted is a cloth and not pronounced “worst-ed”. I found a picture of the “blasted worsted spur” which was the badge of the Rough Riders http://i62.photobucket.com/albums/h99…

It’s nigh-impossible to avoid singing the chorus to the tune of The Whiffenpoof Song which is deriviative – but has a more cheerful message.

Kipling wrote a story called Baa Baa Black Sheep, autobiographical to some extent, about his childhood with his sister. It’s quite sad.

You can read it here: http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnL…

The refrain contains the words “From Here to Eternity” which was the title of a novel by James Jones set in the time of the attack on Pearl Harbour. It’s a great book, I read it when I was a teenager. This great novel has just been released with passages restored that were previously censored: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainme…

It was filmed with Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra. The book is somewhat different from the film. It’s resigned mood is summed up in the “Re-enlistment Blues” which is quoted in an appendix. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZDjUn…

Oh, it’s sweet to sweat through stables, sweet to empty kitchen slops,
And it’s sweet to hear the tales the troopers tell,
To dance with blowzy housemaids at the regimental hops
And thrash the cad who says you waltz too well.
Yes, it makes you cock-a-hoop to be “Rider” to your troop,
And branded with a blasted worsted spur,
When you envy, O how keenly, one poor Tommy being cleanly
Who blacks your boots and sometimes calls you “Sir”.

If the home we never write to, and the oaths we never keep,
And all we know most distant and most dear,
Across the snoring barrack-room return to break our sleep,
Can you blame us if we soak ourselves in beer?
When the drunken comrade mutters and the great guard-lantern gutters
And the horror of our fall is written plain,
Every secret, self-revealing on the aching white-washed ceiling,
Do you wonder that we drug ourselves from pain?

We have done with Hope and Honour, we are lost to Love and Truth,
We are dropping down the ladder rung by rung,
And the measure of our torment is the measure of our youth.
God help us, for we knew the worst too young!
Our shame is clean repentance for the crime that brought the sentence,
Our pride it is to know no spur of pride,
And the Curse of Reuben holds us till an alien turf enfolds us
And we die, and none can tell Them where we died.

We’re poor little lambs who’ve lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We’re little black sheep who’ve gone astray,
Gentlemen-rankers out on the spree,
Damned from here to Eternity,
God ha’ mercy on such as we,
Baa! Yah! Bah!

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