Private Tommy Atkins
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


Information
Lyrics
The lyrics here were written by Henry Hamilton, the music is by S. Potter.

Tommy Atkins is a term used for English soldiers. The official origin is that the name was used in 1815 as a generic name on War Office forms. It became widely known during the 19th Century and during the Boer War, particularly after Rudyard Kipling published his poem, The Ballad of Tommy Atkins in Barrack-Room Ballads (1892).

Folkore states that Wellington himself chose the name for the War Office form, inspired by a dying veteran he encountered during the Battle of Boxtel in 1794. The man had three wounds, a sabre wound on his head, a bayonet wound in his chest and a bullet wound in his lungs. The man's name was Tommy Atkins, and his last words to Wellington were, "It's alright sir. It's all in a day's work."

There is some doubt as to the War Office form origin as the term appears in correspondence as early as 1743.

O, we take him from the city or the plough,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
And we drill him, and we dress him up so neat,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
We teach him to uphold his manly brow,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
And how to walk, and where to put his feet.
Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra
It doesn't matter who he was before,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
Or what his parents favor'd for his name;
Ta-ran-ta-ra
Once he's pocketed the shilling,
And a uniform he's filling,
We'll call him Tommy Atkins, all the same.
O!
Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
You're a "good un," heart and hand;
You're a credit to your calling,
And to all your native land;
May your luck be never failing,
May your love be ever true!
God bless you, Tommy Atkins,
Here's your Country's love to you!


In time of peace he hears the bugle call
Ta-ran-ta-ra
And in Barracks, from "Revally" to "Lights Out!"
Ta-ran-ta-ra
If "Sentry go" and "Pipeclay" ever pall,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
There's always plenty more of work about.
Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra
As happy as a school boy, and as gay;
Then back he goes to duty,
All for Country, Home and Beauty
And the noble sum of half a crown a day.
O!
Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
You're a good un, heart and hand;
You're a credit to your calling,
And to all your native land;
May your luck be never failing,
May your love be ever true!
God bless you, Tommy Atkins,
Here's your Country's love to you!


In wartime then, it's "Tommy to the Front!"
Ta-ran-ta-ra
And we ship him off, in "Troopers" to the fray,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
We sit at home while Tommy bears the brunt,
Ta-ran-ta-ra
A fighting for his country - and his pay.
Ta-ran-ta-ran-ta-ra
And weather he's on India's coral strand,
Or pouring out his blood in the Soudan,
To keep our flag a-flying,
He's a doing, and a dying,
Ev'ry inch of him a soldier and a man.
O!
Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
You're a "good un," heart and hand;
You're a credit to your calling,
And to all your native land;
May your luck be never failing,
May your love be ever true!
God bless you, Tommy Atkins,
Here's your Country's love to you!

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From Songs of America and Homeland
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