I met Ken while I was preparing the manuscript of my book ‘Diggers’ Songs’. He is a
“Shortly after entering Ingleburn (Army Training Centre) I heard for the first time ‘The Ball At Koormoor’ (spelling?) but I have never seen the words in print, which is not really surprising. The song was sung by a member of the NSW Scottish Regiment 30th Bn. Quite a number of the 30th had joined the AIF after then outbreak of war and had been posted to 2/3 Bn. The 30th later, I believe, served with distinction as a militia unit in New Guinea and nearby islands.”. The song is best known as Robbie Burn’s ‘Ball of Kerrimuir’
“This was one of the first army songs I was introduced to when entering Ingleburn camp in November 1939. The CSM, who as a boy had been a runner in an INF Bn in France said it was used to take the company on marches along the roads around the camp.”
I can’t recall the opening lines of the next but it refers to a high-class ball and introduces the wives of various guests.
“There was a soldier called Bully who had been a goldminer from West Australia. He had knocked about the goldfields all his life until he joined the army. I met him first when on a working party in Southern Austria. When we P.O.W.s were eventually issued with letter forms in late ’41 Bully used his form to write to Sir Stanley Bruce, Former Prime Minister, and, atv that time, Australian High Commissioner in London. Bruce was typically a fine old British aristocrat, always elegantly attired, even to the spats. In the letter Bully made a plea for the Commissioner to forward him the most luxurious items of food and drink, listing the items. Bully and Bruce were, of course, from different ends of the social and political scales. Bully didn’t receive a reply – and regarded Bruce’s omission as a gross breach of good manners.
“It was in a working party at St Veit, Austria, that I first heard Bully perform. There were 36 of us in the party in a barbed-wire enclosure. Just inside the gate there was a guards room then our barracks, a hut which was divided into our sleeping quarters and a small ablutions room. Each night our quarters were locked.
“Each Sunday, our rest day, after light’s out, when we were all settled in our bunks, one of the party would tell a story or recite. Bully was in his element. He would susually introduce himself as having had so much sexual experience that he had had the Jack five times by the time he turned fourteen. Then he would start his repertoire –
It’s the rich that get the pleasure,
“I’ve heard this song a few tiems since on the radio. Bully always added a few variations.
“Then there was the one that went
They were tattered they were torn
They were baggy at the knees
They were sagging at the front
“You will, no doubt, be surprised that I have retained the words of these ditties but I have been fortunate enough, sometimes I think cursed, by a good memory. Though it seems to be failing a bit over the last few years. I think the constant repetition of rhymes and jingles in my mind in order to induce sleep during the period I was POW in Germany has helped me retain the words until now.”
Sung by Jimmy Tonkin, an entertainer in the Australian Army in the Division One Concert Party and passed on by Ken Clift.
Collected from Ken Clift in 1995, who added ‘The 16th Brigade were camped in Palestine in 1940 and they were to be replaced by new troops and then take Blighty. They were disappointed to say the least!’
Ken believes there is more to this song he believes was composed by Marty Hogan, a battalion signaller.
Ken added ‘the Arabic words
Ken Cliff got this one from a
‘This bawdy ditty utilised sex phrases plus everyday Arabic words that were well-known to all soldiers.