A lot of Woodbine Willie’s poetry was written in response to the horrors of the trenches. He continued to work after the War for the many ex-servicemen for whom there was no support or family support. The poems are below, and also available as a downloadable Word document.
When there ain't no gal to kiss you,
And the postman seems to miss you,
And the fags have skipped an issue,
When ye've got an empty belly,
And the bulley's rotten smelly,
And you're shivering like a jelly,
When the Boche has done your chum in,
And the sergeant's done the rum in,
And there ain't no rations comin',
When the world is red and reeking,
And the shrapnel shells are shrieking,
And your blood is slowly leaking,
When the broken battered trenches,
Are like the bloody butchers' benches,
And the air is thick with stenches,
Though your pals are pale and wan,
And the hope of life is gone,
For to do more than you can,
Is to be a British man,
Not a rotten 'also ran,'
You were askin' 'ow we sticks it,
Sticks this blarsted rain and mud,
'Ow it is we keeps on smilin'
When the place runs red wi' blood.
Since you're askin' I can tell ye,
And I thinks I tells ye true,
But it ain't official, mind ye,
It's a tip twixt me and you.
For the General thinks it's tactics,
And the bloomin' plans 'e makes.
And the C.O. thinks it's trainin',
And the trouble as he takes.
Sergeant-Major says it's drillin',
And 'is straffin' on parade,
Doctor swears it's sanitation,
And some patent stinks 'e's made.
Padre tells us its religion,
And the Spirit of the Lord;
But I ain't got much religion,
And I sticks it still, by Gawd.
Quarters kids us it's the rations,
And the dinners as we gets.
But I knows what keeps us smilin'
It's the Woodbine Cigarettes.
For the daytime seems more dreary,
And the night-time seems to drag
To eternity of darkness,
When ye ave'nt got a fag.
Then the rain seems some'ow wetter,
And the cold cuts twice as keen,
And ye keeps on seein' Boches,
What the Sargint 'asn't seen.
If ole Fritz 'as been and got ye,
And ye 'ave to stick the pain,
If ye 'aven't got a fag on,
Why it 'urts as bad again.
When there ain't no fags to pull at,
Then there's terror in the ranks.
That's the secret - (yes, I'll 'ave one)
Just a fag - and many Tanks.
There's a soul in the Eternal,
Standing stiff before the King.
There's a little English maiden
There's a proud and tearless woman,
Seeing pictures in the fire.
There's a broken battered body
On the wire.