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Dinki Di / The Squaddie in London / Horseferry Road

[ Roud 10189 ; Ballad Index EM403 ; trad.]

‘Dinki Di’ is Australian slang for something that is true, honest, or genuine.

Danny Spooner sang Dinki Di on his 2004 album of “Australian songs of toil and reward”, 'Ard Tack, omitting the chorus that gave the song its name. He noted:

The First World War saw Australian troops fighting for the first time under their own name. The AIF (the Australian Imperial Force) acquitted itself marvellously on the fields of battle, drawing strength from their laconic sense of humour, and from the values and ethics of the bush traditions of toughness, mateship and adaptability. However, they showed little respect for the hidebound British ideas of discipline. This little gem comes from John Lahey's Great Australian Folk Songs (Hill of Content, 1965).

Note: Slim Dusty's Dinki Di Aussie is quite another song with just a similar title.

John Kirkpatrick sang The Squaddie in London in 2015 on his Fledg'ling album Tunes from the Trenches. He noted:

It's easy to forget that there were only just over twenty years between the two World Wars, and that songs sung in the First might not need much adapting to fit just as well in the Second. This song was popular in both conflicts as a way of expressing the contempt the front line troops had for those sitting in comfortable offices back home. There is some choice language, of the kind that one wouldn't normally use on a concert stage, but if we had to go through what these people were going through, choice language would be the least of our concerns.

I first heard this song from Martin Carthy, who had learned it from Redd Sullivan, who had learned it during his years of National Service in the 1950s.

Squaddie—an ordinary private soldier.
Strafe—from the German word meaning “punish”. Used in the front line to denote a bombardment, and more broadly to cover any kind of upset. The word quickly gained currency, with an ironic twist, during the First World War, as a result of the cheerful German propaganda slogan “Gott strafe England”—God punish England.
Trench Foot—Having to stand endlessly in the mud and water in the trenches, especially so in the winter, gave rise to all sorts of ghastly bodily malfunctions. Trench foot was the name given to the foot rot caused by these conditions.
Lord Gort—Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the beginning of the Second World War.
V.C.—The Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the British Army. If a second award were earned, a bar would be added to the original medal.

Lyrics

Dinki Di on Australian Songs Danny Spooner sings Dinki Di

He came over to London and straight away strode,
To Army Headquarters in Horseferry Road,
To see all the bludgers who dodge all the strafe,
By getting soft jobs on the headquarters staff.
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    By getting soft jobs on the headquarters staff.

He went up to London and straight away strode,
Into Army Headquarters in Horseferry Road
To see all the bludgers who dodge all the strafe
By getting soft jobs on the headquarters staff.

A lousy lance-corporal said, “Pardon me, please,
You've mud on your tunic and blood on your sleeve,
You look so disgraceful the people will laugh,”
Said the lousy lance-corporal on the headquarters staff.
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    Said the lousy lance-corporal on the headquarters staff.

Well, a lousy lance-corporal said, “Pardon me please,
You've mud on your tunic, and blood on your sleeve,
You look so disgraceful that the people will laugh”,
Said the lousy Lance Corporal on the headquarters staff.

The digger then shot him a murderous glance;
He said, “We're just back from the balls-up in France,
Where bullets are flying and comforts are few,
And brave men are dying for bastards like you.
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    And brave men are dying for bastards like you.

Well, the digger just shot him a murderous glance;
And he said, “I'm just back from the balls-up in France,
Where whiz bangs are flying and comforts are few
And brave men are dying for bastards like you.”

“We're shelled on the left and we're shelled on the right,
We're bombed all the day and we're bombed all the night,
And if something don't happen, and that pretty soon,
There'll be nobody left in the bloody platoon;
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    There'll be nobody left in the bloody platoon.”

“We're shelled on the left and we're shelled on the right,
We're bombed all the day and we're bombed all the night,
And if something ain't done, and that bloody soon,
There'll be nobody left in the flamin' platoon.”

This story soon got to the ears of Lord Gort,
Who gave the whole matter a great deal of thought,
He awarded the digger a V.C. and two bars,
For giving that corporal a kick up the arse;
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    For giving that corporal a kick up the arse.

Well, the news quickly got to the ears of Lord Gort,
Who gave the whole matter a great deal of thought.
He awarded the digger a V.C. with two bars,
For giving that corporal a kick in the ****.

Now when this war's over and we're out of here,
We'll see him in Sydney town begging for beer.
He'll ask for a dina to buy a small glass,
But all he'll get is a kick in the arse.
    Dinki di, dinki di,
    But all he'll get is a kick in the arse.