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Back to the Army Again

[words Rudyard Kipling, music Peter Bellamy]

Back to the Army Again is another of Rudyard Kipling's barrack room ballads, this time from The Seven Seas (1894). It's “about a soldier trapped in the system; reenlistment under an assumed name is his only recourse.” (Peter Bellamy)

Peter Bellamy sang Back to the Army Again accompanied by Jamie O'Dwyer on fiddle in 1989 on his last LP, Rudyard Kipling Made Exceedingly Good Songs. This track was also included on his Free Reed anthology Wake the Vaulted Echoes. Peter Bellamy noted in the original album's notes:

A ‘barrack room ballad’ from The Seven Seas, making a clear protest against the system which obliged soldiers to leave the army after six years' service. A reservist's ‘fourpence a day’ will not support the speaker who knows no trade other than soldiering. Reenlistment under an assumed name is his only recourse.

Jamie O'Dwyer's son Eddy O'Dwyer sang Back to the Army Again in 2012 on his CD Go and 'List for a Sailor and in this YouTube video:

Lyrics

Peter Bellamy sings Back to the Army Again

I'm 'ere in a ticky ulster an' a broken billycock 'at,
A-layin' on to the sergeant I don't know a gun from a bat;
My shirt's doin' duty for jacket, my sock's stickin' out o' my boots,
An' I'm learnin' the damned old goose-step along o' the new recruits!

I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again.
Don't look so 'ard, for I 'aven't no card,
    I am back to the Army again!

I done my six years' service. 'Er Majesty sez: “Good day—
Please to come when you're rung for, an' 'ere's your 'ole back pay;
An' fourpence a day for baccy—an' bloomin' gen'rous, too;
An' now you can make your fortune—the same as your orf'cers do.”

Oh, I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again;
'Ow did I learn to do right-about turn?
    I am back to the Army again!

A man o' four-an'-twenty what 'asn't learned of a trade—
Except “Reserve” agin' him—'e'd better be never made.
I tried my luck for a quarter, that was enough for me,
An' I thought of 'Er Majesty's barricks, I thought I would just go an' see.

So I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again;
'Tisn't my fault if I dress when I 'alt—
    For I am back to the Army again!

The sergeant arst no questions, but 'e winked the other eye,
But 'e sez to me, “'Shun!” an' I shunted, the same as in days gone by;
'E saw the set o' my shoulders, I couldn't 'elp 'oldin' 'em straight
When me an' the other rookies come under the barrick gate.

I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again;
'Oo would ha' thought I could carry an' port?
    I am back to the Army again!

I took my bath, an' I wallered—'cause, Gawd, I needed it so!
I smelt the smell o' the barricks, an' I 'eard the bugles go.
I 'eard the feet on the gravel—the feet o' the men what drill—
An' I sez to my flutterin' 'eartstrings, I sez to 'em, “Peace, be still!”

'Cause I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again;
'Oo said I knew when a troopship was due?
    I am back to the Army again!

I carried my slops to the tailor; I sez to 'im, “None o' your lip!
You tight 'em up over the shoulders, an' loose 'em up over the 'ip,
Because the set o' the tunic is 'orrid.” An' 'e sez to me, “Strike me dead,
But I thought you was used to the business!” but of course 'e done what I said.

Yes, I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again.
Rather too free with my fancies? Wot—me?
    I am back to the Army again!

And next week I'll 'ave 'em fitted; I'll buy me a swagger cane;
They'll set me free o' the barricks to walk on the Hoe again
In the name o' William Parsons, what used to be Edward Clay,
An'—any pore beggar who wants it can draw my fourpence a day!

'Cause I'm back to the Army again, sergeant,
    Back to the Army again:
Out o' the wind an' the rain, sergeant,
    Out o' the wind an' the rain.
                                'Oo's there?
A man too good to be lost you,
    A man what is 'andled an' made—
A man who will pay what 'e cost you
    In learnin' the others their trade—parade!
You are droppin' the pick o' the Army
    Because you won't 'elp 'em remain,
You drives 'em to cheat to get out o' the street
    An' get back to the Army again!