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"SOUTHERN CRUSH" ARMY SLANG?


Fred van Woerkom
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In Walter Lightowler Wilkinson's poem, WAYSIDE BURIAL, this phrase occurs:

They're bringing in their recent dead - their recent dead !

I see the shoulder badge: a "Southern Crush" ......

(Wilkinson served in the Argylls and Sutherland Highlanders and was killed on the first day of the attack on Arras, 9 April 1917.)

What is the meaning of "Southern crush" and why is it in inverted commas ?

All the best,

Fred

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Centurion,

Were the ANZACS fighting side by side with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders?

Would Wilkinson,,born in Bristol and a kawyer of 32, have used an Australian expression? Perhaps that explains the inverted commas ?

Best regards,

Fred

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Centurion,

I'm sorry. I should have added some more lines. "Southern Crush" rhymes with 'thrush':

Third line: How small he looks- (O damn that singing thrush!)

Fourth line: \not five foot five from boots to battered head !

Lower down, third stanza:

They're bringing in their dead - I wonder now:

A wife? - or mother ? Mother it must be -

In some trim home that fronts the English sea,

(A sea-coast country: that the badges show):

And she? - I sense her grief, I feel her tears!

(..........................)

Assuming that the dead soldier in the third stanza is the same as the one in the first,

"Southern crush' must refer to the Southern counties near the sea.

All the best.

Fred

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Hi Fred

The stanza you have now given makes it clear that these badges are from a battalion from a county or counties on the English Channel coast. It reads as though this is a term for the badge itself. Odd that it doesn't show up on Google (as far as I can see). But perhaps forum experts on these battalions would know...trouble is there must be such a lot of them, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset, Devon.

On the other hand the phrase could mean that the badge identifies the man as belonging to a 'Southern Crush'. I've just checked my trusty old Oxford English Dictionary (the 20-volume one with historical citations) and that gives a 1916 quotation from 'Boyd Cable', Action Front (no idea what that is, I assume a novel): 'You want to ask about someone in the old crush', where crush is stated by the OED to be understood from the context to mean 'regiment'. Also the Observer newspaper had on 12 June 1927,' The best recruiter is the man who is pleased with his 'crush' '.

EDIT These come under a sub-category of 'crush', substantive, marked slang, originally US, meaning a group or gang of persons, specifically a body of troops; a unit of a regiment.

The more I think about it, the more likely this second interpretation seems.

Liz

Edited by Liz in Eastbourne
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Well done Liz, I tried the OED online but never thought to separate 'crush' from 'Southern'!

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Thanks Jane - it didn't occur to me to do it until Fred posted the third stanza. I was thinking if it as the term for the badge itself rather than what it signified.

You can see how men in a Scottish regiment (even if not Scots themselves) might refer to a Southern English regiment like this, and the awareness that the phrase was slang or colloquial would cause the writer to put it in inverted commas.

Liz

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Since context is all, here's the full text of the poem The Wayside Burial by Walter Lightowler Wilkinson from the original 1917 volume ...
post-20192-0-49282500-1381406346_thumb.j
post-20192-0-90949000-1381406358_thumb.j
Galloway Kyle (ed.) More songs by the fighting men. Soldier poets; second series (London 1917), p.142

As Fred suggests, give in line 4 is almost certainly a typo for five.

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So the context of "Southern Crush" is "a mob from the south", rather than the badge itself - the badge the poet sees identifies the bodies as being of a unit from the south.

Nice work, Liz.

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Thanks all !

Where would we be without the ladies and Broomers , Brockway and Martin ?

You've made an old man very happy !

All the best,

Fred

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  • 9 months later...

It is slang for a 2 Lt.

Southern crush is the flag of Texas. Patrick MacGill refers to a "Lone Star Crush" in The great push: an episode of the Great War.

One star = one pip ie/ 2 Lt.

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Sorry - not convinced.

Here's the reference from Patrick MacGill in The great push ...

"A Scotch regiment was at work in the field, digging trenches; I approached an officer, a dark, low set man with a heavy black moustache."Could you give me some men to assist me to carry in wounded?" I asked. "On each side of the road there are dozens."
"Can't spare any men," said the officer [a Highlander]. "Haven't enough for the work here."
"Many of your own countrymen are out there," I said.
"Can't help it," said the man. "We all have plenty of work here."
I glanced at the man's shoulder and saw that he belonged to "The Lone Star Crush"; he was a second-lieutenant. Second-lieutenants fight well, but lack initiative."

To me that reads as the author saying the man belonged to the "Single Pip Mob" - i.e. a Second Lieutenant - where 'crush' still means 'mob' or 'crowd'

In our context above, a man with the shoulder title of a 'Southern Crush' still reads to me as a man from a southern regiment, which for an Argyll & Sutherland Highlander would mean nearly everybody!

Presumably the flag of Texas is known as the 'Southern Crush' because it represents the southern mob - i.e. Texas - not because it has one star. I can't see Crush being anything to do with stars or pips. To be honest, I can't find any citation for the Texas state flag being known as the "Southern Crush".

EDIT: extra sentence added to the MacGill quotation to make it clear this 2/Lt is in a Scottish regiment - see post further down about the man being in a US Army unit from Texas.

Edited by MBrockway
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I grew up in Texas, and I have never heard of the state flag being referred to as a "southern crush"..... Maybe in some circles, but not in any I ever hung out with.

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I glanced at the man's shoulder and saw that he belonged to "The Lone Star Crush"; he was a second-lieutenant. Second-lieutenants fight well, but lack initiative.

I read that as meaning that the officer belonged to a unit from Texas, identified by his Lone Star shoulder insignia. 'Crush', once again, seems to mean a unit/regiment/body of men. The fact that he was a 2nd Lieutenant is additional to "he belonged to 'The Lone Star Crush'.

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Now I've read all the posts more closely, I'm happy to put my hand up to a mistake. I was too ready to add a + b and come up with d - not for the first time. I should 'fess up to a vested interest as well. I probably picked the story I wanted and worked backwards. Walter was billeted with my grandfather's family in Berkhamsted (excerpt from my grandfather's memoir below). My great uncle - Walter's friend and co-billettee - was killed at the Somme on 3 September 1916. He was 2 Lt JG Goffey (17 KRRC). He was 5ft 7inches. I always think - whatever the trigger for the poem - it was my great uncle that was on Wilkie's mind (and my great grandmother who Wilkie was very close to).

"Southern regiment" probably just about right.

Richard

"When Jock joined the Inns of Court, we could just make room for three billets. Jock was one, and the other two were his friends, Wilkinson, a barrister who said he was 27 but I believe he was older, and Aubrey Raymond-Barker, about a year-older than Jock, a Roman Catholic. All single. Wilkie was a handsome man, with a lined face and grey hair, highly intelligent, with no illusions about the war, nor faith in generals. He talked quietly, with a sardonic turn of wit. There was an affinity between him and mother. Aubrey and Jock shared my bedroom, and Wilkie had Mary's, which mother arranged so that all three could sit there, but they were often with us. Jock was commissioned as a 2/Lt. in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. While I was at aunt Mabels, he sent me a card from France telling me to give cousin Mabel a kiss from him. During the Battle of the Somme, about nine weeks from his being posted, he was reported Missing. Every newspaper had pages full of casualty lists, especially at that time, Ypres and Vimy Ridge. The telegram "Killed in Action" was about 12 days later." Dennis Goffey, 1980.

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I read that as meaning that the officer belonged to a unit from Texas, identified by his Lone Star shoulder insignia. 'Crush', once again, seems to mean a unit/regiment/body of men. The fact that he was a 2nd Lieutenant is additional to "he belonged to 'The Lone Star Crush'.

Any idea which unit from Texas? McGill's book takes place at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

With hindsight I should have started my extract from McGill one sentence earlier ...

"A Scotch regiment was at work in the field, digging trenches; I approached an officer, a dark, low set man with a heavy black moustache."

and I've now edited the earlier post accordingly.

I guess it's not impossible that this 2/Lt could have been a US Army lieutenant on some sort of 'exchange' with a Scottish kilted regiment but the chances are infinitesimal I'd say. The diplomatic consequences of a US Army officer wearing US Army insignia being captured by the Germans while fighting with a British Army front line unit would make the Zimmerman telegram look trivial!

Full text of McGill's book is here: http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/memoir/MacGill/push1.htm

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Now I've read all the posts more closely, I'm happy to put my hand up to a mistake. I was too ready to add a + b and come up with d - not for the first time. I should 'fess up to a vested interest as well. I probably picked the story I wanted and worked backwards. Walter was billeted with my grandfather's family in Berkhamsted (excerpt from my grandfather's memoir below). My great uncle - Walter's friend and co-billettee - was killed at the Somme on 3 September 1916. He was 2 Lt JG Goffey (17 KRRC). He was 5ft 7inches. I always think - whatever the trigger for the poem - it was my great uncle that was on Wilkie's mind (and my great grandmother who Wilkie was very close to).

"Southern regiment" probably just about right.

Richard

"When Jock joined the Inns of Court, we could just make room for three billets. Jock was one, and the other two were his friends, Wilkinson, a barrister who said he was 27 but I believe he was older, and Aubrey Raymond-Barker, about a year-older than Jock, a Roman Catholic. All single. Wilkie was a handsome man, with a lined face and grey hair, highly intelligent, with no illusions about the war, nor faith in generals. He talked quietly, with a sardonic turn of wit. There was an affinity between him and mother. Aubrey and Jock shared my bedroom, and Wilkie had Mary's, which mother arranged so that all three could sit there, but they were often with us. Jock was commissioned as a 2/Lt. in the King's Royal Rifle Corps. While I was at aunt Mabels, he sent me a card from France telling me to give cousin Mabel a kiss from him. During the Battle of the Somme, about nine weeks from his being posted, he was reported Missing. Every newspaper had pages full of casualty lists, especially at that time, Ypres and Vimy Ridge. The telegram "Killed in Action" was about 12 days later." Dennis Goffey, 1980.

2/Lt J.G. Goffey - joined 17th (British Empire League) Battalion, KRRC at Givenchy on 08 July 1916. Killed in Action on 03 Sep 1916 during an attack in the Beaumont Hamel sector.

NB the KRRC, like the Rifle Brigade and the Guards - recruited nationally, and many village war memorials in Scotland, Wales and Ulster carry KRRC names.

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My "Southern Crush" might have been fanciful, but Lone Star isn't. It is in the Oxford Dictionary of Soldiers' Songs and Slang, 1931. Edited by J. Brophy & E. Partridge.

p.329 "LONE STAR. - A second lieutenant."

same page as "LONDON FOG. - A dog."

I may be barking but I'm not a London Fog.

Richard

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If you know which Battalion of the A&SH the author was serving in, and we know the date of the poem (4th March 1917), with a small amount of research it might be possible to identify the southern English regiment of the man who died...or at least narrow down the possibilities. MG

Edit. His MIC shows 8th Bn i.e 1/8th Bn A& SH TF which was part of 152nd Bde 51st Highland Div TF. So I guess it is simply a question of trying to identify neighbouring units in March 1917.

In late Feb - early March 1917 the Battalion was alternating between the trenches in Rolincourt and billets/huts in Ecurie

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Any idea which unit from Texas? McGill's book takes place at the Battle of Loos in September 1915.

That's a very good point and a circumstance I had overlooked.

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