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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Destroyer Life


Dan Brock
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Hi all,

I hope I'm putting this in the proper place.

Some forty-odd years ago, while I was in the Navy, I heard a very bad casette recording from a very worn album but I loved it even though most of the words passed by me. Last week I found out where it came from.

The album was called "Every Inch a Sailor" by Oscar Brand recorded in 1960 - I believe.

My little bit of poking around found that Alan Lomax collected it in 1929 and it sounds very Great War.

Moreover I doubt it was ever meant for home consumption as there are two references to hurling one's most recent meal over the side.

Also some subtle digs at the PBI.

Hear it here:

Destroyer Life
The boys out in the trenches have got a lot to say


Of the hardships and the sorrows that come a soldier's way,


But we destroyer sailors would've liked their company


On a couple of trips in our lousy ships when we put out to sea.

Chorus:

OH, IT'S ROLL AND TOSS AND POUND AND PITCH 
AND CREAK AND GROAN YOU SON OF A BITCH, 
OH, BOY, IT'S A HELL OF A LIFE ON OUR DESTROYER.

The damned tin can destroyer was never meant for sea, 
You couldn't keep it steady in a lousy cup of tea, 


We carry guns, torpedoes and ash cans in a bunch,
 But the only time we hit our mark is when we shoot our lunch.

We have heard of muddy dugouts and shell holes filled with slime,
Of cootie hunts and marches which fill a soldier's time,


But set beside destroyer life, it all seems dull and pale,
When the clinometer hops, the barometer drops, and we line up on the rail.

And when we're back in dry dock, we stagger like we're drunk
 And wonder how we stood it, and why she never sunk.
You lay out your civilian clothes, but just before you switch
Your sea bag's on your shoulder and you sign up for one more hitch.

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