Songs of the RCN

 


 

This page is for songs about the RCN and its sailors.  Sailors can be quite creative when it comes to creating words to songs - though thankfully none have been sued for copyright infringement as the tune was usually that of another song.

 

The Second World War songs (marked with an *) on this page were submitted by Eric Hanbury along with additional information on the writer(s) or the subject of the song. Primary source: Anthony Hopkins - Songs from the Front and Rear, Hurtig Publishers 1979.

 

Other renditions of songs will be added as they are stumbled across.

 


 

Index

 

Admiralty House Supper Song *

 

Beneath the Barber Pole *

 

Bless 'Em All *

 

Girls of the King's Navy *

 

HMCS St John's Commissioning Song

 

K-240

 

Roll Along Wavy Navy *

 

The Battle of Halifax *

 

The King's Navy *

 

The Maple Leaf Squadron *

 

The Saguenay Song *

 

The song of the "Saguenay"

 


 

Roll Along Wavy Navy - to the tune of "Roll Along Covered Wagon"

 

The original verses  were written in 1936 on the destroyer HMCS SAGUENAY by Gunner Patrick D. Budge (later Rear-Admiral) and Sub-Lieutenant Rufus C. Pope, who later survived the sinking of HMCS FRASER but was lost at sea on 22 Oct 1940, at the rank of Lieutenant, when HMCS MARGAREE sank after a collision with a freighter in her convoy.

 

The melody "Roll Along Covered Wagon" was written in 1934 by James (Jimmy) Kennedy, an Ulsterman, who served in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War. The melody was transcribed from a recording by HMCS YORK band, which was provided by Joe Cullen, CD, CPO2, Naval Reserve, ret'd, HMCS YORK.

 

Rear-Admiral Patrick Budge

Lt Rufus Pope

 

 

Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along
If they ask us who we are
We’re the RCNVR —
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

Oh, we joined for the chance to go to sea
Yes, we joined for the chance to go to sea
But the first two years or more
We spent marching on the shore
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

Oh, we joined for the payment and the fun
Yes, we joined for the payment and the fun
But of payment there is none
And the fun is yet to come

Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

Oh, we joined for the glory of it all
Yes, we joined for the glory of it all
But the good old RCN
Made us change our minds again
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

And when at last they sent us out to sea
Yes, when at last they sent us out to sea
There were several things we saw
That were not brought up before
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

Man your gun, Seaman Gunner, man your gun
Man your gun, Seaman Gunner, man your gun
Load it up with shot and shell
And we’ll blow the Huns to hell
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

Now before we pull up hook and sail away
Yes, before we pull up hook and sail away
If you want some good advice
Before you join, think once or twice
Roll along, Wavy Navy, roll along

 

 



 

The Battle of Halifax - to the tune of Sweet Betsy from Pike

 

Unlike St. John's, which was always very welcoming to sailors, Halifax was notorious for providing very little entertainment or facilities for any armed forces personnel.  This song describes the riot that took place in Halifax (Slackers) on VE Day, -8 May 1945.

 

 

Now gather ‘round children and to you I will spill,
the tale of the raid upon Oland’s old still.
How civvies and ladies, both young ones and old,
Enlivened by whiskey grew sodden and bold.

 

They roared through the city and wrecked as they roared
The places where clothing and jewelry was stored.
Where once stood a restaurant now stands a cruel wreck,
And dummies were dragged through the streets by the neck.

 

They called out the coppers and sent in the troops,
To quell all the mobsters and place them in coops,
But the coppers, on seeing the mob, all lost heart,
And joined in the frolic and played a main part.

 

The street-cars long hated (down here they’re called trams),
Were all set upon, and were opened like cans.
They took patrol wagons and piled them in heaps,
And carried off loot in a long line of jeeps.

For five dreary years people heard people say
That when the war ended, old “Slackers” would pay,
And they laughed it off with a sly cheerful grin,
Now they’ve pulled in their necks from this slap on the chin.

 

The mayor has stated that he is dismayed,
Because of the part that the Navy has played.
He forgets in the midst of his trouble and tears
That sailors in “Slackers” have paid plenty for years.

 

The Army and Navy were in with the rest,
But the Air Force were sleeping the sleep of the blest,
And safe in their billets they whiled hours away,
And took no part in it (at least so they say).

 

So take from this story a lesson from me,
When War starts again don’t you head out to sea.
Remember that day when the civvies went mad,
And wrecked all of “Slackers” (tch,tch) that’s too bad!

 



 

Beneath the Barber Pole - to the tune of Road to the Isles

 

Escort Group C-5 had a distinctive red and white striped "barber pole" band on the funnels of their ships.

 

The words were written by then Surg-Lt W.A. Paddon in the summer of 1943, in Londonderry, while HMCS KITCHENER was refueling and taking on stores.  Dr. Paddon, OC, became the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1981.

 

Surg-LCdr William A. Paddon

 

 

It's away! Outward the swinging fo'c'sles reel

From the smoking sea's white glare upon the strand —

It's the gray miles that are slipping under keel

When we're rolling outward-bound from Newfoundland!

 

From Halifax or Newfiejohn or Derry's clustered towers

By trackless paths where conning towers roll

If you know another group in which you'd sooner spend your hours

You've never sailed beneath the Barber Pole!

It's the gray seas that are slipping under keel

When we're rolling outward-bound from Newfoundland!

 

So beware! Harbours that berth the Barber Pole

If you'd keep the situation well in hand

After gray seas that went slipping under keel —

When we wallowed outward-bound from Newfoundland!

 

Drink a whiskey or a navy rum or drink a gin-and-lime

Should inebriation be your final goal;

Pick a lady you've selected for a short and merry time —

There's merry men beneath the Barber Pole!

It's away! Astern of us the Western Islands die,

There's an ocean lies before us to be spanned —

It's the gray seas where sullen icebergs lie

When we're rolling inward-bound for Newfoundland

 

From Halifax or Newfiejohn or Derry's clustered towers

By trackless paths where conning towers roll

If you know another group in which you'd sooner spend your hours

You've never sailed beneath the Barber Pole!

It's the gray seas where sullen icebergs lie

When we're rolling inward-bound for Newfoundland!

 

Additional verse:

Be prepared for spacious doings, for a short and merry time,

With a glass and lass as every sailor's goal;

There'll be song and celebration to remove the salty rime

From the bearded boys beneath the Barber Pole.

After gray seas that went slipping under keel

As we wallowed outward-bound from Newfoundland

 



 

The Saguenay Song - To the tune of the Ryans and the Pittmans

 

HMCS SAGUENAY was an original member of the Barber Pole Brigade. This song tells of her being torpedoed by an Italian submarine and losing her bow.  She survived the attack and steamed 300 miles - stern first - to Barrow-in-Furness for repairs.

 

 

Oh, the Saguenay sailed through the blue Caribbean,
The Saguenay sailed o’er the old Spanish Main,
From Dutch Curacao to misty Balboa
Through the Yucatan passage and right back again.

 

Chorus: We’ll zig and we’ll zag all over the ocean,
We’ll zig and we’ll zag all over the sea,
Until we strike soundings in Halifax Harbour;
From Sambro to Sable in thirty-five leagues.

 

And then one dark night, while out on the ocean,
A speeding torpedo crashed into our bow,
Through luck and fair weather she held us together,
And kept us all safe till we got alongside.

 

Chorus: We’ll zig and we’ll zag all over the ocean,
We’ll zig and we’ll zag all over the sea,
Until we strike soundings in Halifax Harbour;
From Sambro to Sable in thirty-five leagues.

 



 

The Song of the "Saguenay"

 

This song is from the collection of Charles Branch, RCN and tells of the torpedoing of HMCS SAGUENAY. While it contains a few historical inaccuracies such as as it was an Italian submarine that torpedoed her, not a German U-boat - we shall not drop him in the rattle for it.

 

The composer's name is written on the song, but it is not legible.

 

 



 

Bless 'Em All -- Corvettes

 

 

Bless 'em all

Bless'em all

These bloody corvettes are too small

In a rough sea they'll heave and they'll pitch,

They'll make you sick as a son of a bitch.

And it's up to the railing you'll sprawl

And spew up that good alcohol

You'll finish the war on this one funneled whore,

So cheer up my lads, bless them all

 


 

Webmaster's note: This song probably has as many versions as sailors that sung it.... below is another set of lyrics

 

There's a convoy just leaving St. John's

Bound for old England's shores

Heavily laden with tired old men

and empty shelves in the stores

There's many an old man who just signed off

And many young man signing on

You'll get no secure on this one funneled whore

So cheer up my lads bless them all.

 

Bless 'em all

Bless 'em all

The Captain the Jimmy and all

Bless all the seamen and gunner's mates too

Bless all the stokers and their dirty crew

We're saying goodbye to them all

As over the billows we sail

You'll get no promotion

You're on the wrong ocean

So cheer up my lads bless 'em all

 

And what's a song sung by a sailor without profanity.... other versions replace "Bless" with "Fuck".

 



 

The King's Navy - to the tune of "The Old Gray Mare"

 

 



 

Girls of the King's  Navy - A rare example of the Second World War song that was written by women, for women and from a woman's point of view

 

 

 



 

The Maple Leaf Squadron - to the tune of "The Ryans and the Pittmans"

 

Then here's to the lads of the Maple Leaf Squadron,
At hunting the U-Boat it's seldom they fail;
Though they've come from the mine and the farm and the workshop
The bank and the college and maybe from jail.

Chorus: We'll zig and we'll zag all over the ocean,
Ride herd on our convoy by night and by day.
Till we take up our soundings on the shores of old Ireland,
From Newfy to Derry's a bloody long way.

We're out from grey Newfy and off for green Derry,
Or swinging back westward while tall waters climb;
The grey seas roll round us, but never confound us;
We'll be soon making port and there'll be a high time.

So we're off to the wars where there's death in the making,
Survival or sacrifice, fortune or fame;
And our eyes go ahead to the next wave that's breaking,
It's the luck that's before us adds zest to the game.

 



 

Admiralty House Supper Song (A Bite With Me) - to the tune of Abide with me

 

During the Second World War, Admiralty House was the Officer's Mess at HMCS STADACONA and is now the Naval Museum of Halifax.

 

 

A bite with me, fast falls the prey to feast

The soup is Jackson, Lord, shall this not cease;

No other soup served so consistently

As Jackson. Will you have

A bite with me?

 

A bite with me, fast though 'ere steward takes

Your soup half finished, substituting steaks.

None else will do save Swiss or Salisbury.

Ha, did you say you'd have

A bite with me?

 

A bite with me, fast to the peas lay hold

Potatoes also, though they both be cold.

Now eat with vigor, and alacrity,

Else you will swallow not

A bit with me.

A bite with me, fastidious though we seem,

The steward serves up, once again, ice cream,

Act quickly now, this is the test to see

If you can quite complete

A bite with me.

 

A bite with me, drink of this bitter cup.

The coffee's over, and the jig is up.

When guests come in, they surely do agree

It is a job to eat

A bite with me.

 



 

Prince Henry Song

 

HMCS PRINCE HENRY was a CNR passenger ship and with her two sisters, PRINCE DAVID and PRINCE ROBERT, was converted to an armed merchant cruiser in 1940. PRINCE HENRY saw service in the Pacific and Atlantic theatres.  In 1943 she was converted to a troop landing ship and participated in D-Day landings.

 

 

 

Sing, side, Prince Henry's side

The Jimmy looks on her with Pride

And he'd have a fit if he saw any shit

On the side of the Old Henry's side

 

Sing merry, sing merry sing merry are we.

We are the boys of the Prince Henry

She's a tiddley ship o'er the ocean she slips

We sail her by night and by day

For when she's in motion

she's the pride of the ocean

You can't see her arsehole for spray

 



 

HMCS ST JOHN'S Commissioning song

 

 



 

K-240 - to the tune of Bless 'em

 

There's a Corvette just leaving for Sea,

Away for a lengthy patrol

Nobody knows just where we are bound,

Pitching and tossing and rolling around,

And her pendants are K-240

The smartest of ships on the go.

For when she's in motion, she's the pride of the ocean.

Three cheers for the K-240

 

Chorus

Bless 'em all, bless 'em all,

These ships that are always on call.

Bless all the men and the officers too,

They all go together to make up the crew,

And they're ready to fight at all times,

For the cause that is both yours and mine,

And the day is soon coming

When the Japs will go running,

From the crew of the K-240

 

Written by R. Collins and J. Harris

 

This song is from "Up Spirits" 2nd Edition (re-commissioning issue) for HMCS VANCOUVER K240

 



 

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