Tommy Atkins

In a rather disappointing turn of events the Congress has decided that retired veterans will lose the 1% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) that was included in the pension benefit package for those who serve for over twenty years.  Despite the promise made by the nation to those who served the flag for so long, the expedience of the political process has made the cut a fait accompli.  It is not particularly surprising that veterans will surrender benefits to pay the nation’s bills, but what is surprising is that the cut is being made while Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are fighting and dying in active combat in defense of the nation and its principles.

Unfortunately, it is likely a harbinger of things to come.  It is also far from unprecedented.  Rudyard Kipling, the British adventurer and poet, wrote about how his fickle nation views the military as personified by its ubiquitous soldier, Tommy Atkins:

I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,

The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”

The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,

I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:

    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;

    But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,

    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,

    O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

 

I went into a theatre as sober as could be,

They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;

They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,

But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!

    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;

    But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,

    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,

    O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

 

Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep

Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;

An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit

Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.

    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”

    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,

    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,

    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

 

We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,

But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;

An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,

Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;

    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,

    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,

    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,

    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

 

You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:

We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.

Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face

The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.

    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”

    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;

    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;

    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

Sadly, although this poem was penned over a century ago it still bitingly resonates.

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One response to “Tommy Atkins

  1. It cuts right to the core of the situation, Colonel. I have to make note of your address for this post and make certain it is read by as many who will listen.

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