Vanity Fair (UK), December 29, 1904

(A movement is being made to compel private soldiers to wear caps of the proper size. At present, considering that the smaller their cap, the smarter their appearance, they wear caps which fall off as soon as they begin to double.)

OH, we take him and we make him a recruit,
 And we fancy that he hasn’t got a thought
Beyond the wish to learn to drill and shoot,
 And to serve his country’s interests as he ought.
But beneath that plain exterior there lurks
 A love of beauty, strange as it may seem:
  When he’s on the range or drilling,
  This desire his heart is filling,
To wear a cap that looks a perfect dream.

  Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
   You’re a good ’un, but you’re vain:
  It would wound you very deeply
   If a comrade called you plain.
  May your uniform look dossy,
   May your cap be ever chic.
  Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
   You deserve it. You’re a brick!

When the bullets whistle shrilly past your ear,
 Your safety you will calmly trust to Fate:
The only time you’re conscious of a fear
 Is when you think your cap may be on straight.
You take a handy mirror from your pouch,
 And dust it and adjust it till it’s right,
  After which it seems a trifle
  To deal havoc with your rifle:
It’s a sort of anti-climax, is a fight.

      Chorus as Before.

There are worries which attend the man who goes
 In for caps that are a size or so too small:
There’s danger in the slightest breeze that blows,
 But that’s your private business, after all.
It may tumble off abruptly when you run,
 But the process doesn’t strike you as a bore;
  If it’s smaller than a “seven”,
  Life for you becomes a Heaven,
And you’ve nothing else to wish for any more.

  Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
   Your content ’twould sorely mar
  If your sergeant said your headgear
   Was not tasteful, but bizarre.
  May the Brodrick cap in future
   Be eternally taboo,
  Oh, Tommy, Tommy Atkins,
   Here’s the best of luck to you.

P. G. Wodehouse.



One of Wodehouse’s several parody lyrics to the song “Private Tommy Atkins”; see the footnotes to an earlier lyric for links to sheet music and a recording of the original song.