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Don’t tell him Pike!

Why do I feel in my water that this is only a quarter of the story?

“Whistle while you work

Hitler is a twerp

He’s half barmy, so’s his army

Whistle while you work

Well that got Private Pike in trouble with the Thought Police, the German thought police circa 1940.

Being a pre watershed massively popular British comedy programme the above rhyme was substituted for the real one which my parents and grandparents happily sang even as German bombs were raining down on them in London, Cardiff, Coventry, Bath, Bristol, Manchester Birmingham and Glasgow, causing death and destruction on a scale not witnessed in the British Isles since the Norman Invasion. And the original ditty, sung to the tune of Colonel Bogey was…

Hitler only had one ball

Goering had two but very small

Himmler has something similar

But poor old Goebbels had no balls at all!

That is British wit and grit, laughing in your face even when you are sticking a bayonet into our guts!

But now we mustn’t mention the War because we might offend the old Aggressors! Well let’s be honest here, Germany, France and Italy have airbrushed their history so thoroughly, kids today in those countries (and even ours for chrissakes!) might not know that WW2 ever happened, or if they do (exclusive reference to Nazis = evil not Soviets = evil, they wuz our allies right?) they will never be told their various Nation’s less than salubrious part in it, and think it was a European Civil War, and all a bit of an unfortunate misunderstanding. No it wasn’t, it was a deliberate insane invasion by one country (Germany) that had only been a unified country since 1870, but suddenly believed they were destined to be rulers of the world. Until Germany can look that straight in the face, then there is really no redemption for them.

So back to Haworth and the WW2 re-enactment  Society, for that is what the unfortunate thin skinned delegates from Hamm twinned with Bradford encountered, just doing their own thing re-enacting, oblivious to their presence. They were not “greeted” at all!  Did the Germans come for the re-enactment  or for the other, and much more obvious reason that everybody else has gone there, including me, being home of the Bronte sisters?

A few years ago, the wife and I took a cottage for a week in Haworth. We were 2 minutes walk from the Bronte vicarage and ten from the Heathcote moors. There were already bloody loads of Windmills on the hills and it was all very far from romantic at all, being in the main quite industrialised in a low key way since the late 1890’s

We were woken every morning around 5 am by the dawn chorus, not of Nightingale and thrush, starling or Robin, but busloads of Japanese tourists warming up their cameras and clearing their throats. The Japanese seem to have an utter passion for the Brontes! Even the bloody signposts in Haworth are bilingual, and the main other is Japanese. Deliberately offensive? What Haworth!


  1. Ornithorhynchus says:

    Here in the US, the song went:

    Whistle while you work
    Hitler is a jerk
    Mussolini broke his weenie
    Now it doesn’t work

  2. Laird says:

    And of course, we “heiled” right in der Fuhrer’s face.
    I suppose that’s verboten now, too.

  3. Lynne says:

    Having a WWII re-enactment is now racist? Who knew…

    How were the villagers supposed to dress up? As a Farmer Giles collective (geddit?)?

    Let’s hope the people of Haworth remember this disgusting insult come the next council elections.

  4. Talwin says:

    Those uniforms are cooool.

  5. Talwin says:

    I see the Mail article refers to the German uniforms sporting the ‘sinister death head skull’.

    Just like our own spunky, British 17/21st Lancers then.

  6. So, a party of German visitors chooses to go to a 1940s re-enactment and is shocked to find Nazi uniforms there. Now, I do wonder about the mentality of people who always choose to dress as Nazis, but really, what did they expect to find at a 1940s reenactment?

  7. Thornavis says:

    Here is the authorised version of the ditty as taught to me at school many, many years ago by certain of the rougher element:

    Hitler has only got one ball
    The other is in the Old Town Hall,
    His mother has pinched another
    Now poor Hitler aint got no balls at all.

  8. HSLD says:

    Ian ( not ) B – I used to work on weapons for re-enactors and there is entirely too much made of any connections with real world Nazism and Fascism.

    Not to say that re-enactors aren’t marching to the beat of a different drummer ( in my opinion at least ) – it’s just very unlikely to be THAT drummer….

  9. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    The sealed knot do a lot of re-enactment stuff around Basing House near me. They seem like a jolly bunch but I don’t think any advocate ‘divine right of Kings’ anymore. I think it’s just fun for ‘em. So it probably is for these guys.

  10. RAB says:

    The thing that has always struck me as crazy about the Germans (not the most jocular people on the Planet it must be said) is that they have attempted to apologise and atone for their past sins in starting two world wars and the death, destruction and yes genocide they have inflicted on the rest of us, by using the same methods they are supposed to be atoning for.

    The Nazis banned and burnt books, they arrested, imprisoned (and worse of course) people for wearing the wrong sort of clothes and looking funny, and thinking forbidden thoughts, so why did the reconstructed contrite NEW Germans think it was a good idea to copy Nazi methods? Swastikas are an imprisionable offence, Mein Kampf is banned (or was until just recently), Hollocaust denial is also a trip to the chokey. Will they never grow up and learn to look their past in the eye, apologise and move on? will they never get the confidence to laugh at themselves, like we Brits patently do as evinced by the Dad’s Army clip and any episode of Allo Allo? evidently not.

    In a grown up Nation like ours, someone who denies the Hollocaust doesn’t get arrested by the Thought Police, we assume they are in the Care of the Community, feel sorry for them, but move down the other end of the bar just in case they do something really silly.

    Britain can laugh at itself, I fear Germany never will be able to. Do you know that has taken until 2008 for a German tv company to buy all 75 episodes of Allo Allo from the Beeb. And I’ve no idea whether they have yet dared to air them. Anyone out there know?

  11. Stonyground says:

    I work for a German company that recently celebrated a significant aniversary and held a big celebration in a major german city for all of its foreign employees. We were treated to a coach tour of said city with a German guide who spoke perfect English. Part of the commentary was about the city centre which had hardly any buildings that were built before 1945 because the RAF had totally flattened the place. The one building that they had left standing was the tax office.

    In the real world, we have come to terms with WW2 and normal people are not in the business of denying reality and pretending that terrible things didn’t happen. Why should Germans who weren’t even born in 1939 have to feel guilty about their dark past?

  12. RAB says:

    Why should Germans who weren’t even born in 1939 have to feel guilty about their dark past?

    Beats me Stony, but then why am I made to feel guilty about the Empire and Slavery (even though it was us that abolished the trade) everytime a Pilgeresque Guardianista or Beeb documentary maker gets anywhere near a keyboard?

    Maybe it’s because Germany along with France has been hiding, lying about or flat out burying their past. And in Germany’s specific case, a country that does not acknowledge their past, bodes badly for everybody else’s future. Just look at the Eurozone clusterfuck. Germany will now be in a position (briefly) to control the whole of Europe by other means than War. I say briefly, because Germany is now in the position of lending the rest of Europe (via bailouts) the money to buy their exports. How fucking insane is that?

  13. NickM says:

    ‘Allo ‘Allo has been shown on German CATV/SATV for donks. The German’s are IMO obviously touchy about this and I don’t hold it against them. Well, maybe a few old bastards in their bath-chairs dreaming of Reichs from the Atlantic to the Urals but it’s well over and as far as “atonement” Germany has done it very (perhaps to) well. I’m sorry RAB but I have to ref the German Exchange at my sec school in maybe 1989. Well, I wasn’t exactly a part but I met the Germans over here and they seemed by and large reasonable sorts and sometimes very funny and/or very foxy (unlike the misfits parade of the French Exchange). One of my mates said, “But they bombed me Granny’s fish shop”*. It was like, “Scott, bugger off!”. It was old then.

    The exchange kids from Hamburg. They didn’t seem to hold a beef against us despite (not) bombing Scott’s Gran’s fish-shop this is what happened to Hamburg on July 28, 1943.

    …. firestorm that killed more than 40,000 persons in and around Hamburg. Most died of asphyxiation while huddling for shelter in their basements, or in the above-ground flames and melting asphalt of the streets.

    “Firestorm” is a loan-word from the German “Feuerstrurm”. The combustion of oxygen so reduced pressure that a tornado of fire resulted. People were picked from streets far from the flame-front and drawn in in a Wizard of Oz fashion. A block or two away from the flame front asphalt did not nearly melt but spontaneously combusted. Many went into the canals for safety and were boiled alive instead. They were nearly all civilians and few directly related to war industries. The RAF area raids were totally different from the USAAF raids aimed at industry, transport infrastructure and the like. Many of the dead were found by TENO in bunkers visibly unscathed but killed because the pressure differentials had destroyed their lungs.

    The RAF called this Operation Gomorrah. Rightly. It was about vengeance, not victory.

    Thee is more to say…
    It wasn’t just wrong. It was stupid.

    Those folks from Hamburg were OK about that.

    *I later found out this was lifted from a “comedian” and not in any sense true.

  14. RAB says:

    No Nick.

    It wasn’t just wrong. It was stupid.

    It was total War and crude at that. The accuracy of bombing from 10,000 feet even now isn’t precision or clinical. What happened to Hamburg and Dresden also happened to Coventry and London, and it was the Germans who started it, not us. Bombing Germany, until D Day was the only way we could feel we were fighting back. They would, and did, do the same to us. The V1′s and V2′s were targeted on war industries were they?

    I’m so glad you got along with your German exchange students, and they wern’t to miffed about losing a War their parents had started, but I’ll bet my boots they have never asked or been told what their daddies and Grandaddies did in the War.

  15. Matt says:

    “What happened to Hamburg and Dresden also happened to Coventry and London”

    This is the most amazing single piece of misinformation I have ever encountered. Along with nearly each other sentence you wrote. But hey, let’s not get confused by facts. That would be far too easy to refute.
    You may keep on believing your amazing story. Let us just thank God the official discourse and real historians don’t show their backside to crazy talk like this.

    “They would, and did, do the same to us.”

    Very mature. Besides, did you just imply that the British Army used Nazi methods? Wow, ain’t this charming.
    Another thought, don’t bet your shoes this easily. History classes in Germany deal with the topic very intensively, even more so than English classes. Although I do wonder, schools in London do not teach crazy talk like yours. But it’s nice to see the diversity in our grand school system, haha.

  16. The attacks on London and Coventry (and other areas) were on strategic resources like docks and industrial production but given the accuracy of bomb delivery were always going to end up killing civilians.

    The attack on Dresden was in almost every way comparable in its iniquity to the mass murder that took place in the concentration camps. It had no measurable strategic or military purpose other than terror. It was thus worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which between them probably saved hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides by shortening the war and avoiding the need to invade the Japanese mainland.

    That isn’t to say that we should not have stood up to Hitler and Nazism. We did not though have to adopt the precepts of Total War and we could and should have done some things differently.

  17. RAB says:

    I’m not about to argue with you ian, or Nick. You have your views and I have mine, but bear in mind that when you get into a War, unless you are prepared to do it totally, using every means at your disposal, forcing your opponent’s into total surrender, then you are very likely to be the one surrendering. Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan for instance.

    Dresden was a strategic target according to Wiki…

    More lives were lost in the firebombing of Tokyo than Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together, yet the voodoo of the atomic bomb gets the stick everytime.

    And the bombing of Bath and York was in any way strategic was it? Or was it just plain terror? The V1′s and 2′s were strategic or just plain terror?

    I repeat, if you want to win a war then you throw back everything that your foe has flung at you and more, or you will lose.

  18. Stonyground says:

    I think that it is impossible to judge the ethics of the bombing campaigns of WW2 from our position for the simple reason that we know how it turned out. At the time when the bombings were going on, the allies did not know that they were going to win. The consequences of not winning would have been pretty bad.

  19. RAB says:

    Yes indeed Stony, Hindsight has 20/20 vision.

  20. NickM says:

    No, Rab,
    No, no, no… In 1943 RAF Bomber command re-defined a direct hit as five miles from aiming-point. The people we bombed were largely of no relevance to the German war effort. Yes, “They started it” but that didn’t work did it? That’s like clue #1. The USAAF campaign almost stopped at one point ball-bearing manufacture. The Swedes supplied them instead but it almost worked. If the RAF had been singing from the same song-sheet and if the RAF had Norden bomb-sights and long-range escort fighters aerial bombardment could have effectively ended the war much more quickly.

    In case you are asking my Dad was born in 1944 so I suspect his contribution to that Titanic struggle was minimal.

  21. NickM says:

    The Germans had used terror bombing against us to no avail. We turned the tables. What we did was see the same nail in a knot and hit it harder. We should have known. The Septics did so they targeted specific things. There was though a terrible casualty of war in my wife’s family. The cat in Salford was hit by a broken bottle of castor oil. The washing of the cat was an epic as you might imagine. This is not to take away from the real horrors Britain sufferred but it is indicative of the fact that terror bombing simply couldn’t be done with 1930s/40s tech. I mean the cat was severely non-plussed so call that a result for the Luftwaffe!

  22. RAB – I offered no opinion on the bombing of Bath or Tokyo. I expressed a view specifically about Dresden. According to Michael Burleigh in ‘Moral Combat’ the strategic rail junction at Dresden was back in operation very quickly. The raid was specifically designed to cause maximum possible damage to civilians. As it continued areas were targeted that already housed people fleeing from the east – they were used simply as a means to an end.

    You say – “when you get into a War, unless you are prepared to do it totally, using every means at your disposal, forcing your opponent’s (sic) into total surrender”

    Every means? Literally?

  23. RAB says:

    Yes, every means, literally.

    If your civilians get bombed you bomb enemy civilians right back. In a total War there are no civilians, everyone is in it together, be it sharp end Soldiers Sailors and Airmen or blunt end armaments factory workers, farmers and shopkeepers, all are combatants and all are targets. Coming second in a War is not a good idea.

    Nick’s comment is full of “Ifs” if we had the long range fighters, if we had the bombsites, if we’d done it differently, but like I said Hindsight is perfect but foresight is often a complete fog. “If we knew then what we know now” is easy to say in retrospect, but when fighting for your very lives, well you use whatever comes to hand and pray for the best.

    If Germany had developed the Atom bomb before the Allies, do you think they would have hesitated for a moment to use it? London would have been a sheet of glass with a river running through it.

    If you don’t fight war with every means at your disposal, you will lose. America lost in Vietnam because they didn’t fight to win, they could have and would have won, but pulled their punches and lost. Ho Chi Min, or one of his henchmen said after the fall of Saigon…. “Why didn’t America keep on bombing the North? We were on the point of total collapse, just one more month and we would have surrendered”. But America didn’t know that did they?

    And how insane is giving a date for our withdrawal from Afganistan? Who wants to be the last man killed on the 11th hour of the 11th day, and for what? What did all those other good men die for? A country more fucked up than when we started, all on account of safe behind the lines, politicians egos?

  24. Single Acts of Tyranny says:

    Er, Dresden was a demonstration for the Russians and a timely reminder to stop at Berlin.

    They had no effective defenses against massed high-level strategic bombers, primitive radar and fighters that were good at low level but poor higher up. So, by smashing mile upon mile of Dresden it looked like we were helping the Russians, but really I reckon we were putting up a “keep off the grass” sign for the Red Army.

    Just my opinion.

  25. RAB – that really is bollocks. You are saying that in order to defeat the most evil of enemies you have to be prepared to become as them. When that happens, you haven’t won – they have. You are legitimising all the Kahn/Kissinger nonsense MUtual Assured Destruction, of saving the world by being prepared to destroy it. You are legitimising all the intrusive security theatre being perpetrated in the name of freedom while destroying that same freedom.

    In addition, while decrying Nicks comments for the ‘ifs’ you lard your own with equally speculative thoughts – ‘what if Germany had developed the Bomb first, what if the Americans had carried on bombing North Vietnam.

    You can’t have it both ways. Freedom and decency today can’t be traded for freedom and decency tomorrow. If they count, you have to stand by them. That means hard choices I know – like the choice between Nagasaki/Hiroshima and Operation Olympic that I referred to earlier – but the choice still has to be made. I think the choice we made in Dresden was wrong.

  26. RAB says:

    You are saying that in order to defeat the most evil of enemies you have to be prepared to become as them.

    No I am not ian, please read what I say rather than infer what I meant. By “any means” I meant within the rules of war. There aren’t many rules to war, but there are a few. Not massacring civilian populations for the hell of it and not executing prisoners of war either. The Germans and the Japanese did not play by those rules, Britain and America by and large did. Our allies the Russians on the other hand were perfectly happy to use Nazi methods to achieve their victory, even down to shooting their own troops if they dared to retreat. I don’t remember any Russians standing trial for war crimes though, do you? Turning a blind eye was ok as long as we won?

    I also see no substantive difference between Coventry and Dresden, both in the minds of those who ordered the bombing to be legitimate targets, if you see one as a war crime and not the other, then that is up to you.

    But what pray were we supposed to do? knowing that our bombsites were crap, that we were bombing at night which made it even more difficult, and not hitting the targets that we were really trying to hit. German bombsites were no better and the much vaunted American ones only a marginal improvement. Should we have Packed it in and waited for D Day? Thereby freeing up German resources in men and and equipment for the Russian front? What about British Morale? How could we sit on our hands and do nothing?

    War is in itself Evil. There is no gentlemanly way to kill people. If you end up fighting a war then in many ways you have already lost, but if you have to fight one, fight it to win in the quickest way possible (within the rules).

  27. RAB – if you mean any means within the rules of war, then say so. You answered my question “Literally any means?” with an unqualified Yes. I think I’m entitled to assume in the circumstances that when you say Yes, you mean yes, not yes except…

    Despite that, even on your revised answer, I’m still unconvinced that the attack on Dresden was legitimate.

  28. RAB says:

    But ian dear heart, I assumed you assumed that I was referring to ” TotalWar” in the Geneva Convention sense. After all you are rather good at assuming aren’t you? You thought I was some kind of Nazi or something? ;-)

    As to Dresden, I have nothing to say one way or the other. It wasn’t my call, neither was it yours, perhaps we would have made a different decision eh? But we wern’t born yet to make it or suffered 5 years of world war. Who knows what we would have decided?

    What I do know is that 3/4 of Coventry was destroyed. Yes it was one centre of manufacturing for our war effort, and therefore a legitimate target, but yes the Germans also knew that residential areas lived cheek by jowl with the factories. Did that give them pause for thought or moral quarms? Not for a millisecond!

    Time to put this thread to bed I feel. It was supposed to be about the German lack of a sense of humour about themselves after all.

  29. I didn’t assume anything. I asked a very simple question to which you gave an unequivocal answer, that you have now changed and hedged around.

    Be that as it may – you persist in referring to Coventry as if a) I had offered an opinion b) the Allies had any chance to do anything about it and c) as if Dresden was somehow a justified retaliation for it

    a) I haven’t offered any opinion on Coventry
    b) What the Nazis did was not in our control as Allies, what the Allies did WAS in out control.
    c) if Coventry was unacceptable and outside the rules of war, then retaliation like for like must also be outside the rules of war.

    The fact that it wasn’t our call is irrelevant. We take decisions now in the light of history – we can do nothing else. We learn, we make fresh mistakes, we learn some more.

    As for the alleged lack of a sense of humour listen to Henning Wehn sometime. He’s quite capable of taking the piss out of British and German attitudes to WW2 simultaneously.

  30. bloke in spain says:

    Small bits of trivia. Used to walk the dog across the battlefield where certain parts of Adolf’s anatomy were reduced to unity. He (Nelson – inspired name for a French dog-no?) liked snuffling in the ditch, all that remains of the German front line trench, for pheasants. Never came up with anything interesting though.
    The future Fuhrer fathered a brat round there, back in ’17 or so. Local girl. Visited her a couple of times, after the fall of France in ’40.

    Presumably, that was before not after.

    Harry S Truman was supposed to have commanded a US artillery battery near the Foret de Nieppe at the time. That’d be about 3-4 km SW. So it’s quite likely they were providing supporting fire for the British attack, during which AH had his genitalia rearranged by an exploding shell.

    Not bad shooting at that range.

  31. bloke in spain says:

    Oh & for complete & utter trivia:

    The German POW Pike was not to tell runs a seedy lap-dancing club in Puerto Banus, Spain, where he can often be seen in Sinatra’s Bar

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