Union Songs

Nursery Rhyme

A poem by Frank Wilmot©1916 Frank Wilmot
Tune by Chris Kempster©Chris Kempster 1950s

One year, two year, three year, four,
Comes a khaki gentleman knocking at the door.
"Any little boys at home, send them out to me
To train them and brain them in battles yet to be."

When a little boy is born feed him, train him so.
Put him in a cattle pen and wait for him to grow.
When he's nice and plump and dear, and sensible and sweet,
Throw him in the trenches for the great grey rats to eat.
Toss him in the cannon's mouth, cannons fancy best
Tender little boys' flesh that's easy to digest.

Mother rears her family on two pounds ten a week.
Teaches them to wash themselves, teaches them to speak.
Rears them with a heart's love, rears them to be men.
Grinds her fingers to the bone, and then... what then?

But parents who must rear the boys the cannons love to slay,
Also pay for cannons that blow other boys away.
Parsons tell them that their sons have just been blown to bits.
Patriotic parents must all laugh like fits.

Rear the boys for honest men and send them out to die!
Where's the coward father who would dare raise a cry?
Any gentleman's aware folk rear their children for
Blunderers and plunderers to mangle in a war!

Five year, six year, seven year, eight.
"Hurry up you little chaps, the captain's at the gate!"


In 1916 during the First World War a poet named Frank Wilmot (who wrote under the name Furnley Maurice) turned his revulsion at the conscription of young people into this poem.

It was set to music in the mid 1950s by Chris Kempster, and when he sang it at a folk session thirty years later, this led to Miguel Heatwole writing an arrangement of it for the Solidarity Choir. That version is on the choir's CD "Ten Years Strong".

Len Neary and Chris Kempster sing the song on The Songs of Chris Kempster CD

Hugh Anderson wrote an entry on Frank Wilmot for the Australian Dictionary of Biography

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