From the album The Best English Singalong Folksongs Volume 1
This song by Rudyard Kipling began life as a poem and depicts the effects of cholera on one particular English brigade of troops in India. Typically, folk websites focus on the medical aspects of the disease - how many pandemics there were; where they spread from, were they wind-borne and how long it took to come up with a prevention and a cure. This confirms the view that much ethnic English folk music (the music of the ‘common people’) has been ‘stolen’ for academic study and debate – debate that largely fails to consider the social history of the common people and their lives - in this case, the plight of the thousands of English ‘squaddies’ who died a miserable death in a foreign land far away for no good reason except British imperialism & greed.
1. We've the cholera in camp, and it's worse than 40 fights,
And we're dying in the wilderness, the same as Israelites
It's before us and behind us and we cannot get away
And the doctor's just reported that we've ten more today.
Speed Up - Chorus
Oh strike your camp and go, the bugle's calling, the rains are falling
The dead are bushed and stoned to keep ‘em safe below
The band are doing all they can to cheer us
The chaplain's gone and prayed to God to hear us, to hear us
Oh Lord, for it's the killing of us all
2. Since August, when it started, it's been sticking to our tail,
And they've had us out by marches and they've had us back by rail
But it runs as fast as troop trains, and we cannot get away,
And the sick-list to the Colonel makes it ten more today.
3. And there ain't no fun in women, nor there ain't no bite to drink.
It's much too wet for shootin'; we can only march and think.
And at evening, down the nullahs, we can hear the jackals say,
"Get up, you rotten beggars, you've got ten more today!"
4. T’would make a monkey cough to see, our way of doing things
Lieutenants taking companies and captains taking wings,
And Lances acting Sergeants, eight file to obey
There's lots of quick promot-i-on on ten deaths a day!
5. And our Colonel's white an' twittery and he gets no sleep nor food,
He just mucks about in hospital where nothing does no good.
And 'e sends us 'eaps o' comforts, / all bought from 'is pay --
But there in't much comfort 'andy on ten deaths a day.
6. And our Chaplain's got a banjo, and a skinny mule he rides,
And the stuff 'e says and sings, oh Lord, it makes us split our sides!
With his black coat-tails a-bobbin', to Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay!
He's the proper sort o' padre, for ten deaths a day.
7. We've the cholera in camp, and we've got it 'ot and sweet.
It ain't no Christmas dinner, but it's served and we must eat.
We've gone beyond the funkin', 'cause we've found it doesn't pay,
An' we're rockin' round the District now, on ten deaths a day!
Slower Into Chorus
So strike your camp and go, the bugle's calling, The rains are falling
The dead are bushed and stoned to keep them safe below
And them that do not like it, they can lump it
And them that cannot stand it, they can jump it
For we've got to die somewhere, some way, somehow...
So we might as well begin to do it now!
So, Number One, let down the tent-pole slo-o-o-ow
Knock out the pegs and hold the corners, so-o-o-o
Furl up the flies, fold up the ropes, and stow!
Oh strike, oh strike your camp and go!