Prose & Poetry - The Muse in Arms - Back in Billets

"Back in Billets" by Charles Scott-Moncrieff First published in London in November 1917 and reprinted in February 1918 The Muse in Arms comprised, in the words of editor E. B. Osborne:

"A collection of war poems, for the most part written in the field of action, by seamen, soldiers, and flying men who are serving, or have served, in the Great War".

Below is one of seventeen poems featured within the Moods and Memories section of the collection.

You can access other poems within the section via the sidebar to the right.

Back in Billets
by Charles Scott-Moncrieff

(February 1915)

We're in billets again, and to-night, if you please,
I shall strap myself up in a Wolsey valise.
What's that, boy? Your boots give you infinite pain?
You can chuck them away: we're in billets again.

We're in billets again now and, barring alarms,
There'll be no occasion for standing to arms,
And you'll find if you'd many night-watches to keep
That the hour before daylight's the best hour for sleep.

We're feasting on chocolate, cake, currant buns,
To a faint German-band obbligato of guns,
For I've noticed, wherever the regiment may go,
That we always end up pretty close to the foe.

But we're safe out of reach of trench mortars and snipers
Five inches south-west of the "Esses" in Ypres;
- Old Bob, who knows better, pronounces it Yper
But don't argue the point now - you'll waken the sleeper.

Our host brings us beer up, our thirst for to quench,
So we'll drink him good fortune in English and French:
- Bob, who finds my Parisian accent a blemish,
Goes one better himself in a torrent of Flemish.

It's a fortnight on Friday since Christopher died,
And John's at Boulogne with a hole in his side,
While poor Harry's got lost, the Lord only knows where;-
May the Lord keep them all and ourselves in His care.

...Mustn't think we don't mind when a chap gets laid out,
They've taken the best of us, never a doubt;
But with life pretty busy and death rather near
We've no time for regret any more than for fear.

...Here's a health to our host, Isidore Deschildre,
Himself and his wife and their plentiful childer,
And the brave aboyeur who bays our return;
More power to his paws when he treads by the churn!

You may speak of the Ritz or the Curzon (Mayfair)
And maintain that they keep you in luxury there
If you've lain for six weeks on a water-logged plain,
Here's the acme of comfort, in billets again.

Stormtroopers comprised specially trained German assault troops used in 1918.

- Did you know?