DESCRIPTION: ""This bloody town's a bloody cuss, No bloody trains no bloody bus, And no one cares for bloody us, In bloody Orkney." The weather is awful. The beer is bad and expensive. The music, the movies -- all are awful, and the women won't talk to the servicemen
AUTHOR: unknown (set to music by Ian Campbell)
EARLIEST DATE: 1972 (DallasCruel)
KEYWORDS: hardtimes warning navy
REFERENCES (1 citation):
DallasCruel, pp. 178-179, "Bloody Orkney" (1 text, 1 tune)
NOTES: At the beginning of the First World War, the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy -- the main fleet, responsible for guarding the British Isles, which was usually based along the British coast -- was transferred to Scapa Flow in the Orkneys (Farquharson-Roberts), p. 38. This had the advantage of locating it closer to Germany and of allowing it to unite its major units rather than scattering them.
The British government had planned for this before the war -- in the sense that they had thought about moving the ships up there. But the British had been in a naval construction race with Germany, and every cent the Royal Navy got went into ships. For practical purposes, nothing was done to build a base at Scapa Flow -- or the Firth of Forth, or Cromarty Firth, or any of the bases the navy used to watch the North Sea (Massie, pp. 146-150); this would cause the Navy a good deal of grief once it was brought home that German submarines could reach the British harbors.
From the sailors' standpoint, the problem was, of course, that Scapa Flow was in the Orkneys, north of Scotland, exposed to horrid weather and with a very small local population. "The Orkneys are treeless and forbidding but the Royal Navy did its best to create something resembling a fully equipped base as fast as it could.... The island of Flotta was taken over for recreation, with soccer pitches, a nine-hole golf course and other amenities" (Preston, p. 76). The lack of amenities that a soldier would actually care about is obvious.
Scapa Flow was the main British naval base in World War II also (not being closed down until 1956), and I'm guessing (from the reference to the movies being "bloody old") that that was the period when this song was written, although the DallasCruel text has no reference to datable events. There had been some improvements in the interim, but the British government was always starved for money between the wars, so they weren't much. And the civilian population (read: girls) naturally remained limited. - RBW
Last updated in version 4.2
- Farquharson-Roberts: Mike Farquharson-Roberts, A History of the Royal Navy: World War I, 2014 (I use the 2017 I. B. Tauris paperback edition)
- Massie: Robert K. Massie, Castles of Steel, Random House, 2003
- Preston: Antony Preston, Battleships, Gallery, 1981
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