Daily Telegraph - Dictionary of Tommies' Songs and Slang, 1914–1918 by John Trophy and Eric Partridge is a fascinating piece of material. Okay, it wasn’t exactly in the format I was expecting but it was none the worse for that.
The book, I learn, was first published in 1930. It comes in three sections — an updated introduction, the introduction to the original, and the song themselves (subdivided into categories such as Chants and Songs Rarely, if ever, Sung on the March and including a glossary of soldiers’ slang).
It’s a browsable book, or it ought to be. The fact that much of it comprises a reproduction of the original makes it hard to navigate around but that isn’t really a problem. It just means you have to scroll through rather than jump about via links or the Go To function. It didn’t matter. It was a book I got lost in, and in the best possible way.
Both the original and the modern introduction are enlightening, but the real value comes from the words the soldiers themselves use — a combination of knowingness and naivety and a view of life from both male and female perspectives and most definitely one from the trenches rather than the ocean wave. (“Never trust a sailor/an inch above your knee” runs one song.)
I was left both informed and moved by this book, and it’s one I shall definitely keep going back to.