15 December 2014

Meet the gang 'cos the boys are here, the boys to entertain you

Today's special find in the second-hand bookstore was this fine example of New Zealand social history: The Songs We Sang, by Les Cleveland and the D Day Dodgers, on Kiwi Records (LA-3). It's in excellent condition, and contains 11 examples of military tunes belted out in quick succession. You can hear the recordings here, and that website thinks the LP was released in 1959 - it's not clear from the disc itself, which is not dated. Historian Jock Phillips has written an excellent biography of Cleveland, who turns out to have been a multi-talented chap who (amongst other things) was a lecturer in the Political Science department at Victoria University of Wellington.

The back cover of the LP contains a blurb for each of the tracks. Here's the one for track 4, side 1: My Africa Star:

This is a satire based on one of the red-hot grievances of the New Zealand Division in the Middle East. The Eighth Army was formed in September, 1941. To qualify for a small metal figure eight which was worn with the Africa Star ribbon, it was necessary to have served in the Eighth Army on or after October 23, 1942. But the formation had been fighting for a year prior to that arbitrary date, so that all those men who had been knocked out with wounds, invalided out with illness or transferred to non-operational units were denied this small but significant award. Some of them were veterans of the first desert battles and their remarks were often voluble and loud when they saw less-worthy soldiers—including girls serving ice-cream in army canteens and "those who were in Palestine"—wearing "the eight".
Les Cleveland died in January 2014.

See also:
History: NZ Film Unit - Behind Our Planes (1942 WAAF short) 
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