The General’s Fast Asleep

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A new addition to my toy soldier collection – this charming  1935 sheet music cover and lyrics are pure H.G. Wells’ Little Wars and RLS’s Child’s Garden of Verses.

The General’s Fast Asleep – Military Foxtrot

First verse:

Right across the nurs’ry floor,

Gallant soldiers dress’d  for war,

Drummer boys and buglers grand,

wait-ing the word of command,

Spick and span they stand,

But ne-ver a word of Com-mand

However most  recorded versions of the song usually start here at this point:

Chorus:
You won’t see any big parade
There won’t be any bugle played
Sad to say no war to-day
‘Cause the General’s fast asleep
.
Soldiers bold in a mighty row
They’ve been told they’re to fight the foe
Sad to say no war today
‘Cause the General’s fast asleep
.
Verse:
The Colonel’s mad, and the Major blue
The Captain’s sad and the Sergeant too
Guess this war will have to keep
It’s enough to make an army weep
.
Look oh look at the curly head
Time to take him away to bed
Sad to say no war today
‘Cause the General’s fast asleep
.
Gee – It seems an awful shame
That his victory won’t go down to fame
Sandman’s here to dim the light
Little General, good night.
.
Other additional  lyrics / verses
All the gunners wear a frown,
Half the tanks are upside down,
while the horses say “neigh neigh”,
.
There’ll be no battle today
Air Force must not fly,
They know there’s a good reason why,
‘cos the Generals fast asleep.
.
Songwriters: Michael Carr / Jimmy Kennedy (1935)
The Peter Maurice Music Co. Ltd.
The General’s Fast Asleep lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC.
.
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Ear Worm Alert – listen to these recording and this jaunty Military foxtrot will be in your head for days. You have been warned!
You can hear  Vera Lynn singing this 1935 jaunty song, some say it’s her first recording, singing with Jay Wilbur and the Rhythm Rascals on Crown Records 51
.
Gracie Fields recorded this for Rex records. Elsie Carlisle recorded this for Decca in 1935
.
George Brassens sings the French version on Ukelele or Guitar, called Le General Dort Debout
Sadly there seems to be no George Formby Ukelele recording!
.
The song even features  in French and Italian on an anti war song website with a variation on this sheet music cover – French and German lyrics given too on this website:
.
IL GENERALE DORME IN PIEDI is also the title of a comic 1960s Italian movie.

.

There is a jolly military  band feel to this Ray Ventura French language version 1935/6
https://youtu.be/qGeus7zvqgo

.

Fast pace German dance orchestra version 1936 by German jazz / dance band leader Heinz Werner (1908- died / missing on Wermacht service  1945) but sung in English https://youtu.be/JZvbaZn2r54

Henry Hall and the BBC Dance Orchestra 1930s (with Henry singing the vocals?)
https://youtu.be/iDwt_hOeLgc
Ambrose recorded this with Evelyn Dall on vocals,

https://archive.org/details/78_the-generals-fast-asleep_ambrose-and-his-orchestra-evelyn-dall-kennedy-carr_gbia0094265b

as did Joe Loss and his Orchestra
https://youtu.be/pwT3AgKSF3U

28E76EED-8DA6-43F9-8B4A-9846D5C948F8
Note the Ukelele settings

The art work (by Muf?) shows some attractive little redcoats and their (almost spacey) artillery

F7F5C55B-192A-41AB-AE21-A53A6866FE90
It’s those round toy soldier bases again …
129EC2AD-B6F9-4AEF-9FFC-33BC12DE1141
Shhhh. Don’t wake him! The sleeping General with his genuine 1930s dated Newspaper bicorne hat. Lovely bit of collage.

I shall probably frame and hang this music sheet above my gaming and painting table. All for the love of toy soldiers …

I wonder if the 1935 song title comes in any way from an 1855 Crimean era Punch cartoon by John Leech  “The  General  Fast (Asleep). Humiliating – Very ” https://punch.photoshelter.com/image/I000003bgnBCre0U

based on Victorian and ACW era National Days of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer

https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1855/feb/22/day-of-humiliation

The French lyric version appears slightly different, translated and rewritten to keep the right rhythm?

LE GÉNÉRAL DORT DEBOUT

Sur le plancher du salon,
Sont rangés les soldats de plomb.
Fantassins et artilleurs,
Des cavaliers, des sapeurs
Vont jouer leur destin.
Pourtant, aucun ordre ne vient.

Rantanplan, pas de grande parade !
Fermez le ban, pas de mousquetade !
Tout le monde au garde-à-vous !
Mais le général dort debout.

Les soldats étaient pourtant prêts,
On avait dit qu’ils se battraient,
Mais il faut qu’ils soient dissous
Car le général dort debout.

Les officiers ne sont pas contents.
Du colonel au sous-lieutenant,
Ils transmettent ce commandement :
“Baboum badaboum, rompez les rangs !”

Regardez sa tête se pencher,
Il faut l’emmener se coucher
Ce tantôt, pas de héros,
Car le général fait dodo.

Devant ce grand désarroi,
Tout va vite de guingois.
Quatre tanks sont renversés ;
Tous les avions sont écroulés ;
D’un geste du pied,
Leur chef les a tous balayés.

Rantanplan, pas de grande parade !
Fermez le ban, pas de mousquetade !
Tout le monde au garde-à-vous !
Mais le général dort debout.

Les soldats étaient pourtant prêts,
On avait dit qu’ils se battraient,
Mais il faut qu’ils soient dissous
Car le général dort debout.

Les officiers ne sont pas contents.
Du colonel au sous-lieutenant,
Ils transmettent ce commandement :
“Baboum badaboum, rompez les rangs !”

Regardez sa tête se pencher,
Il faut l’emmener se coucher
Ce tantôt, pas de héros,
Car le général fait dodo.

Le marchand de sable vient
Apportant le sommeil en ses mains.
Dormez bien, la lune luit.
Général, bonne nuit !

French Translation Contributed by Marco Valdo M.I. 2015/2/23 – 20:34

Strangely, “fait dodo” is French baby talk for going to sleep, like the sleepy, slow or stupid (thus rapidly  extinct) Dodo.

General Dort Debout and General Fait Dodo would be good French General Imagi-Nations names. Likewise   Generale  Dorme In Piedi for an Italian General.

Blog posted by Mark, Man of TIN / Homme de Plomb, 14 March 2019.

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Author: 26soldiersoftin

Hello I'm Mark Mr MIN, Man of TIN. Based in S.W. Britain, I'm a lifelong collector of "tiny men" and old toy soldiers, whether tin, lead or childhood vintage 1960s and 1970s plastic figures. I randomly collect all scales and periods and "imagi-nations" as well as lead civilians, farm and zoo animals. I enjoy the paint possibilities of cheap poundstore plastic figures as much as the patina of vintage metal figures. Befuddled by the maths of complex boardgames and wargames, I prefer the small scale skirmish simplicity of very early Donald Featherstone rules. To relax, I usually play solo games, often using hex boards. Gaming takes second place to making or convert my own gaming figures from polymer clay (Fimo), home-cast metal figures of many scales or plastic paint conversions. I also collect and game with vintage Peter Laing 15mm metal figures, wishing like many others that I had bought more in the 1980s ...

2 thoughts on “The General’s Fast Asleep”

  1. Super research for this post. I think framing the front cover is an excellent idea as it’s a terrific illustration. The General appears to be wearing a dress? Though the lyrics say ‘he’, could it even be a girl?

    Like

    1. Well observed – it could be a girl, although up until mid 19th Century, many very young children were dressed alike or in poor country areas wore castoffs and hand me downs. ‘He’ could just be a chubby cherubic curly haired boy in hidden shorts.

      Female Generals? If the cover does show a girl child, They could be some of this H G Wells suggested (very young) rare females (rare in historical gaming circles, less so in fantasy games) mentioned hopefully in his “Little Wars: a game for boys from twelve years of age to one hundred and fifty and for that more intelligent sort of girl who likes boys’ games and books.”

      I thought you might like the Crimea link to the sleeping generals 1855 Punch cartoon link in view of your recent Crimean Command figures painting.

      Like

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