The british do take their wars seriously, don't they?
December 1, 2021 10:19 AM   Subscribe

"A report has come in from the Soemba,
That their salvoes go off like a Rhumba,
Two guns, they sound fine,
But the third five point nine,
He am bust and refuse to go boomba."
When the Dutch gunboat Soemba needed a new gun just a month before D-Day or it wouldn't be able to participate, it stood no chance to get one, until Rear Admiral A.D. Nicholl thought to raise the request in verse rather than prose. That was the start of a long chain of limericks as various departments put their oar in, but in the end the Soemba got her boomba. (Via Niels Henkemans.)
posted by MartinWisse (8 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is great! My (admittedly limited) interaction with the British Navy had not led me to expect this sense of humour.
posted by rpfields at 10:59 AM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

C.C. Hughes Hallett, Director of Plans (Q)'s contribution may seem slightly puzzling:
Best Plans! Where childlike learning sits
Remote from worldly cares
And leaves to skilled Division its Administry affairs
(With apologies to Oriel College)
It's a paraphrase of a parody, specifically A.D. Godley's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Oriel College:
blest spot! where childlike Learning sits
Remote from worldly cares,
And leaves to skilled financiers its / Pecuniary affairs
a poem on, among other things, non-British students attending an Oxford College, riffing on (I think) Thomas Gray's Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College.
posted by zamboni at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

The other mildly obscure reference is "Van Tromp's ruddy Broom" referring to Maarten Tromp and the Battle of Dungeness (1652), a naval battle in which the Dutch defeated the English.
posted by zamboni at 11:55 AM on December 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

Not that obscure here in the Netherlands, for obscure reasons.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

Here's a brief video history of The 'Free' Navies of World War 2 (sailors who kept fighting after their countries were occupied by the Nazis)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:45 PM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's a long tradition of this sort of thing. When George Canning was Foreign Secretary and failed to reach a trade agreement with the Dutch (plus ça change) he sent a top-secret coded dispatch to the British Ambassador in the Netherlands which read as follows:
(Secret and confidential)


In matters of commerce the fault of the Dutch
Is offering too little and asking too much.
The French are with equal advantage content
So we clap on Dutch bottoms just 20 percent.

I am, with great truth and respect, Sir,
Your Excellency's most obedient humble servant
George Canning
Unfortunately this sort of frivolity doesn't seem so funny any more, now we have a comedian as Prime Minister.
posted by verstegan at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

Poem code
This is just to say
fantastic post.

posted by clavdivs at 2:55 PM on December 1, 2021

That last part, however unintentionally, has the same energy as that old QI chestnut, "There once was a man from Limerick who was completely unaware of the short humorous poems to which his hometown lent its name."
posted by BiggerJ at 4:24 PM on December 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

« Older December, in my memory, is white as Lapland   |   David Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments