The cookers (1919)

A.P Herbert

Oxford English Dictionary (OED) Links On

The Officers’ kit and the long low limbers,
The Maltese cart and the mules go by
With a sparkle of paint and speckless timbers,
With a glitter of steel to catch the eye;
But the things I like are the four black chimneys
And the smoke-tails scattering down the wind,
For these are the Cookers, the Company Cookers,
The cosy old Cookers that crawl behind.

The Company Cooks are mired and messy,
Their cheeks are black but their boots are not;
The Colonel says they must be more dressy,
And the General says he’ll have them shot;
They hang their packs on the four black chimneys,
They’re a grubby disgrace, but we don’t mind
As long as the Cookers, the jolly black Cookers,
The filthy old Cookers are close behind.

For it’s only the Cooks can make us perky
When the road is rainy and cold and steep,
When the songs die down and the step gets jerky,
And the Adjutant’s horse is fast asleep;
And it’s bad to look back for the four black chimneys
But never a feather of smoke to find,
For it means that the Cookers, the crazy old Cookers,
The rickety Cookers are ditched behind.

The Company Cook is no great fighter
And there’s never a medal for him to wear,
Though he camps in the shell-swept waste, poor blighter,
And many a cook has ‘copped it’ there;
But the boys go over on beans and bacon,
And Tommy is best when Tommy has dined,
So here’s to the Cookers, the plucky old Cookers,
And the sooty old Cooks that waddle behind.

Learn more about the language of this poem in the
Oxford English Dictionary:

mired  perky  blighter  adjutant