Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There)

Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There)

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Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There) Page One and Text

This poem was found in the papers of Laurence A. F. Smith of No.215 Squadron, and reflect the frustration felt by many in Burma's "forgotten army", even if in this case the author was in the forgotten Air Force. (Go to page two)

Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There)

When you're sweating in the jungle and tomented by the flies
And you thing that life is getting rather tough,
Just give a thought to Blighty, where the hardship really lies
For the boys back there in England have it tough

When you've half a bottle of water to last you all the day
And decide? to have a 'brew' and not a wash.
Why for some poor chaps in Blighty the pub's a mile away
And they have to be content with lemon squash.

When you haven't read a paper for more than two long months
And Xmas mail just reached you by May
Those lonesome boys in Blighty are really in the cold
With homes quite fifty miles away.

When you've had six months of Bengal and only two days leave
And you never see a woman or a Pub,
Put your mind again to Blighty, and the way the boys must grieve
When they only get alternate weekends free

So why should we be selfish and have a strong heart,
Whilest others sacrifice a life of ease
No! Just take us back to Blighty, there let us do our best
We can't complain - just get the tickets please!

The Smiths’ “The Queen Is Dead” Lyrics Meaning

Questions surrounding the British monarchy’s legitimacy may never go away. It is an institution that began way back in the 10 century, an era in which no one would deny the world was quite different than it is now. And as of the writing of this post in early 2021, it seems to be coming increasingly common to see articles online where the Royal Family is considered to be too expensive, unnecessary or what have you.

But again, such sentiments aren’t particularly anything new. For instance this song (“The Queen Is Dead”) we’re dealing with today came out in 1986. Moreover its vocalist and co-writer, Morrissey, can be considered A list artist across the pond. However, that hasn’t prevented him from establishing himself as someone who has regularly dissed the Royal Family throughout the years. And all of such tirades probably date back to this song, “The Queen Is Dead”.

Lyrics of “The Queen Is Dead”

The track commences with an excerpt from another, much older tune, “Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty”. That song actually dates back to World War I. It was extremely popular then. Even today, it still is. Actually it is representative of British soldiers abroad suffering from homesickness.

So the implication would be that this reference is meant to illustrate The Smiths’ own love for their homeland of the United Kingdom. So from the onset we see that they are patriots, if you will.

But that sentiment is reserved specifically for the nation, not the Royal Family which represents them. For instance following, Old Blighty The Smiths puts forth another intro, this time consisting of only one phrase, “I don’t bless them”. Such can be interpreted as him blessing his homeland yet not the royals themselves, as put forth above.

Or even more specifically, considering the title of the song and all it is likely a roundabout reference to the well-known, de facto British national anthem entitled “God Save the Queen” which, as its title entails, serves as a blessing of the Royal Family. But reciting such is not a practice The Smiths engage in considering they don’t feel that way about the monarchs.

In fact they let it be known explicitly that they “don’t bless them”, i.e. the monarchy, thus setting the tone for the rest of the song to follow.

Verse 1

So for example, we have the Queen of England being referenced at the beginning of the first verse. But instead of being referred to as ‘Her Royal Highness’, i.e. a popular exaltation of a female royal, Morrissey rather terms Elizabeth II “her very lowness”.

Moreover, it is arguable that he depicts her with “her head in a sling” and other allusions to Her Majesty basically being trapped, judged and executed. And he’s not actually encouraging anyone to take such an action. Rather it’s more like he’s just fantasizing about an event, which in his mind “sounds like a wonderful thing”.

Concurrently, he also makes mention of ‘a boar hemmed between archers’. That may be another reference to the Queen, as presented above. But some have also interpreted it as referring to the singer himself, as well as his ilk, i.e. the downtrodden of British society.

In fact such individuals are sort of sub-characters throughout the song, such as when in the fifth verse the vocalist notes that he and other laymen are “so lonely”.

Indeed this track is meant to be sort of the blue-collar, hardcore, outsider’s reflection of the monarchy. That is to say that the narrator does not come off as a music star or anything like that. Rather he is someone in tune with what’s going on in the ‘hood because he is actually from the ‘hood.

Prince Charles Taunted

The verse concludes with the singer then turning his focus on Prince Charles. He is the first-born son of Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip (1921-2021). And what that means, simply put, is that if the Queen were to pass away, then he would succeed her, himself becoming the King of England.

Thus he can be considered not only the second most-powerful but also the second most-popular monarch, after Elizabeth II herself. Or put otherwise any diss against the royal family has to also include jabs at Charles. And fundamentally, it appears that Morrissey is referring to him as some type of mama’s boy or as being effeminate. Or that’s one way of interpreting what he’s putting forth.

According to sources, Morrissey is rather questioning whether Charles fantasizes about taking the throne himself. So conclusively we can say that both of the above notions are true. He is taunting Charles, asking if he desires his mother’s place. But at the same time he alludes to him being some type of a crossdresser, if you will.

So it’s like he uses the opportunity of posing a legitimate question to also diss Prince Charles, keeping within the overall theme of not feeling too kindly about the Royal Family.

Verse 2

This idea is buttressed, in the roundabout way, during the first half of the second verse. Morrissey jokes that he is actually descended from “some old queen or other” himself. However, upon discovering such he “was shocked into shame”. Or put differently, such a lineage is not something he’s proud of.

Or stated alternatively yet again, considering that this claim is likely fictional, what he is saying is that if he were a royal, that is not something he would take pride in but would rather feel ashamed.

Moreover he is making fun of people who tend to take royal lineages so seriously by claiming he’s the “18 th pale descendent” of said queen. In fact there is a pretty-complex system in place to determine the line of succession to the British throne. And we can perhaps go further to say that The Smiths deem not only dislike the royals but also consider the public’s obsession with such as being childish.

Then Morrissey seems to take the argument to the place where this whole post began, by noting how “the world has changed”. Next he references “some nine year old tough who peddles drugs”. The way some argue the point is as if Morrissey is just noting a negative trajectory of the world in general, as musicians tend to sometimes do. But combining the two aforementioned observations, we can also postulate that the artist is saying that the Royal Family is an anachronism, as manifested by their inability to deal with modern issues like small boys not only being compelled to but also actually dealing drugs.

Verse 3

The third verse commences with Morrissey putting forth a fictitious tale of himself breaking into Buckingham Palace and having an exchange with the Queen directly. Apparently this part of the song was encouraged by the exploits of one Michael Fagan. Michael was a regular dude who did in fact sneak into the Palace. He even made it all the way to the Queen’s bedroom, armed, where she was asleep at the time, before being detected.

So with that in mind, it would appear that he is dissing royal security, likely as a microcosm for the lack of competency of the Royal system itself.

Then in interacting with the Queen, she tells Morrissey that he “cannot sing”. And he mockingly counters that diss by stating that his inability to sing is nothing as compared to his ability to play the piano. So put otherwise, he doesn’t really care what the Queen thinks of him. And it is evident that Morrissey is aware of himself not being viewed favorably on that end of the political spectrum either.

And as you have probably already ascertained, this song is very metaphorical in nature. It is an exercise in continuous interpretation on the part of the listener, as nothing is said directly.

So with the second half of the verse, we will hypothesize that Morrissey is saying something like the people are so emotionally attached to the British Monarchy that serious questions are never raised concerning their legitimacy. He uses the allegory of being “tied to your mother’s apron” to get that point across. And of course, given what was put forth in the first verse, that statement can also be construed as yet another jab against Prince Charles.

Verse 4

And the allegorical tirade continues into the fourth verse. In this stanza the vocalist now seems to be saying something, more conclusively, like the Royal Family being superficial. They are more concerned with, say, how they look in public than the serious issues of the day, “like love and law and poverty”.

Verse 5 (“The Queen is Dead”)

So all of the above ultimately leads us to the fifth and final verse. This is The Smiths’ last opportunity to actually elaborate concisely what the title of this song means.

So far we have dealt with swarths of metaphors, but none of them illustrate exactly what the phrase “the Queen is dead” is supposed to signify. After all over three decades after this song was released, with Queen Elizabeth II now nearing 100 years of age, she is still very much alive in a literal sense. So it is obvious that the title is not meant to be taken simply as presented.

But as you may have already figured out, the thesis sentiment is indeed tied into this whole idea of the Royals being irrelevant. There are numerous issues with contemporary British society which The Smiths notice. For instance, this selfsame fifth verse introduces two institutions into the equation, “the pub” and “the church”, which up until this point were unmentioned.

And the former is depicted as a place that is detrimental to one’s physical wellbeing, while the latter your financial wellbeing. And first off, both of these institutions come off as being ubiquitous in British society, one which regular people normally pass simply while going about their business.

Furthermore, they are both, in their own respective ways, negative. Meanwhile, the Queen herself is unwilling or perhaps even powerless to defend her people from either. Moreover, going back to the previous verse, Morrissey is under the impression that the Royals don’t really care about common issues anyway.

What “The Queen Is Dead” really means

So “the Queen is dead” does not mean she is physically in her grave or anything like that. Nor is the titular “Queen” really a direct reference to Elizabeth II. The Queen is rather, as intended, a personification of the monarchy. And what The Smiths are arguing is that the entire institution is woefully outdated – ineffective even as far as the modern, shall we say more-troubled world is concerned.

Or let’s say that if they were effective, then the British society wouldn’t be so troubled in the first place. And yes, “dead” may be a strong word to use to get that point across. But such powerful wording also encapsulates the vocalist’s genuine disdain for the royal system – his desire for them to in fact disintegrate, so to speak.

All in all…

Indeed the feel of this song is more important to relaying its thesis than the lyrics themselves. Certain lyrics are so painfully allegorical to the point where there can be no consensus as to what they all definitively mean. But underneath it all what we do know is this.

The Smiths are not fond of the British monarchy at all. And whereas Morrissey and co. may perceive the Queen as being self-centered and the Prince less than manly, in the end their disposition isn’t really about the figures involved.

Yes, the personal nature of the members of the Royal Family aren’t helping matters any. But the ultimate point being presented, once again, is that British society itself is now at a point where the Royal Family is no longer needed. In other words, this reality is not only due to the impotency of the royals as leaders but also the historical evolution of the country itself.

Summary of “The Queen Is Dead”

Lyrically, the song severely attacks Queen Elizabeth II and the entire British royal family. In a 1986 interview that Morrissey had with NME, he shed some light on the song. According to him, he initially didn’t want to attack the British monarchy in the aggressive way he did. However, he was forced to do so all the same. And why? Simply because of how sad life had become with the presence of the monarchy in England.

He added that the whole idea of the Royal Family being an important institution was like a “hideous joke”.

Away from the royal family, the lyrics of the song also briefly attack pubs and churches in England. Morrissey refers to the pubs as entities that wreck and sap your body. As for the church, he refers to it as an entity whose primary mission is to grab your money.

Writing Credits for “The Queen Is Dead”

This track was produced and co-written by The Smiths’ frontman Morrissey alongside his bandmate, multi-instrumentalist Johnny Marr. And the other two credited writers are A. J. Mills (1872-1919) and Fred Godfrey (1880-1953). Of course being that they’re both long dead, they never actually collaborated directly with The Smiths. Rather it is they who wrote the aforementioned “Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty”. The song in question was originally published way back in 1916.

Release Date of “The Queen Is Dead”

This song is the title track from The Smiths’ third album. It was released as part of its album in June of 1986. The Smiths didn’t release it as a single.

The Smiths were a band from Manchester who were extant for just a few years, from 1982 to 1987. But within that time they managed to drop four studio albums. One of these albums topped the UK Singles Chart. The other three peaked at number two.

“The Queen Is Dead” is amongst the albums which reached number two. It was a massive success in England. It achieved platinum status in the UK and gold status stateside. Furthermore, it also somehow went gold in Brazil. But even beyond its chart showing and certifications, it is considered to be a true classic. This legendary album produced three powerful singles, namely:

The Smiths is the band that put both Morrissey and Johnny Marr on the map. Both men went on to become music legends on their own. And the other two primary members of the crew were drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke.

More Interesting Facts!

There is a brief sound bite at the beginning of the song. On the sound bite, you can clearly hear a woman singing the famous music hall song “Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty”. This was a song that was very popular during World War I.

The sound bite is from the 1962 British drama film The L-Shaped Room starring Tom Bell and Leslie Caron. The woman singing “Take Me To Old Blighty” is the late Australian-born British actress and singer Cicely Courtneidge.

The theme of “The Queen is Dead” makes it one of the most controversial songs ever written in the entire history of British music.

Speaking to NME, Johnny Marr said of the song as one whose sound was shaped by the works of American rock bands The Stooges and The Velvet Underground. According to Marr, he wanted to create a sound that had in it the aggression of the works of “Detroit garage bands”.

This Smiths’ classic is devoid of a chorus.

Is Morrissey really right about the British Royal Family not being relevant?

The British people (the United Kingdom thus England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) practice a system of governance which is referred to as the constitutional monarchy. This is a system of government where the monarch is the head of state and a prime minister is the head of government. Thus, the monarchy or sovereign rules the kingdom through parliament.

As of this writing, Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch of the United Kingdom (UK), and the head of the British royal family. The position of the monarch is regulated through descent and parliamentary laws and statute. Thus, the order of succession is fixed for members of the Royal Family in the order in which they stand in line to the throne. Parliament has laws that ensure that all members of the royal family play a role to assist the duties of the Kingdom.

Duties of the British Royal Family

The British royal family has more than a thousand official duties they are to perform every year. These duties include execution of official state responsibilities and the following:

  • Commonwealth meetings
  • state burials
  • national award ceremonies
  • meetings with presidents of other countries

When national events and meetings are held in the United Kingdom (UK), the royal family is to support the Queen in making the guest feel welcome. Some members of the royal family are allowed by law to represent the Monarch (Queen) and nation in these official events and meetings when the Queen is indisposed.

These are the close relations of the Queen:

  • her children and their spouses
  • grandchildren and their spouses
  • the Queen’s cousins

The exposure and understanding of various subjects of life such as culture (national and local life), education, health, security, sports, history, and entertainment members of the British royal family gain from attending these official meetings are unmatched. They also get to meet many important personalities of the world.

Members of the royal family discuss the content of these meetings with parliament and share their views on how best the kingdom can develop with the knowledge they get from these meetings. This significantly strengthens national unity in the UK.

Even more duties

They also play an important role in managing national security. They do so by recognizing and supporting all security agencies and the military in the UK. The royal family also pays official visits every year, to camps of armed forces of the UK that serve at home and abroad.

Many public and non-profit organizations across the United Kingdom and worldwide receive support from the royal family. Over four thousand organizations across the world have a member of the British royal family as their chairperson. These organizations include the following:

  • sporting academies
  • health research centers
  • orphanages
  • educational scholarship teams

The royal family works along with these organizations and many others to help make life better for countless people the world over. These organizations receive a lot of funding and resources from the family to support them in completing their projects and schemes.

While the roles of the British royal family have evolved over time, their relevance has never been questioned. It is safe to say that the royal family will remain relevant to Britain and the world as a whole for a very long time. Furthermore, as long as the UK practices the system of monarch constitution of governance, the royal family would remain relevant.

Highlights include a ‘mimic warfare’ training exercise in Sydney’s Moore Park, (with children running on the training battlefield) returned soldiers recovering in hospitals and supporting enlistment campaigns, and a 1916 cinema ad asking Australians to ‘carve’ Anzac Day ‘deep-cut in the Calendar of Time’.

A returned soldier in an Anzac Hospital. Photo courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Also featured are images of Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, decorating Australian soldiers in France, as well as an Australian Rules football match played by troops in London, 1916. Popular songs of the time, such as What did you do on the Great War , Daddy? and Take me back to dear old Blighty have also been published.

The content is available on Sights and Sounds of World War One (, a website developed in partnership between Nga Taonga Sound & Vision (NTSV) in New Zealand. The site commemorates the Centenary of the First World War by showcasing audiovisual material held by both archives. It was launched in 2015, and updates of new content will occur throughout the centenary period up to 2019.

The new content complements hundreds of video/audio clips and still images previously available on Sights and Sounds, documenting recruitment and fundraising efforts, the conscription campaign, and the journey of the Australian troops – from embarkation to training and the campaigns in Egypt, France, and other locations.

“With the Aid of the Red Cross.” Photo courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia “Carving Day”. Photo courtesy of National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There) - History

1 December 2014
A tribute to all who died & suffered as a consequence of World War 1.

This is the twelfth and last of a series of articles featuring Carlton China models relating to the terrible conflict that began 100 years ago.

American poster from 1917 showing a soldier unpacking
a phonograph record as another looks on.
Recruiting in Trafalgar Square in London.

As the pictures here show music was used to help recruitment and important to soldiers.

A surprising number of WW1 songs are remembered today, such as Keep the Home Fires Burning, composed by Ivor Novello in 1914, Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit-Bag and Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, music hall songs published in 1915 and 1916 respectively.

Bamforth & Co. Song Series postcard from WW1.

Keep the Home Fires Burning Wiltshaw & Robinson, the makers of Carlton China, took lyrics from these popular songs and devised models to suit them. The first was a model of a kitchen range with a flaming grate. Registered in 1917, it was printed with two lines from the lyrics of Keep the Home Fires Burning.

The WW1 postcard on the right shows the chorus below a sentimental image of separated sweethearts.

To hear the chorus from this song recorded in 1915 by Reed Miller and Frederick Wheeler use the control bar below.
A sound clip of this song is available but your browser does not support audio.

Carlton China model of a kitchen range.
Registered in 1917.

After the war a teapot was added to the range and the words changed to

We kept the home-fires burning
Till the boys came home.

Left - Modified Carlton China model of a kitchen range for sale after the war had ended.
Right - A typical cast iron kitchen range c1900.

East or West, Home is best
The kettle on the fire is singing,
The Old clock ticks
And the Teapot is on the hob
Sure it's a good Old Home Sweet Home.

In the early twentieth century the fireside could be said to be the most important part of every home. This might explain why yet another Carlton China kitchen range was made, this time with a cauldron above the fire and a cat sitting on the hearth. More commonly this model is found printed with the Scottish words By my Ain Fireside, so its introduction may predate the war. However, it is sometimes found printed East or West, Home Sweet Home is Best, a possible WW1 adaptation. Pictures of these are shown below.

Although the words and tune of Home Sweet Home date from the 1820s, their sentiment suited the time of the war.
Words to the song are printed on the song card, shown below. Using the controls here you can sing along with Alma Gluck who famously recorded the song in 1912.

Left Top - Carlton China model of a kitchen range with mantelshelf, kettle and teapot.
Left Bottom - Carlton China model of a kitchen range with mantelshelf and cauldron, more often found inscribed By my Ain Fireside and not East or West, Home Sweet Home is Best as here.
Right - A Bamforth WW1 postcard "Home Sweet Home".

Blighty One of the most curious of all of the Carlton China models relating to the war is a freestanding "map" of "Blighty".

Blighty is a British English slang term for Britain or often specifically England. It was first used during the Boer War, though it was not until World War One that the word became well-known. It was also used for the name of a humorous magazine for WW1 troops.

The term was particularly used by World War One poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. During the war, a Blighty wound — a wound serious enough to require recuperation away from the trenches, but not serious enough to kill or maim the victim — was hoped for by many, and sometimes self-inflicted.

Take me back to dear Old Blighty The name was also popularized by a song called Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty, published in 1916. The chorus is printed on the china model.

One nice touch on the model is that it shows the approximate locations of London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, all mentioned in the chorus. Sing along using the words on the Bamforth song card on the right.
A sound clip of this song is available but your browser does not support audio.

Left Top - Carlton China model of "Blighty".
Left Bottom - Title from sheet music by Mills, Godfrey & Scott c.1916.
Right - A WW1 postcard of a soldier looking at Blighty by Frederick Spurgin.

In 1915, this popular song won a wartime competition for a marching song.

The composers were music hall stars brothers George and Felix Powell, who had previously abandoned the song calling it 'piffle' but as a joke re-scored it to enter the competition.

A model of a kitbag was made in Carlton China and printed with the first and last lines of the chorus, though 'pack' was replaced with 'put'. The refrain to the song went:-

Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile,
While you've a Lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, boys, that's the style.
What's the use of worrying?
It never was worth while, so
Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
And smile, smile, smile.

The 'Lucifer' in the lyrics was a brand of match with which soldiers would have been very familiar.

Felix Powell was haunted by the way his tune accompanied men to their deaths.

Left Top - Carlton China model of a kitbag, printed with words from the song.
Left Bottom - Title from sheet music by George Asaf & Felix Powell c.1915.
Right - A WW1 comical postcard of a soldier with his kitbag by Douglas Tempest c.1916.

British Legion poster reminding people to wear
a 'Flanders Poppy' on Remembrance Day 1923.
By Maurice Kirth.

This concludes our article on Carlton China models inspired by popular music from WW1 and indeed this series of articles.

Thanks must go to The Internet Archive for the providing the sound clips used on this page.

Other Articles in this series on Carlton China
models relating to WW1

Release notes: The language of World War I

By 1914 military involvement overseas had long been leaving its mark on the English language. We can go back to the Elizabethan age, for example, to England’s deep engagement in the Eighty Years’ War in the Netherlands and find loanwords entering English from both Spanish, the language of the enemy, and Dutch, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out. From Spanish we get tercio (an infantry formation that might be described as the tank of its day), major, and reformado (a term which became common during the English Civil War). From Dutch there is freebooter, roiter, beleaguer (originally with the literal meaning ‘besiege’), and Moff. In this context, it comes as no surprise to find French, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out, and German, the language of the enemy, having a similar influence on English during World War I.

German was the source of a quite different set of loans, mainly words referring to German weapons and vehicles, such as minenwerfer (and the diminutive Minnie) and U-boat. But perhaps the most significant German loanword of the First World War – one which outlasted the war, has been fully naturalized in English, and is no longer perceived as markedly German – is strafe.

Gott strafe England! (‘May God punish England!’) was a German slogan of the First World War, widely used in propaganda. By summer 1915 the phrase was being jocularly adapted by the British (‘Gott strafe chocolate,’ one officer was reported as saying) and strafe quickly entered the English lexicon as both noun and verb, and in the derivatives strafer and strafing. To begin with, it was used to refer to various types of harsh punishment or attack: soldiers might strafe (poison, try to kill) flies, for example, or be strafed (reprimanded) by their superiors. It was soon being used specifically to refer to bombardment or attack with weapons: a war correspondent wrote in 1915 of waking up to ‘the sound of a fusillade—..the “morning strafe”, as it was called.’ This kind of claiming – and diminishing – of a threatening term was a common feature of the language of the troops.

By 1917, strafe had further narrowed to the sense it most commonly has today: as explained in one magazine, pilots ‘would go “Archie strafing”—that is, flying low over the anti-aircraft guns and attacking them with machine-gun fire.’ By the Second World War, this was the main sense of strafe indeed, strafe is one of a number of terms relating to aerial warfare – others include air raid and strategic bombing – which were first used in WWI but became much more widely used in, and more closely associated with, WWII. This sense of strafe is now so predominant that any uses of the original general senses ‘attack’ or ‘reprimand’ (e.g. ‘Everton…strafe Chelsea keeper Carlo Cudicini from all angles in the second half’ or ‘Greg is on the receiving end of a verbal strafing from his furious girlfriend’) are likely to be regarded as figurative extensions of the machine-gunning sense.

The extent to which strafe has been naturalized in English can be seen in its pronunciation. It was originally pronounced with the vowel a sounded (approximately) as in German, so that strafe rhymed with ‘laugh’ this is evidenced by the occasional spelling straff. Now strafe is more usually pronounced to rhyme with other -afe words in English, such as safe and chafe.

These German loans are very similar in nature to the earlier Dutch and Spanish ones they tend to be about the conflict itself, the strategies and technologies by which it was conducted. By contrast, the influence of French was more idiosyncratic, and perhaps more revealing about the culture of the soldiers who used it. Many of the French words used by soldiers at the front were informal phrases that were garbled or mispronounced forms of common French expressions. For the British Tommy many things were doubtless no bonhe might, for example, end up napoo, especially if stationed in Wipers. On Armistice Day in 1918, Ernest Hemingway was in a Red Cross hospital recovering from shrapnel wounds and tonsillitis, feeling ‘bokoo rotten’ (that’s beaucoup). Another phrase of this kind, toot sweet, even found itself with new, macaronic comparative—the tooter the sweeter. In referring to the Germans, British soldiers could be found using the derogatory French word, Boche, and also their own corruption of the standard French allemand into Alleyman. Both words would re-emerge in World War II.

If you are familiar with the word Alleyman, there is a good chance it is because it occurs in one of the songs featured in the 1960s musical and film about World War I, Oh, What Lovely War! The song is called I Want to go Home, and the words were written to a traditional tune at some point during the war, probably by a soldier in the trenches. It provides a particularly striking example of how readily and concertedly the slang words and distinctive coinages of the war found their way into contemporary songs:

I want to go home, I want to go home.
I don’t want to go to the trenches no more,
Where whizzbangs and shrapnel they whistle and roar.
Take me over the sea where the Alleyman can’t get at me.
Oh my, I don’t want to die, I want to go home.

And it wasn’t just songs straight from the trenches that keyed into this experience. Music hall songwriters were quick to express the same sentiments and brought the language of the war directly to theatregoers back home in Britain. The very word which the war brought to prominence to express the idea of being safe back home is at the heart of another song which has ever since been itself at the heart of popular consciousness of the war, Take me back to Dear Old Blighty. Written in 1916, the song marks the completion of the remarkable rise to prominence of Blighty. The word’s origin lies in British rule in India, as bilāyatī, a regional variant of vilāyatī, an Urdu word meaning ‘foreign’, and specifically ‘British’ or ‘European’, which remains in use in Indian English today. Kipling, for example, used the word and also used the related Belait to refer to Britain. Words naturally moved around the British Empire and one of the principal vehicles for this movement was the army, so it is not surprising that the first sight we get of Blighty is in a soldier’s letter home from the Boer War in 1900. In 1915, as troops from around the Empire increasingly congregated in France, this Anglo-Indian coinage was then quickly taken up to capture the idea of home as a longed-for paradise. A wound which was serious enough to necessitate a return home (but not so serious as to cause death or mutilation) became a ‘blighty’. And by 1916 everyone back home knew that Blighty was where their loved ones in Flanders dream to be, so much so that one milliner even attempted to cash in by marketing a Blighty hat! The attempt is shortlived.

This emotional link between civilians in Britain and the armed forces overseas and sense that those back home are contributing to the war effort is now commonplace and plays an especially large role in the popular image of World War II, but it is conclusively evident from the lexical record that it is during World War I that this image is first created. War effort itself is a coinage of World War I, as are rationing, home front, and propaganda film. The various Acts of Parliament that formed the Defence of the Realm Act (or DORA) set in place the legislation under which future wars would be conducted. The introduction of universal conscription meant that conscientious objectors were marked out as conchies and liable to receive the white feather. Not only the songs in the music halls, but also the development of military technology play an important role in motivating these changes, as civilian London is subject to air raids or Zeppelining which prefigure the Blitz.

Perhaps this erosion of the gap between combatant and non-combatant, this sense of shared experience of being at war and shared suffering, also contributed to the final and perhaps longest-lasting and most influential expression of the war—the words which describe the act of remembrance. Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, and (in Australia and New Zealand) Anzac Day were all introduced to commemorate the fallen and have subsequently retained that purpose for the fallen of later conflicts. Sir Edwin Lutyens’s Cenotaph in Whitehall was copied in towns and cities throughout the Commonwealth to create a network of national and local memorials. A short period of communal silence was introduced and maintained annually as an ongoing mark of respect. The Unknown Soldier was buried with full military honours in Westminster Abbey. These names, and the fact that they form part of our ordinary language nearly a century on, are a testament to the power of remembrance that World War I unleashed and also a testament to the power of words to capture, communicate, and record the shared sentiments and shared decisions which history bequeaths to future generations.

Andrew Ball, Associate Editor & Kate Wild, Senior Editor

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.

A Blog on Blighty

I have just finished the copyedit for DEATH OF AN UNSUNG HERO – Lady Montfort and Edith Jackson’s fourth adventure together which takes place at home in Blighty in 1916 as the Battle of the Somme raged on for most of that year.

A Little Bit of British ‘Hewmah’ from the Front in 1915

My copy editor (who struggles to Americanize me) queried my use of the word ‘Blighty,’ a term I use quite naturally since I am English, but one that she thought American readers would not understand. I dutifully added context so that readers would understand that when we Brits say Blighty that this is our affectionate term for England. And when we refer to’ a Blighty one ‘(which we now only do as a historical reference) we are talking about a combat wound bad enough for the sufferer to be sent back to England. Soldiers fighting in the trenches of France in WW1 sometimes shot themselves, usually in the foot, so that they could be sent home. Which gives you some idea of how desperate the poor devils must have been.

And then I realized that I had no idea how we had come by this expression. I knew Blighty had always been soldiers’ slang popularized during the 1914- 1918 war. And I guessed that it came from soldiers serving in India as lot of our slang at that time came from corrupted Hindi pronunciation. So I did what any sensible person does when they want fuller understanding –I Googled. The BBC was able to give me the fullest possible answer and it is a good one. I have to say it took a lot of self-discipline for me not to cut and paste this explanation into a new ‘Comment’ in ‘Track Changes’ for my copy editor. (If you don’t know what Track Changes are then by all means feel free to use Google!)

A Blighty One is a wound bad enough for a soldier to be sent home … back to England

“Homesickness can do funny things to people. It can create fierce patriotism where once there was just allegiance it can create an idealized society in the mind, one in which no one is ever cruel or selfish or rude because that’s the society the homesick person wishes to return to and it can distort language, so that emotive terms such as the name of home itself should be avoided in case of excessive lower-lip quiver.

‘Patriots’ sending the boys off to France in 1916

Blighty comes out of feelings like these. It’s an affectionate nickname for Britain (or more specifically England) taken from the height of the Victorian rule of India, that was first used in the Boer War in Africa, and popularized on the fields of Western Europe in the First World War.

The many British Imperial ‘skirmishes’ included two Boer wars in South Africa

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the word is a distortion of a distortion: the Urdu word ‘vilayati’ either means foreign, British, English or European, and it became a common term for European visitors to India during the 1800s. A mishearing changed the v to a b, and then ‘bilayati’ became Blighty, as a term to describe British imports from home, such as soda water.There again, it was also claimed by Rupert Graves that it derives from the Hindustani word for home: blitey.

The British cavalry’s continual presence in India ended in 1947 when India became independent.

Having picked up some use during the Boer War (because nothing breeds in-jokes and slang like soldiers living and fighting in close proximity away from home), the term really took off during the long years of trench warfare in World War I. Soldiers would talk openly of dear old Blighty, indicating not only a longing to be away from some of the most horrific battlegrounds in human history, but also a wish to return to a time when such horrors were unthinkable. This elegiac tone was caught and carried by the War Poets: Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both of whom used the word when describing their experiences.”

The White Cliffs of Dover were the first thing returning soldiers from France saw as they crossed the Channel from Boulogne. They epitome of Blighty!

The War Office soon picked up on this, releasing a free magazine for active servicemen called Blighty, which contained poems and stories and cartoons from men on the front line. Then there were slang terms like Blighty wound, an injury good enough to get a soldier sent home, but not life-threatening, as depicted in the 1916 Music Hall song “I’m Glad I’ve Got a Bit of a Blighty One” by Vesta Tilley.

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The Rum-Loving Monkey Who Crash-Landed in a B-17 During WW2

Back in April 1943, in the depths of the Second World War, an American B-17 crash landed in the seaside town of Clonakilty, County Cork, southern Ireland.

Local Irish residents were astonished to find that one of the crew members who had landed in their midst wasn’t actually an American or, in fact, a human being at all.

Rather, he was a small monkey called Tojo who’d been taken from his home in Morocco and placed aboard an American war plane which went by the name of “T’ain’t a Bird”.

After leaving Morocco the crew had started their flight towards England, but the Boeing B-17 unfortunately ran out of fuel when an incorrect radio report had them soaring off in the wrong direction.

The 10 crewmen and their primate companion suddenly found themselves crashing to earth over the Emerald Isle instead of landing safely in dear old Blighty.

The B-17 crew of T’aint a Bird

When the “American Flying Fortress”, as it was nicknamed, starting circling the skies above Clonakilty, local residents stood and watched in wonder.

Not only had they rarely seen an aircraft of such huge dimensions, but they were also worried about the likelihood of it crashing into one of their church spires as it strafed the town. Luckily, the plane turned towards the sea and crash landed in a nearby marsh.

The confused and extremely worried airmen thought they must have landed in Norway, which was occupied by the Germans at the time.

When they saw local Irish folk descending upon them, they allegedly prepared themselves to resist capture by swallowing cyanide capsules. Fortunately, this desperate measure was not required. The local residents assured the crew they were among friends. Once their identities as American allies had been confirmed, the locals began welcoming them with open arms.

The hotel were the crew stayed.

Quoted in BBC News, local businessman, Thomas Tupper, who grew up knowing the story of Tojo and the American airmen explains that, although the crew was taken into police custody, “The custody consisted of them being in the local hotel O’Donovan’s Hotel where a party ensued for three days”. During that time, Tojo became quite a celebrity as most locals had never seen a monkey in person.

During their unscheduled stopover, the American B-17 airmen were pleased to share their 36 bottles of rum with the friendly rescuers – and Tojo the monkey. Several days later the men were taken initially to Cork, then up to Northern Ireland where they were handed over to the RAF.

However, one of their number was missing. Tojo had taken a great liking to Rum and, whether it was that or the unfamiliar diet or the moist, cold Irish climate, Tojo was beset with an attack of pneumonia and sadly died. Despite the best efforts of local doctors, pharmacists, and vets, nothing could be done to save the poor little monkey.

Credit: Mark McShane

Thomas Tupper recalls it as a local tragedy. Tojo was laid out in the hotel, and locals lined up to pay their respects.

Despite his short time on the island, Tojo made a lasting impression on the town, and he was laid to rest with full military honours. And more recently, a statue in his honour was unveiled at Clonakilty in April 2013 – 70 years after the unusual visitor first made his unscheduled landing.

Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There) - History

And what were those at home doing when all this was going on? Well at the outbreak of hostilities a defence public meeting was held for the purpose of forming an Executive Committee.

The first meeting was held in the Public Hall with Sir George W.M. Dundas, Bart, in the chair. A proposal was submitted to establish a War Emergency Committee by Dr. Wann, and was carried. The committee appointed as its executive to act on its behalf the following people: Rev. Dr. Andrew B.Wann, Chairman Rev. Arthur Crawford Watt, Vice Chairman Sir George W. M. Dundas, Bart Lady Dundas James Comrie James Goldie Rev. William Hall Henry McKinstry Peter McPherson Evan Balfour Melville and John P. Mitchell as honorary secretary and treasurer.

Throughout the war years they worked tirelessly to raise money to fund various activities. They organized fetes and free gift sales, organized sales of work, established a Prisoner of War fund, and held jumble sales. As you will see, multitasking is not a new concept!

Amongst the many activities including manning the shops now that their men folk were away the following was recorded.

The Comrie Public School - Under mainly the auspices of Mr. Goldie, the school head master, and much beloved by all, the children raised substantial moneys through school concerts, plays and other entertainment. They contributed 430 pairs of socks, 150 pairs of cuffs, 56 pairs of knicker hose, 30 pairs of garters, 122 pairs of mittens, 40 pairs of body belts, 127 scarves, 16 pairs of crutches which were sent to the Princess Louise’s Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors in Erskine, 251 packets of cigarettes, 6 pounds of tobacco, 98 cakes of soap, 56 packets of chocolate, 84 packets of stationery, 115 packets of sweets and one chest protector as well as other articles. I am not sure what a chest protector was, but hope that it kept out shrapnel and bullets!

The 21 st Perthshire Boy Scout Troop sold flags for the Soldier and Sailor Help society, collected waste materials and large quantities of clothing as well as sending 192 blankets and gathered sphagnum moss.

The Red Cross under the charge of Commandant Miss Florence Graham Stirling ably supported her sister Miss Mary Graham Stirling and by Mrs. McDonald of Bank House as quartermaster established an Emergency Hospital. By early October, 500 garments had been made and distributed to several hospitals. Throughout the war their workers collected sphagnum moss in addition to other activities. 4000 eggs were sent to the collection point in Perth. They organized raffles and sales of work and held concert to raise money and boost morale.

The Churches – Comrie had several churches and all made enormous efforts for their congregations and others at large. The Work Party devoted itself to the war effort and sent hundreds of parcels to the troops far away. The parcels contained socks, shirts, knitted goods, and raising money for those who had a lost one and needed the money to live. About half of the male congregation of the Comrie Parish Church served in the forces. The West United Free Church had 56 of its congregation in the forces. The East United Free Church also sent gifts of socks, mufflers, gloves and garments as did St. Serf’s Episcopal Church and the tiny Roman Catholic Church. They all made their contributions in one way or another.

One committee looked after 12 Jewish refugee families from Ostend, Louvain and Alost in “poor little Belgium.” They had nowhere to stay and the Comrie Parish Church used one of their houses in Dunira Street to them ensuring they had a good roof over their head, warmth and food as well as company. They stayed there from November 1914 till mid 1916 where they went onwards to other war centres set up for refugees. They never forgot the kindness shown to them by the Comrie people.

The 2/2 Highland Field Ambulance 250 strong arrived under Major Cameron in October, 1915 and took up winter quarters in the v They stayed at the school and in the church and school halls. Under Major Rorie, and seen off by many from the village, they left for Bedford by train on the 29 th March, 1916, with the pipers playing “Happy we’ve been a’ the gither.” Most never came back and their bones can be found in Flanders Fields and other places.

A War Savings association was set up as were two others. The accumulated capital amounted to £18702.

The Volunteers - there was also a unit of Volunteers who operated under the Defence Sub Committee. The volunteers were people who may have been exempted from military service due to age or infirmity. The author’s grandfather was in one of these units and was posted to guard railway lines in the North of Scotland and then upon his return was shipped to France. He was 38 years old, married with two children when he was called up in 1917. Whilst crossing the channel on a transport ship a British officer slammed a ship’s hatch on his hand crushing his fingers. As a result he was not sent up the line and may have survived the war because of this accident. Although a first class shot he could not use his rifle and he spent much of the time in Northern France on sentry duty in coal fields and at the great POW camp at Étaples. He knew all of the people mentioned in the Comrie War book and lost many friends.

Life and death continued on throughout the War years. Sons took the place of absent fathers as heads of a household. My father, who we shall read a little bit about in the Second World War, as a five year old, was made to stand in as head of the family when his grandmother died. She had been born in 1833 in Invergeldie and died in 1917. A full Scottish funeral was held at the graveyard in Dalginross and several hundred folk showed up as was customary for local well known people. It was a dark grey day, “dreich” as they say, and all dressed in formal black. As principal mourner my father walked behind the hearse and led the procession up Dalginross passing houses which had black crepe paper, or closed curtains, on windows signifying the loss of a loved one, or known one. He never forgot, even as an old man, that “great black hole” he gazed into in the graveyard which was to receive the body of his much loved grandmother!

The whole community suffered as news filtered back from the various War sectors and there was not a dry eye in the whole of Strathearn, and Scotland for that matter. Dozens of committees were formed, each looking at different types of needs, and trying to raise funds for it or organize activities.

Then it was all over. The Armistice was signed on November, 11 th . 1918, and in dribs and drabs our soldiers came home to a land “fit for heroes.” Well it was not quite like that as all suffered due to the loss and the carnage created by the War. There was no band to receive them playing “Land of Hope and Glory,” or “There is a Happy Land, Far Far Away” – too many of their loved ones were already there! There were no welcome home parties or celebrations. This was no land, “fit for heroes.” They had returned to a land of silence, sorrow and sadness, and the mourning still lasts till this day.

Something had to be done and it was, however, in this writer’s view it was at best tokenism, and perhaps a precursor of things yet to come! His Grace, the 8 th Duke of Atholl, John Stewart-Murray, arrived at the Comrie Public Hall on Wednesday the 11 th June, 1919. His photograph displays upon his breast many medals and even as this distance and time they are rather blinding! He was there to honour our returned decorated heroes with the distribution of various types of gifts such as wristwatches and other mementoes. The platform party included Major C. H. Graham Stirling of Strowan (presiding), Brigadier-General the Duke of Atholl (who made the presentations), Sir George W. M. Dundas, Bart., of Comrie House, Major McNaughtan, J.P. of Cowden, Mr. James Gardiner, M. P., and Revs. Dr. Wann, A. C. Watt, and W. Hall, and other members of the War Emergency committee and were accorded a Highland welcome from Piper McFarlane, a local discharged soldier.

The about-to-be addressed heroes were given a front row seat (incidentally they were the same chairs used 70 years later and my mother, when attending an evening there, always took a pillow with her as the chairs were wooden and had no give and were as hard as a rock! Throughout the hall were the relatives and friends of the honoured few, as well as luminaries such as the Hon. Mrs. Williamson and the Rev. C. D. R. Williamson, Mr. A. Wright, Rector of Morrison’s Academy and others.

The good Major wowed the crowd with the shortness of his introduction and passed the proceedings to Atholl. In addition to being a Brigadier-General, the noble Duke was the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Perthshire. This fact he shared with the assembled throng and stated that he was there only to distribute gifts to his fellow soldiers from the village of Comrie. (One wonders what his experience had been in a front line trench!) His overview describes that some 328 men and 24 women from Comrie served in the Great War, and that 75% of them had undertaken military service before December, 1915, and of the balance only twelve put in claims before a Tribunal finding that only three of the claims were fully justified. He pointed out that forty seven men had died in the conflict of which seven were officers. He then moved to those who had received medals and special honours. This list contained the names of eight officers, ten non-commissioned officers and six men (they may have been Privates). In addition two of the ladies had gained the coveted Royal Red Cross. (Applause).

Grasping the nettle he then said in his comments as reported the following: “We hear a great deal about the gaining of awards – how the wrong people get them (woops), and how the right people carry on without them (true). But I can assure you (how would he know?) of this, that a very large proportion of awards go to the right people (hmm!). A modern battlefield is not an ideal place to sit and take notes regarding the counter merits of the officers and men (oh yea!). A large number of the leaders and men are knocked out, the strain is terrific, the gathering of the pieces of the machine immediately after action by the leaders who are already over tired is a work that few men can imagine (all true), who have not seen it, and it is little wonder that in action, where all have done splendidly the names of the specially distinguished are sometimes omitted (true). But I can say this without hesitation (right!) that never in any war in the world has the great majority of the awards been as well deserved as those given in this war. (Applause). It is, of course, quite true that isolated cases may occur (I would think that all who served should have received medals just for being there!) where the recipients may have been able to work the oracle further back in the lines, but you may rest assured that, as far as the fighting troops are concerned, awards recommended by their Company Commanders, through their Commanding Officers, through their Brigadiers, through the Army to General Headquarters, and then to the War office, leave very little room for undue influence (phooee!), and the only trouble is that I found with the system was that many a good man (women?) who ought to have been rewarded was overlooked owing to the multitude of processes through which the names have to pass (golly!).

I would say this to every officer and man in this parish who have not got these awards – do not be disappointed yourself, but look upon these awards that have been given as awards to that part of the military machine that left Comrie for the front, to which you belonged, and which did so splendidly, and I know no one who will be prouder to see the present recipients wearing their well earned honours than the officers and men who went out with them and were not so fortunate as to get them themselves” (Applause) (golly!).

He then moved on to somewhat safer ground by addressing Lieutenant John Manson Craig of Innergeldie for the award of his Victoria Cross gained in Palestine. Several cheques were given to him and it is small wonder that Craig in his remarks said “he did not really know what to say but thanks.”

Dear Old Blighty (And the Boys Back There) - History

THE QUEEN IS DEAD - The Audio Introduction

THE QUEEN IS DEAD begins with
a partial sing-along of TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY recorded from the film THE L-SHAPED ROOM. .

Princess Diana was killed in France and her body had to be taken back to England ("Blighty"). .

The sing-along of TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY is led by a woman wearing a formal military jacket. .

When Princess Diana's body was taken back to England, it was unloaded by people in formal military jackets. .

THE QUEEN IS DEAD begins with audio of the character Mavis, in THE L-SHAPED ROOM, leading a sing-along of TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY.
TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY is a World War 1 song about English soldiers stationed in France wanting to return home to England (nicknamed Blighty).
Mavis wears a formal military jacket. Princess Diana dies in France and when her body is returned to England it is unloaded by people wearing formal military jackets. .

The album THE QUEEN IS DEAD begins with audio from the film THE L-SHAPED ROOM. .

THE L-SHAPED ROOM is about a young woman who has moved from France to England. .

Princess Diana 's body will have to be moved from France to E ngland. .

Princess Diana was born on July 1. .

In THE L-SHAPED ROOM, Lesley Caron has moved from France to England. Princess Diana's body was moved from France to England. Lesley Caron was born July 1. Princess Diana was born July 1. .

THE QUEEN IS DEAD begins with audio from the film THE L-SHAPED ROOM about a character named "Jane" who is the lone occupant of the room in the title. .

The last Jayne Mansfield film ever released was SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED about a woman played by "Jayne" who is the lone occupant of the room in the title. .

The cover of the first DVD edition of THE L-SHAPED ROOM is a brick wall where "Jane" (Lesley Caron) is in a window with the title printed on the window shade above her. .

The cover of the first DVD edition of SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED is a brick wall where "Jayne" Mansfield is in a window with the title printed on the window shade above her. .

The first DVD covers of THE L-SHAPED ROOM and SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED are very similar.
Each has a brick wall with Jane/Jayne in the window, below a window-shade bearing the title of the film. .

THE L-SHAPED ROOM is the introduction to THE QUEEN IS DEAD, whose title announces a woman's death. .

SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED has an introduction that is an announcement of Jayne Mansfield's actual death. .

"You are about to see SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED, the new motion picture starring Jayne Mansfield in her last,
and in my opinion, her finest performance. .
When she completed this picture, a tragic accident took Jayne Mansfield to another stage. All of us in the theater,
on the screen, and in the newspaper profession, miss her very much. But Jayne left us all a legacy, the characters
she created in SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED, the film you are about to see. . "

THE L-SHAPED ROOM begins with actress Lesley Caron playing "Jane" walking in front of a store named WALTERS. .

SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED begins with the death of "Jayne" Mansfield being announced by someone named Walter. .

The L-SHAPED ROOM begins with "Jane" (Lesley Caron) walking by a store named WALTERS. SINGLE ROOM FURNISHED begins with the report of "Jayne" Mansfield's death by Walter (Winchell). .

In 1967, Jayne Mansfield was killed in her mid-30's (34) in a car crash along with her boyfriend and their temporary driver for the night. .

In 1997, Princess Diana was killed in her mid-30's (36) in a car crash along with her boyfriend and their temporary driver for the night. .

Those were the only two car crashes ever in which the only people killed were a world-famous woman, her boyfriend and their driver. .

Actress Jayne Mansfield and Princess Diana were victims of the only two car crashes in history in which the only three people killed were a world-famous woman, her boyfriend and their driver. .

The introduction to the album THE QUEEN IS DEAD is a sing-along of TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY. .

Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash in 1967. .

Princess Diana was killed crashing into a row of pillars in August 1997. .

Jayne Mansfield is posing between pillars on the cover of a magazine named BLIGHTY in August 1957. .

The first inner page carries a large single-panel comic of two women who have crashed a car into a post.

The introduction to THE QUEEN IS DEAD is a sing-along of TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY. Jayne Mansfield is posed between pillars on an August 1957 cover of BLIGHTY magazine.
The first inner page is a comic showing two women who've crashed a car into a post. In August 1997, in a car that crashed into a pillar, Princess Diana was killed along with her boyfriend and their driver.
In 1967, Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash along with her boyfriend and their driver.

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