It’s a Ticklish Sort of Job…

Gracie Fields shares a joke with troops in a village near Valenciennes, France, April 1940

Gracie Fields shares a joke with troops in a village near Valenciennes, France, April 1940 | Taylor E A (Lt), War Office official photographer [Wikimedia]

In the early 1990s, actor-musician Martyn Read and I created a musical stage production, Business as Usual, from a compilation piece I had put together about life on the Home Front during the Second World War. Included in the show was this delightful song which honours those quietly going about their business helping the war effort by working in munitions.

The Thing-Ummy-Bob (that’s going to win the war)

You’ve heard of Florence Nightingale, Grace Darling and the rest,
You’ve all seen Greta Garbo and her bosom friend, Mae West,
But there’s a little lady, I want you all to meet
She’s working on munitions and she lives just down the street.

She can’t pretend to be, a great celebrity
But still… she’s most important in her way,
The job she has to do, may not seem like much to you
But all the same, I’m very proud to say…

She’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that drives the rod that turns the knob
that works the thing-ummy-bob.
She’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank
that works the thing-ummy-bob.

It’s a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
Especially when you don’t know what it’s for
But it’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that makes the engines roar.
And it’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that’s going to win the war.

She’s not what you would call, a heroine, at all
I don’t suppose you’ll even know her name
And though she’ll never boast, of her important post
She strikes a blow for Britain just the same.

She’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that drives the rod that turns the knob
that works the thing-ummy-bob.
She’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that takes the shank that moves the crank
that works the thing-ummy-bob.

It’s a ticklish sort of job making a thing for a thing-ummy-bob
Especially when you don’t know what it’s for
But it’s the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole
that holds the spring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that makes the engines roar.
And it’s the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil
that oils the ring that works the thing-ummy-bob
that’s going to win the war.

Gracie Fields [1898-1979] sings her version, below, changing the ‘she’ to ‘I’.