If you’ve ever seen the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, then you can’t forget the tune that the British prisoners whistle as they march to build a bridge for their Japanese captors.
It’s a catchy tune and it was written years before in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (pen name Kenneth J. Alford), a British Army bandmaster, and its name is the “Colonel Bogey March”.
After it’s use in the movie it became a hit for Mitch Miller, and for a few months in 1957 it seemed to be ubiquitous (which probably produced some healthy royalties for Lt. Rickett’s widow).
What you may not know, however, is why a 40 year old song was revived for use in that film.
As it happens, during World War II, some British soldier, no one really knows who it was, added some slightly vulgar lyrics to that tune, and they quickly spread among Allied military and civilian personnel.
Alas, the lyrics were just too vulgar to use in the movie in 1957, but David Lean knew that anyone who had served in the war would recognize right away that the British prisoners were figuratively giving the finger to their Japanese captors by whistling that tune.
So for those who are curious, here are the words:
Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler has something sim’lar,
But poor old Goebbels has no balls at all.