This piece of Kipling’s Verse illustrates our dependence on sea trade. We are more reliant on it today than when the poem was penned.
It was well known to German politicians in the 30’s and 40’s, themselves, of course, the victims of economic warfare through blockade in both wars, and the last verse was regularly used as a taunt before the shipping loses were broadcast as propaganda during WW2.
Between 1939 and 1945 over 2,000 British Merchant ships were sunk with the loss of over 35,000 lives.
Oh, where are you going to all you Big Steamers,
With England’s own coal, up and down the salt sea?
We are going to fetch you your bread and your butter.
Your beef, pork and mutton, eggs, apples and cheese
And where will you fetch it from, all you Big Steamers,
And where shall I write you when you are away?
We fetch it from Melbourne, Quebec and Vancouver –
Address us at Hobart, Hong-Kong and Bombay.
But if anything happened to all you Big Steamers
And suppose you were wrecked up and down the salt sea?
Then you’d have no coffee or bacon for breakfast,
And you’d have no muffins or toast for your tea.
Then I’ll pray for fine weather for all you Big Steamers,
For little blue billows and breezes so soft.
Oh billows and breezes don’t bother Big Steamers,
For we’re iron below and steel rigging aloft
Then I’ll build a new lighthouse for all you Big Steamers,
With plenty wise pilots to pilot you through.
Oh the Channel’s as bright as a ball room already
And pilots are thicker than pilchards at Looe.
Then what can I do for you, all you Big Steamers,
Oh what can I do for your comfort and good?
Send out all you big warships to watch your big waters,
That no one may stop us from from bringing you food.
For the bread that you eat and the biscuits you nibble,
The sweets that you suck and the joints that you carve,
They are brought to you daily by all us Big Steamers –
And if anyone hinders our way then you’ll starve.