“Madamoiselle From Armentières” is often considered the most famous of all World War I soldier’s songs. It tells the story of an assault on a helpless young French woman. This is one of those songs that soldiers would add verses to, with varying degrees of suitability for family listening.
“Mademoiselle from Armentieres”, is alternately known as “Two German Officers.” Another song known as “The Little Red Train” also is reputed to be a source for verses. It was also known as “Hinky Dinky Parley Voo” – not necessarily with that precise/imprecise spelling. The original may be dated to the 1830s (or maybe not!), with the unfortunate lady an inn keeper’s daughter.
The tune of the song was believed to be popular in the French army in the 1830s, and the original words told of the encounter of an inn-keeper’s daughter, named Mademoiselle de Bar le Luc, with two German officers.
During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the tune was resurrected, and again in 1914 when the Old Contemptibles got to know of it. The Old Contemptibles was nickname given the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), initially commanded by General French, that was sent to the Western Front to battle the Germans.
Legend has it that Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, who famously dismissive of the BEF, reportedly issued an order on 19 August 1914 to “exterminate….the treacherous English and walk over General French’s Contemptible little army”. In later years, the survivors of the regular army dubbed themselves “The Old Contemptibles”
There are a few people who have claimed to have written the lyrics to this song including Harry Carlton and Joe Tunbridge, a Canadian composer called Gitz Rice and Edward Roland.