The Lost Generation : World War I Poetry : R.W. Campbell

Cover of Campbell's The Making of Mickey McGhee. Man in kilt "your country needs you."


Robert Walter Campbell, born 1876, served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the Boer War (1899 to 1902), and then again with the 5th battalion in Gallipoli (1914) in the Great War. This second tour gave him the material for his poems in support of the war effort. Campbell wrote 25 lively poems and songs in Standard English for The Making of Micky McGhee. Some 20th century Scottish slang is sprinkled throughout. For example, in the title poem “He’d been used to sleeping in ‘Models’,” referring to a common lodging-house, and in the poem “The Advice of McPhee”, Campbell writes, “…kid you’re ill, [G]et a sick report and a Number Nine Pill.”  Bingo, a popular game with soldiers, had an expression called “Doctor’s Orders – Nine.” During the war, a doctor handed out a No. 9 pill (strong laxative) to men who were malingerers. 

The book’s illustrator, Howard K. Elcock, was known for his drawings in Sherlock Holmes stories printed in The Strand Magazine. Elcock provided 53 illustrations for Campbell’s book, which was published by George Allen & Unwin of London in 1916.  Other clients of the publisher included Roald Dahl and J. R. R. Tolkien, suggesting the popular appeal of Campbell’s poems. The title page lists other works by Campbell, and the book concludes with a series of advertisements for other collections of war poetry, stories and drawings.

The copy of Making of Micky McGhee in UNT’s Special Collections includes an inscription by Campbell on the flyleaf, dated 1914, giving “A Little Advice.” (When Campbell refers to a “Subaltern,” he means a British army officer below the rank of captain, especially a second lieutenant.) Campbell writes:

If a Subaltern came to me and said “I want to get on Sir – can you tell me what to do?”  I would say “Yes, my boy – love your brother officers, love your h. c. and love your men. Be as firm as ‘K’, as wise as Joffre, and as kind as “Bob”. Make “Duty’ your watchword; “Honour” your badge, and believe that you are It, that your platoon is It, your Colonel It, and your regiment the It, Which makes it the right of the line and the terror of the G______y world.

RW Campbell

(Reserve of Officers)


Find The Making of Micky McGhee in the UNT Library Catalog.