Work my ticket

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2 comments on this post.
  1. Matthew Leon:

    Hi folks, I’m in the middle of a Woodbadge course. What they explained as “working your ticket” was in the British army they sent you out but you had to find your own way back. The men would request assignments ever closer to home so when they were discharged the “ticket” that they actually had to buy to get home would be inexpensive as possible. Thus the phrase “working your ticket.”
    Hope this helps
    Matthew

  2. Chuck Herrick:

    Yes, that is pretty much how it is explained in the various Woodbadge course. While it sounds good, it’s pretty clear it is not true. Under the British regimental system, you could not simply periodically request new assignments in different locations as you can in many armies today. You served with one unit for your entire enlistment, wherever that unit was sent or stationed.

    In addition, ‘time-expired men’ (soldiers whose enlistments were drawing to an end), were not simply discharged wherever they happened to be when their time ran out, and left to their own devices to earn their passage back to the UK. As Kipling’s poem “Troopin’(Our Army in the East)” (written during the time of Baden=Powell’s service, and about the theater in which Baden-Powell served) makes clear, time-expired men were ordered back to England on troopships for discharge. They were *not* required to work to earn the price of their ticket home.

    [Speculation Alert!] ‘Back to Gilwell’ has the feel of an informal soldiers’ barracks ballad, with the soldier wistfully trying to figure out how to avoid duties or figure a way to wrangle a discharge. Soldiers everywhere and at every time have much in common! Substitute, say, “sapper” or “gunner” for “beaver” and it perfectly fits the tone of a barracks room or campfire on a distant frontier. I suspect that Baden-Powell appropriated it from his time in service and changed the words to fit his new endeavor. I suspect it would have been instantly recognized as a fun, tongue-in-cheek, slightly irreverent ditty back in the day. Since few Scout leaders today have military experience, they generally fail to recognize the voice of the enlisted man expressed in song, and as a result, imagine a more worthy meaning for the song and the expression. At least, that’s my guess.

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