Afghanistan veteran with medals and child

Pack Up Your Troubles

The story behind the song

Pack Up Your Troubles

Aubrey Powell, grandson of Pack Up Your Trouble’s original composer George Powell, shares the story behind the World War One sensation.

My great uncle declared the tune ‘piffle’ when my grandfather Felix Powell first played it to him, but Pack Up Your Troubles has become one of the defining songs of the 20th Century and it still enjoys success today.

The composer of Pack Up Your Troubles

Felix and his brother George were already music hall stars before the song became a hit. The success of Pack Up Your Troubles began when they entered it into a contest for a marching song for the troops – and it won. It quickly became a sensation and within weeks troops were singing the song as they headed off to war.

Pack Up Your Troubles is such a simple and optimistic song. Plus it’s written in a key that can be easily played on lots of different instruments. I think that is a big part of it’s huge success.

100 years on, it’s great to be part of its resurgence. Today’s Forces family faces many of the same challenges as the troops and their families of World War One. So the support SSAFA continues to offer to those who are serving, and those who have served, as well as their families, is as vital today as it was back then. I’m glad that SSAFA is benefitting from the song’s enduring popularity.”

More about the song

The lyrics to the song include references that any World War One solider would have recognised. These things are much less familiar to us today, for example the Lucifer mentioned in the second line of the song. This was a match that soldiers would have used to light their cigarettes.

SSAFA’s new version of the song focuses on the morale-boosting chorus. The full lyrics tell the story of Private Perks who is marching off to Flanders.

Pack Up Your Troubles

Pack Up Your Troubles has been hailed by many as the viral hit of World War One.

Aubrey Powell, grandson of the composer

The original music for Pack Up Your TroublesPrivate Perks is a funny little codger,
With a smile, a funny smile.
Five feet none, He's an artful little dodger,
With a smile, a sunny smile.
Flush or broke, he'll have his little joke,
He can't be suppressed.
All the other fellows have to grin,
When he gets this off his chest, Hi!

Chorus

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile!
While you've a Lucifer to light your fag,
Smile, Boys, thats the style.
What's the use of worrying?
It never was worth while.
So, pack up your troubles in your old kit bag,
And smile, smile, smile!

Private Perks went a-marching into Flanders,
With a smile, his funny smile.
He was lov'd by the privates and commanders
For his smile, his sunny smile.
When a throng of Bosches came along,
With a mighty swing,
Perks yell'd out, "This little bunch is mine!
Keep your heads down boys and sing", Hi!

Chorus

Private Perks he came back from Bosche shooting,
With his smile, his funny smile.
Round his home he then set about recruiting,
With his smile, his sunny smile.
He told all his pals, the short, the tall,
What a time he'd had,
And as each enlisted like a man,
Private Perks said "Now my lad," Hi!

Chorus