Popular Music

George Formby, “I Did What I Could With my Gas Mask”

Download PDF


George Formby


Now I’m getting very fond of my gas mask I declare

It hardly ever leaves my sight

I sling it on my back and I take it everywhere

It even comes to bed at night

It’s been a real good pal to me I must confess

And helped me out of many a mess


My sister had a lot of socks to mend

So she gave me a fat bouncing baby to tend

And when I felt it leaking at one end

Well I did what I could with my gas mask


I bought a farm because I like fresh air

At milking time I tried to do my share

And when I found the bucket wasn’t there

Well I did what I could with my gas mask


The lady living next door, Mrs. `icks

She heard the sirens blow one morn at ten to six

She dashed outside in nothing but her nicks

But she knew what to do with her gas mask


By train I went for a very tiring ride

There wasn’t any corridor outside

And when I felt the turning of the tide

Well I did what I could with My gas mask


To see old Echstien’s (sp?) Adam in the nude

I once thought I’d go with my Aunt Ermintrude

And when she sniffed and said “How very rude,

Still, he knows what to do with his gas mask


For years I courted Annabella Price

And always found her just as cold as ice

Until one night the lass forgot her Ma’s advice

And I did what I could with my gas mask.



On April 8th, 1941, during World War II, George Formby published his song titled “I Did What I Could With My Gas Mask”. This memorable song had been one that those who suffered throughout World War II had easily comprehended and could relate to Formby, due to all the toxic fumes within the air. Although Formby doesn’t make reference to war in his song, he creates a parody as to why his gas mask is needed. Within the hit song, Formby speaks about using his gas mask wherever he goes due to the hilarious conditions he faces. For example; Formby says “My sister had a lot of socks to mend So she gave me a fat bouncing baby to tend And when I felt it leaking at one end Well I did what I could with my gas mask”. As the song continues to play, it becomes much more hilarious and it doesn’t stop there. Throughout the song, Formby’s voice is also hysterical because he sounds as if he can be an elderly woman with a high pitched voice. Not only is he singing in an elderly women’s voice but he switches to higher pitched voice when he says “And when she sniffed and said “How very rude, still, he knows what to do with his gas mask. Due to Formby’s comical lyrics, his main purpose was to create laughter to those who were in the war and take them away from the nightmares, but also telling them that wherever they go to carry their gas masks with them because you never know what you might run into.

One of the main reasons as to why this song had became one of greatest hits of WW II was because it gave those who listened to it a grin, happiness and a form of harmony. It took away the seriousness of what was occurring and almost made it into a nightmare one wished they could escape.


Quick Biography

George Formby, also known as George Hoy Booth was born on May 26th, 1904, in Wigan, Lancashire, he was a singer-songwriter, actor and comedian. He became known worldwide through his films of the 1930s and 1940s. Besides his films, Formby also knew how to play the ukulele and banjolele, which made him United Kingdoms highest-paid entertainer making over £100,000 a year. Unlike many other musicians or artist, Formby used his personality, natural ability and talent to make himself stand out.

At first, when hearing this song, I immediately thought it was a woman. As I kept listening I began to think of where else could I imagine this song being played and it hit me! In a scene of a scary movie as the killer is nearby and the victim is helplessly trying to get away but as an end result is brutally murdered due to their negligence of not leaving the creepy home.


Work Cited:










  1. You are right to connect the comedic tone of the song with the message that people should carry a gas mask with them. However, the British heavily overestimated the need for gas masks. They had imagined that chemical warfare (as used during WWI) would be used on civilians in WWII. This was not the case (at least in Britain). So in many ways, the focus on the gas mask shows how unprepared Britain was for the type of war they would be fighting.

    After reading your post, I wondered what else you have found out about the public reaction to this song? Why was it so popular? Is it because of the singer? Also, I’m not clear on the connection you are making to horror films at the end? Can you explain?

    • Comment by post author

      Thank you for your comment, as for the overall song it was quite hard finding information on it being that it wasn’t as popular as his other songs, therefore making it difficult for me to answer those questions. Also the connection I was making to the horror film at the end is that I can hear this song being played in the background of the film at that specific scene where the victim is being chased by the killer. The song somewhat has that of creepy old women voice, but what makes it more creepy is the fact that it is a man singing in a high pitched voice. In a handful of horrific comedy movies, songs similar to that of Formby can be heard throughout the film.

      • Sidney, I definitely thought that this was an elderly women singing. It is amazing how George Formby was able to alter his voice to sound like that. After hearing the song and close reading the lyrics, I thought that gas masks were a major necessity for people to protect themselves. For instance, the beginning lyrics state, “Now I’m getting very fond of my gas mask I declare, It hardly ever leaves my sight, I sling it on my back and I take it everywhere, It even comes to bed at night.” One might assume that gas masks were part of a soldier’s or the public’s everyday life and that everything revolved around gas masks. I found it ironic when I learned that gas masks were not a major priority because chemical warfare was not used on civilians. So I am wondering why is it emphasized so much in this song.

Leave a Reply