Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Diggers (1931)

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clip 'Hinky pinky parlay-voo' education content clip 3

Original classification rating: G. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

An Australian soldier says goodbye to his French sweetheart (Eugenie Prescott), the beautiful daughter of a local café proprietor, as the troops march up to the lines, singing ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’, a popular hit of the war. He will never return, killed at Bullecourt, one of the last great battles for Australian troops on the Western Front.

Curator’s notes

Director Frank Thring changes the mood of the film completely with this tragic montage – a decision Hanna strongly disagreed with. Diggers was also Thring’s first feature as a director, and the scene seems calculated to show his skills and build up the film’s patriotic appeal (even though it was 13 years after the war had been won). The soldier and his sweetheart were new characters in the film. Nor do we see Chic and Joe in the scene, stirring though it may be.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows the final scenes from Diggers, a black-and-white film of 1931. It is the First World War and an Australian soldier farewells his French sweetheart (Eugenie Prescott) in her father’s café in a French village. Soldiers march off to battle to a jaunty Australianised version of the song ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’. The soldier gives his sweetheart his slouch hat before joining the troops. The troops leave the village and the singing becomes sombre and poignant against a montage of battle scenes showing young men, including the soldier, dying at the Battle of Bullecourt. This is followed by scenes of women, children and old people in the village. The clip concludes with the soldier’s sweetheart grieving for him in the village.

Educational value points

  • The clip shows Australian soldiers marching to battle in the First World War (1914–18). Australia followed Britain to war in August 1914. The battle scenes shown in this clip took place on the Western Front, a battle line that extended some 800 km from Ostende, Belgium, in the north to Belfort, France, near the borders of Switzerland and Germany in the south. Australian soldiers played a prominent part in great battles in France and Belgium (Pozieres, Bullecourt, Villiers–Bretonneux), and the names of the towns along that route have become part of Australian folk history. Australian soldiers are regularly remembered and honoured in French towns in the area on Anzac Day.
  • ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’ was one of the most popular songs among British and Australian troops during the First World War and there were many adaptations, most of them crude and unprintable. The use of the song, with adapted lyrics, in Diggers conveys the changing emotions of the scenes. The song arrangement begins in a music hall style, suitable for a march, but changes so that there is an air of foreboding and sadness as the soldier leaves. It then conveys the pathos and tragedy of young lives lost in battle as soldiers are shown dying, and ends in a poignant mood of grief and loss as the French girl weeps for her lost love.
  • Trench warfare, shown in this clip, was a form of fighting in which troops lived in long narrow hand-dug ditches in appalling, unsanitary conditions. They endured rain and mud, and many soldiers suffered from ‘trench foot’, an infection of the feet caused by continuous cold and wet conditions, lice bites and pneumonia. Soldiers were also exposed to constant bombardments from the enemy and to mustard-gas poisoning. The land between the opposing trenches was known as ‘no man’s land’ and was covered in barbed wire. Mass infantry attacks across no man’s land resulted in heavy casualties as the advancing soldiers had no protection against the opposing troops’ artillery.
  • Australian troops fighting in major battles in France during the First World War sustained heavy casualties. They were often used as ‘shock troops’ in the front line of battle. Approximately 28,000 Australian soldiers were killed in the Somme offensive, which went from July to November 1916. On 23 July 1916 at the Battle of Pozieres 23,000 Australians were killed. In 1917, 38,000 Australians were killed or wounded at Passchendaele. At Bullecourt, featured in the song, in one day the 12th Brigade of 2,000 men sustained 950 casualties and the 4th Brigade of 3,000 men sustained 2,339 casualties. The decimation of young men in the First World War resulted virtually in the loss of a generation.
  • The original lyrics of ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’ were rewritten for an Australian audience, with the new version containing a number of words that are distinctively and uniquely Australian. For example, ‘Diggers’ was a nickname that Australian soldiers bestowed on themselves and that has remained in use in other contexts and other wars. The soldiers’ use of the word probably arose partly from memories of the gold fields and partly from the prodigious amount of digging they did in the First World War. Every war has its songs, another example from the First World War being ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile! smile! smile!’, and its games, such as Two-up – they provided relief from the grim realities of war.
  • Pat Hanna (1888–1973) was an entertainer whose stage sketches formed the basis of the script for Diggers. Hanna had been an illustrator and cartoonist and served in the First World War in the NZ Expeditionary Force. In 1919 he organised the Diggers’ Concert Party in his role as a recreational and entertainment officer for the NZ Army. He formed a troupe called The Diggers, sometimes known as Pat Hanna’s Famous Diggers, which toured Australia and NZ from March 1920 to 1931.
  • Frank Thring (1882–1936) was the director and producer of Diggers. Thring was one of the entrepreneurs of the early Australian film industry. In 1930, with the introduction of sound films to Australia, he started the production company Efftee Films, which produced Diggers, the first financially successful sound film in Australia. Thring went on to direct the feature films The Sentimental Bloke (1932), His Royal Highness (1932 – Australia’s first musical film) and Harmony Row (1932).

This clip starts approximately 56 minutes into the feature.

Soldiers marching to the line can be heard singing a jaunty version of ‘Mademoiselle from Armentières’. Inside a café, an Australian soldier farewells his sweetheart before joining the marching soldiers on the street outside.


They laughed and loved in that old French town, parlez vous?
And the digger gazed in her eyes and frowned, parlez vous?
But by and by, there came a day
When he and his cobbers all marched away
Inky-pinky parlez vous!

Old Fitzy has a jolly good time, parlez vous?
Old Fitzy has a jolly good time, parlez vous?
Old Fitzy thought that night was right
So sing some dirty words tonight
Inky-pinky parlez vous!

The ANZ have a jolly good time, parlez vous?
The ANZ have a jolly good time, parlez vous?
The ANZ have a jolly good time
Drinking along behind the line
Inky-pinky parlez vous!

She watches from the window as the music fades away. The song comes back mournfully over scenes of trench warfare. At the café, the soldier’s sweetheart sees his hat and breaks down.


Down at Bullecourt he fell, parlez vous?
No word came back to mademoiselle, parlez vous?
And a little French girl with eyes of brown
Prays for him still in that war-swept town
Inky-pinky parlez vous.

Quiet at the old estaminet, parlez vous?
No more diggers will come that way, parlez vous?
May your heart grow lighter with passing years
Oh mademoiselle from Armentières
Inky-pinky parlez vous.

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