From our 'War Picture of the Week' Archive
Gott Strafe England ! - May God Punish England
Picture made in 1917 in Northern France, in an area that was occupied by Germany but recaptured by the French.
The slogan 'Gott strafe England' comes from the the German poet Ernst Lissauer, a Jew and a devout nationalist. He was also the author of the Hymn of Hate.
In Germany 'Gott strafe England' became the daily greeting. When a company paraded the captain cried: "Gott strafe England!" and the response came from 250 throats: "Er strafe es" (May He punish her).
The greeting spread from the army to the whole nation. When people drank, they did not say "Prosit!" (May it go well with you). They said "Gott strafe England", and replied "Er strafe, es!"
Remarkable: around 1916 the German expression strafe entered English slang. First it meant only to punish someone severly, later also to attack with heavy machine-gun fire from a low-flying aircraft. Nowadays strafe stands for any attack with heavy fire from a moving position.
In 1918 the frequency of the strafe slogan and similar oaths by British soldiers made John Collings Squire write the following poem :
God heard the embattled nations sing and shout
'Gott strafe England!' and 'God save the King!'
God this, God that, and God the other thing —
'Good God!' said God, 'I've got my work cut out!'
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