Hitler Has Only Got One Ball

"Hitler Has Only Got One Ball"
Oral tradition
Music by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts
(Colonel Bogey March)
Lyrics by uncertain; attributed to Toby O'Brien
Written c. August 1939
Language English
Form Propaganda song

"Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" is a song that mocks Nazi leaders using blue comedy in reference to their testicles. Multiple variants of the lyrics exist, generally sung as four-line verses to the tune of the "Colonel Bogey March".


Origin of the song

In his autobiography Fringe Benefits, writer Donough O'Brien says that the original was written by his father, Toby O'Brien, in August 1939 as British propaganda.[1] Toby O'Brien was the publicist for the British Council at the time. This version started with the words "Göring has only got one ball", and went on to imply that Hitler had two small ones. In virtually all later versions, the positions are reversed. The statement that Himmler was "sim'lar" appears in all versions. The final line of this original and some later forms ends with the word play that Goebbels had "no balls". Both these variations argue strongly in favour of O'Brien's version being a very early version, and a Daily Mail report of the time states that it was "attributed to someone not unconnected with our old friend the British Council".

O'Brien's claims have not been substantiated, and no author has ever been identified for the more popular versions that begin "Hitler has only got one ball". There is no known attempt by anyone to claim or enforce a copyright on the lyrics. It is listed in the Roud Folk Song Index, number 10493.

Song lyrics

All versions are sung to the tune of The Colonel Bogey March:

Claimed original version, credited to Toby O'Brien

Göring has only got one ball
Hitler's [are] so very small
Himmler's so very similar
And Goebbels has no balls at all

This version is thought[by whom?], to be the original for two reasons:

  • Only this version is historically accurate in attributing the "one ball" description to Göring, who had lost one of his testicles during the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. A lineage with this version as the origin would reflect at least some degree of inspiration by actual events, with the descriptions being later switched by exaggerators who wished to give the more-hated figure the less favorable description; by contrast, a lineage starting with Hitler's description as having "one ball" would require the assumption that all of the claims in the song were fabricated out of whole cloth without any external inspiration.
  • The rhyme of Goebbels with "no balls", together with the wide popularity of this version, suggests that the song was first written by a lyricist with some skill at wordplay and musical comedy; had the lyric been someone's later refinement of a heavier-handed version that was already widespread, it would be present in only a smaller portion of total attestations.

Variations on claimed original version

Popular alterations to the lines in this version, most of them apparently for the purpose of better fitting the "Colonel Bogey" rhythm, are similar to those discussed below and include:

  • Hitler "has two, but very small";
  • Himmler "has something sim'lar" or "is somewhat sim'lar"; and
  • "And Josef Goebbels..." or "And poor old Goebbels...".

Variant stanzas

Variant 1 (most common)

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but very small,
Himmler is somewhat sim'lar,
But poor Goebbels has no balls at all.

For line 2, sometimes is heard "Göring his balls are very small".

In line 3, "is somewhat" is sometimes replaced by "is rather" or "has something" (the latter keeps all lines using 'has'). The first line may also be one left ball, one brass ball, one big ball; approximately this version appears in Thomas Pynchon's V. (page 325). Other alternatives to line 3 include: "Himmler's are somewhat simmler," and "Hess has even less,"

For line 4, sometimes is heard "And Martin Bormann has got none at all."

Variant 2

Hitler: he had but one left ball,
Mussolini: he had none at all,
Stalin: he was three-ballin',
And that's the dictator's rise and fall!

Variant 3

Hitler has only got one ball,
The other is on the kitchen wall, [or] (the other is in the Albert Hall), or (in Northern England: The Leeds Town Hall)
His mother, the dirty bugger,
Chopped it off when he was small.
She threw it, into the apple tree
The wind blew it into the deep blue sea
Where the fishes got off their dishes and ate scallops and bollocks for tea

Outside of the United Kingdom, the second line is often invoked as "The other is on the kitchen wall" or "The other is hanging on the wall". Some areas of the United Kingdom alter the second line to include local buildings. Mancunians use "The other is in the Free Trade Hall", whereas Londoners use "the Albert Hall", Loiners (from Leeds) have: "The Leeds Town Hall". In Glasgow, the Kelvin Hall. In Northern Ireland, "The Ulster Hall" is sometimes substituted. The fifth and sixth lines are occasionally replaced by, "She hung it on the washing line / It fell into the River Tyne".

Other variations include use of the past tense, referring to Goebbels as Doctor, Hitler's other ball being "on the wall", mixtures of the variants above, and Hitler's life being "much simpler if he didn't have any at all".

Variant 4, as sung in Australia by schoolchildren in the 1950s and '60s, with phonetic spelling:

Hitler had only one brass ball,
Ger-ring had two but they were small,
Himmler had something simmler,
And poor old Go-balls had no balls at all.

Note the addition of Hitler having had a brass testicle. Sometimes "Go-balls" would be replaced by a fictional "Joe-Balls", possibly because by then young children were unaware of who Goebbels was.

Variant number 5, as sung by the Boy Scouts of America[citation needed][dubious ]

Hitler - oh he had one big ball
Göring - had two but they were rather small
Himmler - had something similar
But mister Goebbels had no balls at all


Hitler he's only got one ball The other is on the kitchen wall His mother the dirty lover Chopped it off when he was one

Variant 6

Hitler - he had just one big ball
Himmler - had two but they were small
Göring - had one ball-bearing
And Goebbels had no balls at all

Variant 7, as sung in New Zealand in the 1940s and 1950s, similar to the Australian version above in its use of "Go-balls". This version is noteworthy for the wordplay between "two" and "too small":

Hitler has only got one ball,
Göring has two but they're too small,
Himmler has something sim'lar,
But poor old Go-balls has no balls at all.

Variant 8, another version sung in Australia; note that 'Himmler has something sim'lar' is changed to '[Australian then-Prime Minister Robert] Menzies, he's in a frenzies':

Hitler has only one brass ball,
Göring has two but they're too small,
Menzies was in a frenzies,
But poor old Go-balls has no balls at all.

Variant 9

Hitler - had one fat ball
the other - is in the Albert Hall
His Mother - who ate the other
Is still lying dead in Albert Hall

Variant 10, sung by 1962 New York City kids and presumably learned from members of their fathers' generation who served in the U.S. military during WWII:

Hitler - has only one Big ball
Himmler - has two but they are Small
Göring - has a Ball Bearing
and... and... and Goebbels.. has No Balls...
At All !!!

In Songs from the Front & Rear, Anthony Hopkins [2] gives the first verse of the song as:

Has only got one ball.
Has two, but they are very small.
Has something sim'lar,
but poor old Goebbels,
Has no balls at all.

Where possible Hopkins has indicated the author and composer. He also notes in the Preface that some songs were not included because of "copyright restrictions".[3] It should also be noted that a number of variations use the German spelling of names. This would lend some credence that the words were created by an individual with knowledge of the proper spelling the individuals mentioned in the songs. However, English the typewriter of the time would not have included the umlaut mark(ö). Hand transcription or a typewriter with a German keyboard would have been necessary. Again this would support the notion that it was created as propaganda.

Variant 11

Hitler, has only got one ball
And that's no bloody good at all
Himmler, has something sim'lar
and Goebbels has no balls at all

Variant 12 (note return to historical accuracy of Goering's description):

Hitler only had one left ball,
Himmler had two but they were small,
Goering lost his in the beer hall,
And poor old Dr. Goebbels never had balls at all.

Variant 13, as sung in South Africa by schoolchildren in the 1950s and '60s:

Hitler had only one brass ball,
Churchill had two but they were small,
Rommel s'n was geskommel,
And Mussolini had no balls at all.

This is similar to the Australian version, however note the addition of Churchill (sometimes also "Monty") due to the ambivalent nature of Afrikaner sentiments to the British. Also note the addition of an Afrikaans third line that translates as "Rommel's was shaken".

Second verses: Hitler's mother

When the first verse includes Hitler's mother, a second verse is generally added:

She threw it over West Germany
It landed in the deep blue sea,
The fishes got out their dishes,
And had scallops and bollocks for tea.
She threw it into a conker tree
It missed, and went into the sea,
The fishes got out their dishes,
And had scallops and bollocks for tea.

Verses about Germany and Germans

These verses mention neither Nazis nor Hitler:

Frankfurt has only one beer hall,
Stuttgart, die München all on call,
Munich, vee lift our tunich,
To show vee "Cherman" have no balls at all.
Hans Otto is very short, not tall,
And blotto, for drinking Singhai and Skol.
A "Cherman", unlike Bruce Erwin,
Because Hans Otto has no balls at all.

Alternative Version (2 verses)

As seen at the reference site:[4]

Hitler has only got 1 ball!
Goering has 2 but they are small!
Himmler is somewhat similar!
and Jodl is too close to call!
Rommel has 4 or 5 i guess!
No ones quite sure bout Rudolf Hess!
Schmeling is always yelling!
But Goebbels has no balls at all!

or another version

Hitler has only got one ball
Himmler has 2 but they are small
Bormann has there just big hole
But Goebbels has no balls at all
Rommel has 4 or 5
Hess were cutten by his wife
There were no balls in Röhm's life
Cause Goering castrated him using knife

Introductory verse

(Sung to the tune of Land of Hope and Glory, and followed by some variant of the Nazi verses, above.)

Land of soap and water,
Hitler's having a bath.
Churchill's looking through the keyhole,
Having a jolly good laugh
Hitler — has only [etc]

The song in other media

The song has frequently been heard and seen in other media:

  • The lyrics were not sung during the famous Colonel Bogey March sequence in the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai because they were considered to be too vulgar.[citation needed]In an early Smothers Brothers album Tommy declares "the words were dirty!" http://www.enotes.com/topic/The_Smothers_Brothers_at_the_Purple_Onion
  • The verse was obviously alluded to without actually using the words in episodes of It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Goodnight Sweetheart. In the former, the Sergeant complained that the band at the last concert had played, he then hummed the tune of Colonel Bogey, then he said "And we all know what the words to that are!". In an episode of the latter, a German officer sings the German lyrics.
  • Thomas Pynchon quoted the words in his novel V. by putting them in the mouths of British artillerymen on Malta.
  • Bette Midler sang the lyrics in her concert film Divine Madness!.
  • The song is used to harass a Jewish student in School Ties, a 1992 film.
  • The lyrics were heard on the British TV sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!
  • The song is sung in the Czech film Dark Blue World (2001).
  • The lyrics were sung in the 1972 film adaptation of the John Knowles novel A Separate Peace (although they are not in the book, and the tune to which they are sung in the film is not the "Colonel Bogey March").
  • A verse combining the first two lines of Variant 2 and the last two lines of Variant 1 appears in the 2000 Vertigo miniseries Adventures in the Rifle Brigade by Garth Ennis and Carlos Ezquerra. The follow-on miniseries, Operation Bollock, uses the missing testicle as a central plot device.
  • The lyrics are alluded to in a 2003 advertisement for Spitfire Beer (the 'Bottle of Britain'), an English Ale. Hitler is shown photographed in full Wehrmacht Uniform with the caption 'Spot the ball'. The advertisement refers to print media spot the ball competitions in which readers were shown photographs of moments in football matches and asked to guess where the ball (which is edited out) would have been. See: Spitfire site
  • In one of the 'Head-to-Head' dialogue sketches in the BBC comedy series Alas Smith and Jones Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones reminisce about the war and about the songs of the era. Smith sentimentally and poignantly sings the opening lines of "White Cliffs of Dover", and "We'll Meet Again", and then (to avoid lowering the tone) has to interrupt Jones when he begins to sing, "Hitler has only got one..."
  • In an episode of the BBCTV comedy programme, 2 Point 4 Children the grandmother mentions Goebbels in conversation with a friend and - when queried - points out that "he was the one with no balls at all, if you remember".
  • In the British radio series, The Bradshaws, Alf taught Billy the song.
  • The Hector Scott character (played by Donald Moffat) sings this ditty to Shirley MacLaine's character in the movie The Evening Star (1993).
  • In the Camp Dance episode of 'Allo 'Allo! where Captain Geering is disguised as a British POW due to circumstances, he starts singing the first verse upon inspection by German officers so as to seem genuinely British and avoid detection, since he was illegally present in the POW camp.
  • The main character of the 2003 movie Wondrous Oblivion, a British teen who is the son of Jewish Holocaust survivors, sings this song for a friend.
  • In Ricky Gervais' stand-up tour Fame, he speaks about the version of the song which refers to the Albert Hall. He states that when he went to the Albert Hall he couldn't find it and he had even looked for it which is "suspicious". Gervais continues stating that "if I had that, I'd have it in the foyer. On a plinth. In an eggcup". He ends it by questioning why "His mother has got the other", which would mean Hitler had three.
  • In the Vertigo DC Comics 2001 3-issue miniseries Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, "Operation: Bollock", the Rifle Brigade is sent on a mission to retrieve Adolf Hitler's missing testicle.
  • The song was sung in the Chinese/German film John Rabe by actor Steve Buscemi as an American Doctor Robert Wilson in 2009. However, this represents an anachronism as the movie's events take place in late 1937, two years before the song first appeared.
  • The song was used in Episode 5 of Series 3 of The Armstrong and Miller Show, as it comically depicted the writing of it.
  • The Jim Steranko History of Comics includes an anecdote about artists working on Captain Marvel who reworked the song to satirize the demands of the publishing house's censors: "Captain Marvel Has No Balls At All." [5]
  • The song was included in the movie "Joe Maddison's War" (2010) with Robson Green, Kevin Whately and Derek Jacobi as the Home Guard was marching to exercise.

See also


  1. ^ http://www.fringe-benefits.co.uk/frinfacs.html
  2. ^ Anthony Hopkins' "Songs from the Front & Rear" Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton; 1979 pg 186
  3. ^ Anthony Hopkins' "Songs from the Front & Rear" Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton; 1979 pg 14
  4. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3r03GGpKedY&feature=related
  5. ^ Jim Steranko, The Steranko History of Comics, Vol. 2. ISBN 0517501880.

External links

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