The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling

"The Bells of Hell Go Ting-a-ling-a-ling" is a British airmen's song from World War I, which was created around 1911.[1]

It is apparently a parody of another popular song of the time entitled "She Only Answered 'Ting-a-ling-a-ling'".[2] It is featured in the Brendan Behan's play The Hostage (1958)[3] and the musical film Oh! What a Lovely War (1969).


The lyrics are:

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me:
For me the angels sing-a-ling-a-ling,
They've got the goods for me.
Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Oh! Grave, thy victory?
The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me.

Lines five and six quote St Paul's words on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: 55, used in the burial service: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"[1] There are alternate, darker lyrics for the third and fourth lines, used in the original stage musical Oh, What a Lovely War!:

And the little devils all sing-aling-aling
For you but not for me

The Behan version is:[3]

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For you but not for me:
Oh! Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?
Oh! Grave, thy victory?
If you meet the undertaker,
Or the young man from the Pru,
Get a pint with what's left over,
Now I'll say good-bye to you.

Piece of CakeEdit

The song features in the 1988 London Weekend Television series Piece of Cake about an RAF fighter squadron in the Phoney War.

1966 filmEdit

A 1966 Mirisch Productions World War I war film with the title The Bells of Hell go Ting-a-ling-a-ling starring Gregory Peck and Ian McKellen, directed by David Miller and with a screenplay by Roald Dahl, was abandoned after five weeks filming in Switzerland.[4] The film, depicting the air raid on the Zeppelin base at Friedrichshafen, was abandoned after early snow in the Alps.[5]

A Perfect HeroEdit

This song was also used for the opening and end credits to A Perfect Hero, a 1991 TV miniseries set in World War II England.

Tequila Vampire MatineeEdit

The first two lines are also used in "Bells of Hell" a song from Kevin Quain's Tequila Vampire Matinee with "you" being replaced with "thee."

The Bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
For thee but not for me

Salvation ArmyEdit

Though usually associated with World War I, and apparently parodying the earlier song "She Only Answered 'Ting-a-ling-a-ling'" the song apparently also has links with the Salvation Army, as referenced in "The Mixer and Server, Volume 20" of 1911: "In London, the Salvation Army lassies and other street-praying bands are singing a song that has become universally popular in the crowded sections of the city." [6] It is notable that the lyrics of this Salvation Army version differ slightly both from the established "angels" version and the "devils" version in Oh, What a Lovely War!:

The bells of hell go ding-aling-ling
For you, but not for me;
The sweet-voiced angels sing-a-ling-ling
Through all eternity.
Oh, death, where is thy sting-a-ling-ling;
Oh, grave, thy victory!
No ding-a-ling-ling, no sting-a-ling-ling.
But sing-a-ling-ling for me.

In popular cultureEdit

"The bells of hell go ding-a-ling-a-ling" is also the last line in the song by The Pogues, "My Blue Heaven." It was used by Jacob Rees-Mogg as a rebuff to Donald Tusk's remark about there being a special place in hell for Brexiteers.


  1. ^ a b Tyler, Don (2016). Music of the First World War. ABC-CLIO. p. 22. ISBN 9781440839962.
  2. ^ Max Arthur (2001) When This Bloody War Is Over. London, Piatkus: 63
  3. ^ a b Mary Luckhurst, ed. (2006). A companion to modern British and Irish drama, 1880-2005. Malden, MA [etc.]: Blackwell. p. 252. ISBN 1405122285.
  4. ^ "The Bells of Hell Go Ding-a-ling-a-ling (1966) | BFI". Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "". External link in |title= (help)