Originally written in 1938, Charles Trenet’s ‘Boum’ (Boom) expressed the joie de vivre that epitomised French life at the time. The lyrics described a man newly in love, feeling his heart going ‘boom’ and seeing the world in an entirely new way. The song was so popular it won Trenet the Grand Prix du Disque. The song’s popularity endured during the Occupation, but it underwent several revisions to suit the new, less joyful prevailing mood. The various versions that emerged give voice to a diversity of French responses.

During the worst of the German blitz on London in the spring of 1941, Maurice van Moppes, a French illustrator and writer, wrote new lyrics to the song praising the courage and perseverance of the British and issuing a threat to the Nazis. The song was broadcast on radio and included in a pamphlet entitled Chansons de la BBC (Songs of the BBC) which was parachuted by the RAF into France to encourage ill-feeling towards Laval and demonstrate support for the British.

Several listeners sent in their own lyrics in response to van Moppes, including a 1941 version that celebrated RAF bombing successes in France: ‘Mais boum! L’avion anglais fait: boum! / Tout avec lui dit: boum! / Et les coeurs Français tressaillent!’ (But boom! The English plane goes: boom! / Everyone says with it: boom! / And the hearts of the French people flutter).

Another set of lyrics was written by Jean Nocher in 1942. Under the pseudonyms of Pleyel, Dural, and Merlin, Nocher had founded the resistance group Espoir (Hope) in Saint-Etienne and become departmental head of the southern resistance organisation Franc-Tireur (Maverick), which published several journals and organised sabotage groups. He was arrested in September 1942 and imprisoned at the detention centre Saint-Paul in Lyon. The lyrics he wrote during his imprisonment express a sadistic joy in sabotage and became famous as the song of the Saint-Paul terrorists:

The song’s popularity endured after the war and it was used in adverts for a variety of products from cars to vodka. In the 1970s it featured on an episode of the popular documentary series The World at War, where it accompanied the sound of machine guns on the Maginot Line (a wall built along the east border of France to protect it from German invasion in 1939). This song is one of the best-known symbols of WWII in France, and remains associated with it today.

By Daisy Fancourt


Chimello, Sylvia La Résistance en chantant (Paris, 2004)

Van Moppes, Maurice Chansons de la BBC et images de Paris (Paris, 1945).

Les mitrailleuses font tac, tac, tact
Les Allemands croint nous fich’le trac
Les glouglous chant’ sur tous les tons
On sonn’ra les’cloches a London

Et Boum! Quand les avions font Boum!
On n’entend que des Boum
dans tous les faubourgs de Londres
Boum, les bombes tombent Boum!
Il faut plus que ce Boum!
Pour que notr’ moral s’effondre!

Rappelez vous les journaux des Nazis
Comme ils en faisaient des gorges chaudes
Et le ricanement d’Radio Paris
Sur Londres tout’ les nuits la mort rode’

Boum! Nous avons tenu, Boum!
Tout l’Angleterr’ dit Boum!
Lorsque les bomb’ font Boum, Boum!
Boum! C’est en Allemagn’que Boum!

Hambourg, Berlin font Boum!
C’est la RAF qui passe!
Boum! Jour et nuit, badaboum!
Au rhythme de ces Boum!

Dans la Ruhr il y a d’ la casse.
V’la que tout a change pour les All’mands
Et les Boches sont pris de panique,
Sous l’ feu des avions de bomnbardement
D’Angleterre ainsi que d’Amerique!

Boum! Ils seront fichus, Boum!
Les Anglais pour un Boum!
F’ront sur l’Allemagne vingt Boum! Boum!

The guns are going tac, tac, tact
The Germans believe we're feeling scared
The gurgling sounds sing in every key
We have sounded the bells in London

And Boom! When the planes go Boom!
We only hear Boom
In all the suburbs of London.
Boom, the bombs fall Boom!
It takes more than Boom!
For our morale to collapse!

Remember the Nazi newspapers
Like they were having a good laugh
And the giggle of Radio Paris
As over London every night death prowled.

Boom! We have held, Boom!
All England says Boom!
When the bombs go Boom, Boom!
Boom! It's in Germany it goes Boom!

Hamburg, Berlin go Boom!
It's the RAF passing!
Boom! Day and night, Bang!
To the rhythm of Boom!

In the Ruhr there is damage.
It seems that everything has changed for the Germans
And the Boches are in a panic
Under the fire of plane bombardment
From England and from America!

Boom! They will be damned, Boom!
The English go Boom!
Firing on Germany twenty Boom! Boom!

Mon gros pétard fait tic tac tic tic
Opérons vite sans gacher l’ lastic
Car j’entends l’ pas nonchalant des flics.
Calme-toi mon coeur, voilà l’ déclic.

Mais Boum ! Quand le pétard fait boum,
Toute la ville dit boum.
C’est le peuple qui s’éveille.
Boum ! Au rhythme de ce boum
C’est le grand badaboum
Qui leur pet’ boum a l’oreille.

Tout va changer des demain et la rue
Va mettre ses lampions aux fenetres.
Y’aura des tas d’ salopards de pendus,
La joie, la liberté vont renaitre.

Boum ! La révolte fait boum,
Tout avec ell’ dit boum,
C’est le grand badaboum !
Le peuple en fureur fait hou hou hou.
Vichy aux abois fait be... e... e...
La vaissel’ cassée fait tric tric trac
Et les miliciens out tous le trac.

Mais Boum ! Quand le pétard fait boum,
Toute la ville dit boum.
Paris dit boum ! C’est l’orage.
Boum ! Le plastic chante boum
Et le peuple dit boum
En surgissant de sa cage.

Car son courroux est plus vif que l’éclair
Et pet’ plus fort, boum, que leur oseille,
Et s’il fait boum, s’il se met en colere
Il entraine avec lui des merveilles.

Boum ! Le monde entier fait boum,
Tout avec lui dit boum,
Quand l’espoir fair boum boum!

My big explosive is going tick tick tick
Let's move quickly without wasting the fuse
Because I hear the nonchalant steps of the cops
Calm down my heart, here we go, the click.

But Boom! When the explosive goes Boom,
All the town says Boom.
It's the people who are waking up.
Boom! To the rhythm of this boom
It's the big bang
That rings in their ear.

Everything will change after tomorrow and the street
Will put lanterns in the windows.
There will be a lot of the bastards hung,
Joy, liberty will be reborn.

Boom! The revolt goes Boom
Everything with it goes Boom,
It's the big bang!
The people in anger go whoo, whoo, whoo.
Vichy in desperate straits goes ee, ee, ee
The broken crockery goes crash crash crash
And the Militia all have the jitters.

But Boom! When the explosive goes Boom,
The whole town says Boom.
Paris says Boom! This is the storm.
Boom! The explosive sings Boom
And the people say Boom
While coming out of their hiding places.

Because their anger is more intense than lightening
And bursts stronger, Boom, than their sorrel,
And if it goes Boom, if it gets angry
It carries with it wonders.

Boom! The whole world goes Boom,
Everyone with him says Boom,
When hope goes Boom Boom!