British Army Volunteer Regiment
Major Barfield: I saw enough of that type in the trenches. Artists' Rifles and so forth. Pansies, if you ask me, excusing my French, I hope, ladies.
Mavis: Were you in the Artists' Rifles, Major?
Major Barfield: I certainly was not, Miss Pellington. I was in a proper fighting unit.
- extract from The Cat and the Pigeons by J. E. Hollingsworth
Unlikely as it sounds, there really was a regiment of the British Army known as the "Artists' Rifles". It was formed in 1914 from the 20th Middlesex (Artists') Rifle Volunteer Corps (itself founded in 1860). As a volunteer regiment, it attracted the attention of many men of an artistic nature (although public opinion was divided as to their worth as soldiers, as the extract above shows). They saw a great deal of action, fighting battles at Ypres and Passchendaele, the Somme, the Hindenburg Line and many others throughout France and Flanders.
Many who were later to become famous names joined, or were attached to the regiment, including such worthies as Charles Jagger, Bert Thomas, Edward Thomas, Paul Nash, John Nash, John Lavery and William Lee-Hankey. The great English war poet Wilfred Owen joined in 1915, and spent two years with them, and Noel Coward was drafted in toward the end of the war.
The regiment, unlike many others, was not disbanded after the war, and it became an important officer training unit. It marched on until 1947, when it was redesignated to form the SAS Regiment, 21st Battalion (Artists) Volunteers (unlikely as it may seem), and still remains as a Territorial Army reserve unit.
There is also an album by this name, released by the band Piano Magic in 1999, and a collection by the photographic artist Paul M. Smith, based on his own experiences in the army, bears this title.
...and many more from Google
...not to forget pottedstu, who gave me the idea
I don't know about you, but trying to imagine Noel Coward going over the top is still a little too much.