WWI remembered in popular song


Book Reviewer
I meant to post this on April 25th (ANZAC Day), but somehow got side tracked.

The Band Played “Waltzing Matilda”

When I was a young man, I carried my pack, and I lived the free life of the rover. From the Murray’s green basin to the dusty outback, I waltzed my matilda all over. Then in 1915 my country said “Son, it’s time to stop rambling, there’s work to be done”. They gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun. Then they sent me away to the war.

The band played “Waltzing Matilda” when the ship pulled away from the quay. Amid all the cheers, flag waving and tears, we sailed off to Gallipoli.

It’s well I remember that terrible day that our blood stained the sand and the water, and how in that hell they called Suvla Bay, we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter. Johnny Turk he was ready, he’d primed himself well. He rained us with bullets and he showered us with shell, and in 10 minutes flat we were all blown to hell. He nearly blew us back home to Australia.

And the band played “Waltzing Matilda” when we stopped to bury our slain. Well we buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, and then we started all over again.

Well those that were living just tried to survive in that mad world of blood death and fire. For 10 weary weeks, I kept myself alive while around me the corpses piled higher. Then a big Turkish shell blew me arse over head, and when I awoke in my hospital bed and saw what they’d done, I wished I was dead. I never knew there was a worse thing than dying.

For no more I’ll go “Waltzing Matilda” all around the green bush far and near. For to hump tent and pegs a man needs both legs. No more waltzing matilda for me.

They collected the wounded, the crippled, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia. The armless, the legless, the blind and the insane, proud wounded heroes of Suvla. And when the ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where my legs used to be, and thanked Christ there was no-one waiting for me. To grieve, or to mourn, or to pity.

And the band played “Waltzing Matilda” as they carried us down the gangway. Oh nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared. Then they turned all their faces away.

Now every April, I sit on my porch and I watch the parade pass before me. I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, reliving their dreams of past glories. I see the old men, all tired stiff and worn. The weary old heroes of a forgotten war. The young people ask “what are they marching for?” I ask myself the same question.

The band plays “Waltzing Matilda” and the old men still answer the call. But year after year, their numbers get fewer, someday no-one will march there at all.

Waltzing Matilda, waltzing matilda, who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me? And their ghosts may be heard as you pass by the billabong, now who’ll come a waltzing matilda with me?

© Eric Bogle


Book Reviewer
Not a bad song except its main theme is it denigrates the sacrifices made by the Anzacs by putting pacifist sentiments into the mouth of a fictional old soldier. And your point is?

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