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And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 22 Sep 2010 at 19:58
I presume at this stage most of us are aware of this song, this article goes someway to explaining how it came about and how it has been used around thae world as an anti war song.
Note: I have left the article with its hypertext links for ease of research.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda


"And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is a song, written by Scottish-born singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971.[1][2] The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticising those who seek to glorify it. This is exemplified in the song by the account of a young Australian soldier who is maimed at the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I.

The song incorporates the melody and a few lines of lyrics of "Waltzing Matilda" at its conclusion. Many cover versions of the song have been performed and recorded.

The song is often praised for its imagery of the devastation at Gallipoli. The protagonist, a rover before the war, loses his legs in the battle, and later notes the passing of other veterans with time, as younger generations become apathetic to the veterans and their cause.

In May 2001 the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA), as part of its 75th Anniversary celebrations, named "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time.[3]



The song is a vivid account of the memories of an old Australian man, who, as a youngster in 1915, had been recruited into the ANZAC and sent to Gallipoli. For "ten weary weeks" he kept himself alive as "around me the corpses piled higher". He recalls "that terrible day" ... "in the hell that they called Suvla Bay we were butchered like lambs at the slaughter" ... "in that mad world of blood, death and fire". In its clear and stark retelling of the events of the battle and its aftermath, it is a passionate indictment of war in general.


The song, written in 1971,[1] has also been interpreted as alluding to the Vietnam War. The song rails against the romanticising of war. As the old man sits on his porch, watching the veterans march past every ANZAC Day, he muses: "The young people ask what are they marching for, and I ask m'self the same question".

The song also has the narrator say of his fellow diggers attending ANZAC Day marches "but year after year / the numbers get fewer / someday no one will march there at all." Alec Campbell, the last surviving Australian veteran of Gallipoli, died in 2002; Peter Casserly, the last digger to see action in WWI, died in 2005; and John Campbell Ross, the last digger from WWI (who did not see combat), died in 2009.


The song was originally eight verses long, but Bogle pared it down to five verses (without reducing its meaning. At the 1974 National Folk Festival in Brisbane, Bogle entered another song in a songwriting competition. Because the first person who performed sang two songs rather than just one, everyone who followed did the same. So Bogle also sang "Matilda" to great acclaim and consternation by some when it did not win the competition.[1]

Jane Herivel from the Channel Islands had heard Bogle sing at the festival and requested Bogle to send her a recording. She sang it at a festival in the south of England where June Tabor heard it and later recorded it. Unknown to Bogle, the song became famous in the UK and North America; so when Bogle was in the UK in 1976 he was surprised to be asked to perform at a local folk club on the strength of the song.[1]

American Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Senator Bob Kerrey sang the song to his supporters at the end of his Presidential campaign in 1991,[1] and borrowed the first line for the title of his autobiography, When I Was A Young Man: A Memoir.


The first release of the song was by John Currie on the Australian label M7 in 1975.[4] Cover versions of the song have been performed and recorded by Katie Noonan (Flametree Festival Byron Bay 08), Joan Baez, Priscilla Herdman, Liam Clancy, Martin Curtis, The Dubliners, Ronnie Drew, Danny Doyle, Slim Dusty, The Fenians, Mike Harding, Jolie Holland, Seamus Kennedy, The Langer's Ball, Johnny Logan and Friends, John Allan Cameron, Houghmagandie, John McDermott, Midnight Oil, Christy Moore, The Pogues, The Skids, June Tabor, John Williamson, The Bushwackers and the bluegrass band, The Kruger Brothers, Redgum, John Schumann, Tickawinda (on album "Rosemary Lane"), and Bread and Roses. Garrison Keillor has also performed it on his radio show A Prairie Home Companion when ANZAC Day (April 25) has fallen on a Saturday. Phil Coulter released a cover on his 2007 album "Timeless Tranquility - 20 Year Celebration".

The Pogues' cover is perhaps the best-known version; critic Robert Christgau wrote that vocalist Shane MacGowan "never lets go of it for a second: he tests the flavour of each word before spitting it out." [5]

Factual inaccuracies

  • The second verse of the song refers to the amphibious assault by Australian troops at Suvla Bay. The landing at Suvla was actually carried out by British soldiers, although Australians were involved in an attempt to break out from the ANZAC lines and link up with the British. Bogle has said that he included the reference to Suvla partly because most Australians connect it with Gallipoli, and partly because it made for an easier rhyme.[1] (Most of the Australian activity at Gallipoli took place around what is now called ANZAC Cove.)
  • The reference to "tin hats" is anachronistic; they were in fact not issued until 1916 (a year after the Gallipoli campaign).[1]
  • The narrator claims to have joined the AIF in 1915. However, it is strongly implied that he is present at the initial landing on 25 April 1915, which would mean he would have left Australia by the end of October 1914.[6]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Casimir, Jon (20 April 2002). "Secret life of Matilda". Music (Sydney Morning Herald). 
  2. ^ ""And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" at APRA search engine". Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  3. ^ Kruger, Debbie (2001-05-02). "The songs that resonate through the years" (PDF). Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA). Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Secret life of Matilda". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2002-04-20. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ From
    Battles: The Landings at Suvla Bay, 1915 Updated – Sunday, 9 June 2002
    With three fresh divisions of reinforcements promised to arrive in August 1915 by British war minister Lord Kitchener in London) subsequently increased to five), Mediterranean Commander-in-Chief Sir Ian Hamilton began planning a major Allied offensive on the Gallipoli peninsular to coincide with their arrival.
    At this time the combined British (including Australian and New Zealand Army Corps – the Anzacs) and French force had established two beachheads on the peninsular: the first on the southern tip at Cape Helles, and the second further north at Ari Burnu (shortly afterwards renamed Anzac Cove). Note:Where the ANZAC's landed was called Anzac Cove in 1985.

External links

Edited by Mal Murray - 21 Dec 2011 at 17:56
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Sep 2010 at 20:16
The Lyrics:
A version of the song with a slide show of campaign era photos can be viewd at the URL;

And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over
Then in nineteen fifteen my country said Son
It's time to stop rambling 'cause there's work to be done
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun
And they sent me away to the war
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we sailed away from the quay
And amidst all the tears and the shouts and the cheers
We sailed off to Gallipoli

How well I remember that terrible day
How the blood stained the sand and the water
And how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
Johnny Turk he was ready, he primed himself well
He chased us with bullets, he rained us with shells
And in five minutes flat he'd blown us all to hell
Nearly blew us right back to Australia
But the band played Waltzing Matilda
As we stopped to bury our slain
We buried ours and the Turks buried theirs
Then we started all over again

Now those that were left, well we tried to survive
In a mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
But around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over tit
And when I woke up in my hospital bed
And saw what it had done, I wished I was dead
Never knew there were worse things 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 two legs
No more waltzing Matilda for me

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

And now every April I sit on my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me
And I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
Reliving old dreams of past glory
And the old men march slowly, all bent, stiff and sore
The forgotten heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question
And the band plays Waltzing Matilda
And the old men answer to the call
But year after year their numbers get fewer
Some day 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 the Billabong
Who'll come-a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Edited by Mal Murray - 27 Sep 2010 at 19:44
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mal Murray Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jan 2012 at 22:09
The following is a version of the song (one of many), it is sung with a slide show in the background.

The youtube version is entitled "The Legend Begins"

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Peter Trounson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Jun 2012 at 19:27
Take note in the 'Factual Inaccuracies' section the statement that Anzac troops did not take part in the landing at Suvla. The landing started late on the 6th of August. The Australian Bridging Train arrived off Suvla at 2am on the 8th August and at 5pm orders were received requesting a shore party at New 'A' beach to erect a barrel pier. With the now unfortunate too often occurence with lack of planning the barrels had been landed earlier in the day but no personnel were sent to put them in place. Twenty four members of the Bridging Train were sent ashore to begin work on the pier. The Naval Bridging Train stayed at Suvla until the evacuation. A beach just slightly to the West of 'A' beach (Kangaroo Beach) was to become their camp for their stay at Suvla and they were the last to be evacuated from that beach on the 17th of December. Around 250 men from the Bridging train were at Suvla at any one time.

Edited by Peter Trounson - 17 Jun 2012 at 02:16
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