The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #80804   Message #1481373
Posted By: Muttley
10-May-05 - 02:50 AM
Thread Name: Songs about the Great War (WWI)
Subject: RE: Songs about the Great War
G'day Robbie

Yes, I heard him say much the same in the interview I quoted that I heard some years ago. However, in the same interview he mentioned that McBride's name stuck because as an Irishman, he was a native of virtually the only "western" Empire nation which did not enforce conscription. I guess the British government felt they had enough trouble in Ireland without stirring up even greater resistance by forcing their young men tp go fight in a war on foreign soil.

Thus the only Irishmen fighting in the British Army in WW1 were those from who were living permanently in England / Scotland / Wales and "naturalised/nationalised" or they were volunteers from Ireland itself. It is a credit to the Irish nation that so many of them felt it was necessary to do so: As the line in the Steve Suffet reply to No Man's Land (Willie McBride's Reply) says -

"And call it ironic that I was cut down
While in Dublin my kin-folk were fightin' the crown
But in Dublin or Flanders the cause was the same
To resist the oppressor whatever his name

It wasn't for King or for England I died
It wasn't for glory or the Empire's pride
The reason I went was both simple and clear
To stand up for freedom did I volunteer"

Very powerful words.

And though I am a huge fan of Bogle and find his songs about the Great War both poetic and emotive, I can't help but feel they are both respectful of those who fought and scornful at the same time.

After all, No Man's Land seems to be almost rubbing it in the face of Willie McBride that, though he died for a noble cause, it achieved nothing because the wars just went on (and on and on etc) and in "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda" his central 'narrator' says at the end "and the young people ask what are they marching for? And I ask myself the same question".

This is not a criticism of Eric Bogle - just something that occurred to me a few years ago and I still haven't resolved in my own head - I come, after all from a family who has represented Britain and Australia in WW1 & 2, Korea, Malaya and Vietnam in all three services.

BTW Walrus; that line (subtitle) of I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green) - the 'Light Green' referred to was the colouring on the map. If a patrol route took the soldiers through areas coloured in with dark green then they could 'relax' a little as that meant HEAVY jungle and very very little chance of "contact" (with the enemy) or ambush. Light green colouration, however, signified light jungle, rice paddy, rubber plantation etc - places where one could almost EXPECT to be 'jumped' by the VC or come in for a well-placed ambush.