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The Band Played Waltzin' Matilda

Lyrics and tune
  • (Words & music Eric Bogle)

    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 nineteen-fifteen my country said, Son
    It's time to stop rambling, there's work to be done
    So they gave me a bayonet and gave me a gun
    And they sent me away to the war

    And the band played Waltzing Matilda
    As the ship pulled away from the quay
    Amidst all the tears, the flag-waving and cheers
    We sailed off to Gallipoli

  • And how well I remember that terrible day
    Our blood stained the sand and the water
    And how in that hell that was called Suvla Bay
    We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter
    Johnny Turk he was ready, he'd primed himself well
    He chased us with bullets and he rained us with shell
    And in five minutes flat he'd blown us 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
    And we started all over again

  • Now those who were living just tried to survive
    In that mad world of blood, death and fire
    And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive
    While around me the corpses piled higher
    Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head
    And when I woke up in my hospital bed
    I saw what it had done and I wished I was dead
    Never knew there was worse things than dying

    For I'll go no more waltzing Matilda
    All around the green bush far and near
    To hump tent and pegs a man needs both legs
    No more waltzing Matilda for me

  • They collected the cripples, the wounded and maimed
    They shipped us back home to Australia
    The legless, the armless, 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
    Thank Christ there was no one there waiting for me
    To grieve, to mourn and to pity

    And the band played Waltzing Matilda
    As they carried us down the gangway
    Nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared
    Then they turned all their faces away

  • So now every April I sit on my porch
    And I see the parade pass before me
    I watch my old comrades, how proudly they march
    Renewing their dreams and past glories
    I see the old men, all bent, stiff and sore
    The tired old heroes of 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 still answer the call
    Year by 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
    Now their ghosts can be heard
    As they march by the billabong
    Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

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  • deutsch  [1988:] Berühmte Romane, besonders 'Voss' von Nobelpreisträger Patrick White, haben das Landesinnere als Raum erlösenden Leidens gezeichnet, in dem das individuelle Leben einem größeren Ganzen geopfert wird. Danach war es nur noch ein kleiner Schritt zur Verbindung des Outback mit dem Geist von Gallipoli im Ersten Weltkrieg, eines tapferen (wenn auch naiven) Kampfes australischer Soldaten für das Britische Empire gegen eine hoffnungslose deutsche [sic!] Übermacht. (Drewe, Merian Australien 90)

  • english  [1960:] Oddly enough, the word Anzac was not coined by Australians nor even in this country. Moreover it was not, as is popularly supposed, an official Army contraction, and its rather rugged euphony is a matter of luck. [...] The men who landed at Gallipoli in 1915 had never heard of the word that was to immortalize their deeds, and the Australian and New Zealand forces massing in the Middle East in preparation for desert warfare were likewise unfamiliar with it. [...] On Christmas Eve 1914 General Birdwood, who had been appointed by Lord Kitchener to command an Army Corps of Australian and New Zealand Forces, forwarded to Major-General Bridges of the Australian troops and Major-General Godley of the New Zealanders, his proposals for forming the combined corps. He agreed to accept their wishes on the naming of the force, and they asked that it should be called the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The first stationery of the corps bore the heading A and NZ Army Corps. Early in January 1915, Major C. M. Wagstaff of General Birdwood's operations staff strolled into the Cairo headquarters and told the clerks he was looking for a brief code-word for the new corps. Clerks and other administrative staff (who were nearly all Englishmen) dutifully pondered over the problem and one of them, looking at the letterheads of the new corps, suggested 'What about Anzac?'

    So was born one of the great words of military history. Naturally, no one realized it at the time - it was merely a simple, convenient word for Army telegraphic messages and despatches. Slowly the term Anzac filtered through to the troops, began to be used in Australian and overseas newspapers and eventually, through the immortal deeds of the 'diggers', embedded itself in history. (Bill Beatty, A Treasury of Australian Folk Tales and Traditions 232f)

  • english  [?:] "I watched the parade and all the crap that goes with the so-called glory. I was annoyed by the whole thing. The people on these parades generally never saw action. All the real soldiers were killed. In Australia, ANZAC Day is merely an excuse for a booze-up. When I get annoyed by things I write songs about them." Bogle wrote the song in seven hours. [...] He first sang Matilda in the Kingston Hotel, Canberra. He forgot some of the words, earned a few polite handclaps and then dropped the number from his repertoire. He dug the song out again for a song festival in Brisbane. The judges placed him and Matilda third, but their decision caused a near-riot with the crowd who felt he should have won. The resulting publicity established Matilda. John Curry sent it up the charts. [...] It caught on in the UK and was recorded by June Tabor, Alex Campbell and Iain Mackintosh. (Kevin Black, Folk Review ?/??)

  • english  [1977:] A 'Matilda' was the name given to the pack of an Australian bushman or swagman. To 'waltz Matilda' was to carry your pack around the bush. 50.000 soldiers of Australia died at Gallipoli in a stupid and pointless campaign, which was a lot for a small country like Australia. About the only thing they achieved was a belated recognition from Britain that Australia was 'growing up', she was becoming a nation in her own right. Hence the saying of the time that 'Australia became a nation founded upon the blood of her soldiers'. Hell of a way to start a nation! Every April, in Australia, a march is held on ANZAC Day to commemorate the Gallipoli landings during the First World War, and the dead of the other wars. Australia takes it so seriously that the pubs are closed, the only day in the year this happens. Like all memorial parades it is both moving and yet somehow pointless and pathetic. (Notes Eric Bogle, 'Live In Person')

  • english  [1980:] An attempt to try and express on one hand, my revulsion of war, and on the other, my genuine admiration for the brave men who fought at Gallipoli, volunteers to a man! I wrote it in 1972, after watching an ANZAC march in Canberra. (Notes Eric Bogle, 'Now I'm Easy')

  • english  [1986:] April: Eric Bogle is awarded the A.P.R.A. Gold Award for Song Of The Year for "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". August: Recipient of the Australian Peace Medal from the Australian Government [presumably for the same song]. (Acc. to an Eric Bogle homepage from America)

  • english  [1988:] The Australian Imperial Forces [...] sacrifices helped create Australian national identity. [...] Out of a home population of about 5 million, 330,000 Australian troops served during the war; of these men, 59,000 were killed and more than 165,000 injured . New Zealand lost 17,000 men out of 220,000. Total Anzac casualties - 62 per cent of those who served - were the highest of all units from the Anglo-Saxon world. (J.M. Winter, The Experience of World War I, 82)

    Not surprisingly, a major effort was made in 1915 to keep the story of the Gallipoli disaster off the front pages. This would have succeeded, had it not been for the ingenuity of one young Australian reporter, Keith Murdoch (father of the current newspaper tycoon, Rupert Murdoch) who spilled the beans. British journalists would not have behaved in such an uncouth manner. The story is an interesting one, since it shows that important and disturbing news got out only when it suited politicians to let it out. It was apparent from early on in the Gallipoli campaign that the enterprise was a disaster. But military censorship simply blocked the reports of the journalists who were there. One of them, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett of the 'Daily Telegraph', passed to Murdoch some evidence of what was going on, in the hope that he could smuggle it back to Britain. Murdoch got as far as Marseilles, before another correspondent at Gallipoli, who was not going to let the 'Telegraph' get the scoop, told the British authorities. Murdoch was arrested, and handed over all his papers. But on his arrival in London, he wrote down all he knew in a letter to the Australian prime minister, who duly notified Lloyd George, then minister of munitions, about what he had heard. Lloyd George was known as a man who had no love for the military leaders and saw that the story would help him get rid of the men responsible for the debacle. He passed the letter to Asquith, who put it on record in the parliamentary debate over the Dardanelles campaign. The upshot was the dismissal of the commander, Sir Ian Hamilton. (J.M. Winter, The Experience of World War I, 187f)

  • english  [1989:] I can't experience everything in life - I didn't fight in the First World War for Chrissakes, but I listened to blokes that had. [...] War is still the most futile pursuit humankind engages in and until they stop doing it I'll keep writing songs about it. Because if you stop bringing it to people's attention then you accept it; it becomes normal. I'm always like the ghost at the feast writing old-fashioned protest songs saying a state of war is not a normal condition. [...] those songs will last for years, not because they're intrinsically wonderful songs, it's because every so often the human race is going to start killing each other and those songs are going to become relevant again.

    [The First World War] was a definitive point in history; far more so than other wars, I think. So much ended with [it] and so much began after it; there was nothing romantic about it, but it was the last of the idealistic wars. So many of the people who fought in it thought they were fighting to end it - to start a total new age of human beings. You read the histories, you read the letters from the soldiers - there was a genuine belief that once this war was finished they'd create paradise on earth. It didn't happen [...]. There's no excuse for wars but if people in the First World War thought they were fighting to end all wars, that's a reasonable reason. (Eric Bogle, interview with Andy Shearer, Broadbeat, May)

  • english  [1998:] In l915, with the war in France an entrenched stalemate, the Allies decided to open a new front in Turkey. The plan called for an amphibious landing at Gallipoli on Suvla Bay using French and British Empire troops, including the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), supported by the big guns of the British Navy. The Allied commanders had seriously underestimated the tenacity of the Turks and the accuracy of their artillery. The result was one of the great debacles of the war. After months of horrific and courageous fighting, the invaders had scarcely gotten past the beach. Troops on both sides suffered over 50% casualties: 255,000 for the Allies and 300,000 for the Turks. Note: a "matilda" is the rover's blanket roll; a "billabong" is a dead end wash off a river. (Michael McCann, history notes 'Soldiers' Songs')

  • See also
    Soldiers' Songs
    names in The Foggy Dew)
    Help: Suvla and Sud-al-Bar
    Peace Songs for the song's coming first in Radio Scotland's top peace song poll

Quelle: Australia

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