Powerful antiwar song. The Band Played Waltzing Matilda

This version of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda is masterfully done by Liam Clancy and Robbie O’Connell.

In the song, an Australian soldier is badly wounded in WW1, losing both legs.

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.

  • Dave Riley

    Here’s some background:

    The song is written by Eric Bogle and marks the massive slaughter of Australian troops during WWI fighting for king and empire and the annual ANZAC Day military remembrances.

    I wrote this comment a couple of years back:


    With the increasingly strident nationalism that greets ANZAC Day each year, it is easy to forget what the ANZAC tradition celebates. In almost nine months of entrenched fighting on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula, Australian and New Zealand casualties reached 8587 killed in action and 19,367 wounded in the line of duty. Those Turks were defending their homeland from invasion.

    Where so many died invading we now call “sacred ground”.

    When the British Empire (which included the ANZACs) and French forces finally withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula, they had suffered 44,000 deaths. At least 85,000 Turkish soldiers died during the campaign.

    That was in 1915. The same year, ANZAC forces suffered massive losses of 28,000 killed or wounded during the first seven weeks of the Battle of the Somme. So it comes as no surprise that during the following year Australians rejected conscription at a federal referendum — with troops in the front line trenches strongly voting “No” . Another referendum the following year rejected conscription by an even larger margin.

    So I am a proud Aussie, not because this country has a penchant to celebrate the slaughter of those who we sent to invade or defeat, or the deaths of those this country sent to do such deeds. I am a proud Aussie because, in the face of such slaughter, a massive campaign was organised in this country against strengthening that war through conscription — and it won!

    You have to see past the jingoistic bullshit on Anzac Day. You can’t afford to forget, that’s true, all those who died. But for whom did they die? Not for me.

    If conscription had prevailed many more would have died. That’s really what’s worth celebrating.

    Lest we forget.

  • Eminence Grise

    War really *is* a racket, ain’t it?

  • DJ

    In the movie “Gallipoli,” many of those men died following absurd orders, under the presumption that dying for The Cause was noble. I don’t now how historically accurate the movie was, but in today’s 4GW/terrorist warfare, that concept has expanded to include civilians. Whether at the hands of western armies in Iraq and Afghanistan, or on buses and trains and rice paddies at the hands of both combatants in Sri Lanka, civilian deaths are today just part of the cost of the struggle. In Sri Lanka, 2/3 of the 70K+ casualties have been civilians. In Iraq, the percentages are even higher.

    Years ago, when I was in elementary school, we’d gather and recite the poem “Flanders Fields” and pass out paper poppies– but had no idea that what we were memorializing was the millions of deaths of WWI. We read that poem and had no idea what it meant. I wonder if the same is true today.

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