Monday, April 25, 2016

Anzac Day 2016

The lyrics of Eric Bogle’s song And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda make apt reading this Anzac Day. 

Hear the song sung by Eric Bogle at: 

"And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
- Eric Bogle

Now when I was a young man, I carried me pack, 
And I lived the free life of a rover
From the Murray's green basin to the dusty outback, 
Well, I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in 1915, my country said ‘Son, 
It's time you stopped rambling, there's work to be done.’
So they gave me a tin hat, and they gave me a gun, 
And they marched me away to the war.

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

And how well I remember that terrible day, 
How our blood stained the sand and the water.
And of how in that hell that they called Suvla Bay, 
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk he was waiting, he'd primed himself well, 
He shower'd us with bullets, and he rained us with shell, 
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, 
When we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs, 
Then we started all over again. 

And those that were left, well we tried to survive, 
In that mad world of blood, death and fire,
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, 
Though 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,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead. 
Never knew there was worse things than dyin'.

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

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, 
And 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 me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, 
To grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

But the band played Waltzing Matilda, 
As they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, 
Then they turned all their faces away. 

And so now every April, I sit on me porch, 
And I watch the parades pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march, 
Reviving old dreams of past glories.
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore. 
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask 
‘What are they marching for?’ 
And I ask myself the same question.

But the band plays Waltzing Matilda 
And the old men still answer the call,
But as year follows year, more old men disappear, 
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 they march by that billabong, 
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me? 

Some notes and comments: 

"Matilda" - the rolled up blanket tied with a piece if rope and strung to athe back of someone travelling by foot
"Swag" - same as Matilda, with personal items usually inside the tied off blanket
"Billabong" – cut off meander bands of creeks, lagoons 
“Waltzing Matilda” – to travel with one’s swag

The Gallipoli Campaign (April 25, 1915-January 8, 1916), was a major land and sea operation of World War I, in which British, French, Australian, and New Zealand forces unsuccessfully attempted an invasion of Turkey. The action was confined to the Dardanelles Strait and the tip of the Gallipoli (Gelibolu) Peninsula near Istanbul. The campaign was the first major military action of Australia and New Zealand as independent dominions, and is often considered to mark the birth of national consciousness in those nations. The date of the landing, 25 April, is known as "Anzac Day". It remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans in Australia and New Zealand. 

Bogle got it wrong in his lyric that “some day no one will march there at all”. The march has continued as newer wars provide more marchers. Also, young people have increasingly honoured and respected Anzac Day, including participation in the marches whilst wearing the medals of relatives (for the record, I am against that), giving rise to concern by some that it has detracted from the solemnity of the occasion.

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