THE BAND PLAYED WALTZING MATILDA

(ERIC BOGLE) (1970s)

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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 the achieved was a belated recognition that Australia was "growing up", she was becoming a nation in her own right....

Every April, 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 somewhat pointless and pathetic. This song was written after observing one such parade.

Liner notes for "Eric Bogle -- LIVE", Autogram ALLP-211, 1977.

Lyrics as performed by Eric Bogle & John Munro, "Pumpe", Kiel, D, NDR-FM Broadcast May 25, 1982; transcribed by Manfred Helfert.
Copyright Larrikin Music, Ltd.

This... in Australia, every year, we have... we celebrate... we remember "ANZAC DAY" -- an' it's a very important day in Australia... the whole day is given over to remembering the soldiers who died in... all the wars and... the whole day -- in Britain, in England, they have two minutes of silence once a year.

It's important in Australia, because at Gallipoli, in 1915, for the first time, the Australian soldiers had Australian officers -- before then, the Australian army had British officers.

And... by this time, it was an all-Australian army, and they did quite well... and Australia was very proud of 'em. And they engendered a great sense of national pride, back home in Australia.

The saying arose that Australia became a nation founded on the blood of our soldiers who died at Gallipoli. So... it was very important to Australia.

We have... in Britain just now.. and THEN it was "our brave boys at Gallipoli"... in Britain, just before John [Munro] and I left three days ago, it was "our brave boys in the Falkland Islands." The jingoism always remains the same... it's just the wars that are different... but they seem stupid, hackneyed phrases... which demeans the soldiers...

Right... I'll get off my pulpit... stop preaching and sing a song...
I get quite heated about this subject...

Now when I was a young man I carried me pack
And I lived the free life of the 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 stop ramblin', 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 call Suvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turk, he was waitin', he primed himself well;
He showered 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,
Well, 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 me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, 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 free --
To hump tents 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 armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed 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 my porch
And I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reviving old dreams of past glory,
And the old men march slowly, all 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 meself 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
Someday, 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 the billabong,
Who'll come a-Waltzing Matilda with me?

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