Eric Bogle is one of my favorite folk singers, for many years and for good reason. His style of social protest, war protest and bawdy humor (alternately, unabashedly) can be sobering as well as cathartic. And the humor serves as much-needed comic relief. Who else could sing about a chihuahua with a hyper-active sex drive (Little Gomez) immediately after No Man’s Land, a song to a dead soldier at his grave in a green field in France?
I saw Bogle and his sidekick, John Munro, at the Blue Goose in Northport, Maine a few years ago. One of the most enjoyable concerts I’ve ever been to. It was in an old wooden hall, much like the Neighborhood House here on the island, and at intermission we were able to go up and chat with the two of them.
This song, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, commemorates the Battle of Gallipoli, Turkey, in World War I from the Australian perspective. That battle—at “the soft underbelly of Europe” as the young and optimistic Winston Churchill called it—became one of the most bloody in the war. The British army (of which the Aussies were one contingent) still used the tactic of sending waves of soldiers up the hillside to attack the Turks. Unfortunately, the Turks were allied with the Germans, and the Germans had just invented the machine gun.
I will not say “Happy Memorial Day.” Just play the song and watch the slide show. Honor the veterans. And pray.