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ANZAC MYTHOLOGY

Army Songs Are Part Of Our Digger Tradition

 

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In WW1 and WW2 it is clear that the songs helped relieve the tension and the horrors of battle where one’s mate could be blown to smithereens and you had no option but to continue to fight. Songs offered a fantasy escape, bolstered the spirit so you could struggle on regardless. This is not to say that the songs were sentimental for the reality is far from it as they glossed over such horrors – preferring to sing about the enemy, home and that ‘other horror’ – mess hall food. Interestingly few songs could be described as ‘hateful’ to the soldier on the other side and, especially in WW1 and WW2, there was an unspoken respect for such front-line fighters. The same could not be said of their leaders.

Songs played an important role in taunting the enemy and especially in putting a ‘monster’s face’ that could be derided and ridiculed. This appears to be a psychological necessity and we can trace the history of our wars through the Mahdi, The Empress Dowager, Kaiser Bill, Adolph Hitler, Emperor Tojo, Ho Chi Min, Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Putting a hated face to the enemy allows our soldiers to kill soldiers of the other side.

In WW1 our soldiers sang ‘Fighting the Kaiser’ to the tune of ‘Waltzing Matilda’

Fighting the Kaiser, fighting the Kaiser,
Who’ll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me?
And we’ll drink all his beer,
And eat up all his sausages,
Who’ll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me?

Nearly everyone knows the first verse about Hitler’s testicles sung to the marching tune ‘Colonel Bogey’ but there’s a second verse that goes:

Hitler has only got one ball.
His other is in the old town hall,
His mother, she pinched the other;
Now Hitler ain’t got none at all.

In 1995 Ken Clift of Bondi Beach sent me four verses about Mussolini (to the tune of Our Sergeant Major) that included the verse:

When we meet that Musso guy,
We will piss right in his eye,
We’d rather root him than salute him
Bloody old Mussolini.

In the same year Len Sprong of Wollongong sent me some verses about King Farouk and Queen Farida to the tune of the Egyptian National Anthem:

Old King Farouk, old King Farouk,
Hang his bollocks on a hook,
Queen Farida, Queen Farida,
How the boys would love to ride her.

King Farouk, give us baksheesh,
Queen Farida, give us baksheesh,
She’s the Queen of all the wogs,
And all the jackals and the dogs,
Squire, squire, squash keterre, bah dean.

While these songs had a purpose in focussing hatred there was another class of song that relieved pressure in the camp. The Sergeant Major was a natural target and it was only through such ditties that the average soldier could let off steam to show indignation after digging latrines, scrubbing blanco, peeling spuds or returning from a seemingly pointless route march.

It’s easy to understand that the following ditty, sung to John Brown’s Body, provided the infantry footsloggers with a sly laugh.

Our Sergeant Major’s got a crown upon his arm,
Our Sergeant Major’s got a crown upon his arm,
Our Sergeant major’s got a crown upon his arm,
And he thinks he’s got it on his fucking head.

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