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Military – Army, Navy & Air Force next 1


Army Songs Are Part Of Our Digger Tradition

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Some of these songs emerged before active service and here’s a classic I collected from Allan Brittan, of Kogarah, in 1986, about Puckapunyal training centre, Victoria, set to the tune of Bye Bye Birdie:

Pack up all your bags and kit,
Puckapunyal’s up the shit,
Bye-bye Pucka.
Stew for breakfast, stew for tea,
No more bloody stew for me,
Bye-bye Pucka

No more hiking over bloody mountains,
We’ll be drinking Foster’s out of fountains,
No more blanco, no more brass,
You can shove them up your arse,
Pucka, bye-bye.

It doesn’t take much for this type of parody to be born and circulated. Soldiers had to entertain themselves and some song titles scream out to have their words changed to suit the local environment. Joe Watson, of Caringbah, sang this one to It’s A Long Way To Tipperary

It’s a long way to the Riverina,
It’s a long way to go.
Goodbye Wagga Wagga,
Farewell dear old Hay,
It’s a long way to the Riverina,
And the sweet bush girl I know.
It’s a long way to the Riverina,
It’s a long long way to go –
But we’ll come back I know.

Some ditties aimed themselves straight for the top brass reflecting the Australian myth that our soldiers were amongst the best in the world – but they wouldn’t salute another man, whatever rank. There was also general discontent with army food.

The Brigadier he gets the turkey,
The Colonel has his duck,
The Officers all have poultry,
They always were in luck.
The Sergeants have bread and cheese,
And mop up all they can,
But al the poor old private gets,
Is bread and tinker’s jam.

And to the tune of McNamara’s Ball the anonymous Private figured out military order.

Oh, the Colonel kicks the Major,
And the Major has a go.
He kicks the poor old Captain,
Who then kicks the NCO.
And as the kicks get harder,
They are passed on down to me,
And I am kicked to bleedin’ hell,
To save democracy.

Undoubtedly WW1 contributed more songs to our military song tradition than any other war. This has a lot to do with the influence of the early radio and gramophone industries in making music more accessible in a short period of time. It was also the first time songs openly expressed the emotional fears experienced by soldiers. This was new in the history of soldier songs and it was apparent the army ‘brass’ turned a ‘deaf ear’ to allow such fears, grievances and down-right bitch-sessions to be aired. It was also a lengthy war and the songs played an important role in maintaining solidarity and morale. There is something spirited in defiantly singing in the face of the enemy and possible death.

There is little doubt that the men and women who fought in our wars deserve our eternal gratitude. Long may they sing!