Guest Blog: Songs Commemorating WWI

By Jamie Swift with thanks to Clarke Mackey for the recording from our Christmas Truce event.

In 1971 Scottish folk singer Eric Bogle composed one of the most famous antiwar songs ever written. And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda tells the story of one Australian soldier’s experience of the tragic battle at Gallipoli.

There’s a slightly lesser known, but no less poignant,  WW I ballad by Bogle — No Man’s Land, more commonly known as The Green Fields of France.  This lament is all the more touching in its reference to the ancient Scottish folk tune The Flowers of the Forest. Bogle’s lyric has this song being played over the grave of young William McBride, buried beneath the green fields of France in 1916.

The Green Fields of France offers a measure of irony. Private McBridehas not been killed. He has  joined “the glorious fallen.” Bogle continues with a bitter description of “a whole generation that was butchered and damned.”

On the centenary of the Christmas Truce of 1914, PeaceQuest organized an event at the Memorial Room of Kingston’s City Hall. It was a salute to the soldiers on both sides who spontaneously laid down their arms to celebrate Christmas in a spirit of comradely reconciliation. One of the organizers was Al Rankin who also performed The Green Field of France that cold evening . He was joined by two young Kingston musicians, Liam Fenton and Kieran L’Abbe.

Al Rankin and Friends: Christmas Truce 1914 Event from Clarke Mackey on Vimeo.