Clicking on this blue square gives you correct entrance into The Heritage of the Great War - to the FrontpageTHE HERITAGE OF THE GREAT WARClicking on this blue square gives you correct entrance into The Heritage of the Great War - to the Frontpage
Clicking on this blue line gives you correct entrance into The Heritage of the Great War - to the Frontpage

  Did you really believe them  
that this war would end war?

Back to the Music section of The Heritage of the Great War

I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

(From the song The Green Fields of France)

BLUE LINE

The picture above was made by Mike Lobley especially for the song The Green Fields of France, also known as No Man's Land. The song was written by Eric Bogle.

After a visit to the war cemeteries in France in the early seventies Bogle turned a traditional Scottish lamento into a dramatic fictious conversation with Private William McBride. Maybe Bogle was inspired by an headstone he had seen, but problably the man and the name are equally fictious.

Piet Chielens, coordinator of the In Flanders Fields War Museum in Ypres, Belgium, and organizer of yearly peace concerts in Flanders, once checked all 1,700,000 names that are registered with the Commanwealth War Commission. He found no less than ten Privates William McBride.

Three of these William McBride's fell in 1916, two were members of the Northern Irish Regiment, the Royal Inniskilling Fusilliers, and died more or less in the same spot during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. One was 21, the other 19 years old. "The law of the greatest numbers does beat even the most poetical license", Chielens remarks.

The 19 years old Pte William McBride is buried in Authuille British Cemetery, near Albert and Beaumont-Hamel, where the Inniskilling Fusilliers were deployed as part of the 29th Division.

  Click the triangle to play Eric Bogle's original version of this song (MP3 Pro file, 2,9 Mb download).
  Click the triangle for a live recording of this song sung a capella by June Tabor (MP3 Pro file, 2,3 Mb download).

These are the words:

The Green Fields of France

Well how do you do, Private William McBride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?
A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,
I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done.
And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19
when you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.
Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean
Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

CHORUS:
Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in 1916
To that loyal heart are you always 19.
Or are you just a stranger without even a name
Forever enclosed behind some glass-pane
In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Well, the sun it shines down on these green fields of France,
The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.
The trenches are vanished now under the plough
No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.
But here in this graveyard it is still No Man's Land
And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.
To man's blind indifference to his fellow man
And a whole generation that was butchered and downed.

And I can't help but wonder now Willie McBride
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end war?
The suffering, the sorrow, some the glory, the shame -
The killing and dying - it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it's all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they beat the drum slowly?
did they sound the pipe lowly?
Did the rifles fire o'er ye as they lowered you down?
Did the bugle sing 'The Last Post' in chorus?
Did the pipes play 'The Flowers o' the Forest'?

  bal   To the Music Section of the 'Heritage of the Great War'

  bal   To the Frontpage of the 'Heritage of the Great War'