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What a Lovely War

‘British Songs' Songs from the Boer War to the Present Day’


Gordon Hall (Sussex)  Hamish Henderson (Edinburgh)  Nibs Matthews (London)  David Blick (Gloucestershire) Margaret Gardham (Hull)  George Bregenzer (London)  George Collinson (Hull)  Maurice Rooney (Norwich)  Rex Gregson (Carlisle)  Bill Alexander (London)  Harold Wirdham (Gloucestershire)  Malcolm Speake (Birmingham)  John Pearce (Birmingham)

(click on the artistes name to see a photo and /or a short biography)


From soldiers’ songs one ‘might learn some things that are not to be found in dispatches’. Gavin Greig’s remark about the period of the Peninsular War could well be applied to the unofficial repertoire of  servicemen (and women) in more recent times.
The items given here are a selection from the 120 and more in Roy Palmer’s book. “WHAT A LOVELY WAR!” — ‘British Soldiers’ Songs from the Boer War to the Present Day’ (Michael Joseph 1990) and the recordings have been made by those of his original informants who could still sing the songs. Almost all are old soldiers and the song by Margaret Gardham reminds us that women’s services had their own repertoire.
Of the thirteen singers here the oldest is John Pearce of Birmingham. A sprightly nonagenarian who was conscripted into the army at the age of eighteen in 1916. The most remarkable is Gordon Hall of Sussex, whose impressive and extensive fund of songs is drawn not only from his own time as a national serviceman In the early 1950’s but from the diverse military experiences of his father (First World War), mother (worked in army canteens), uncle (prison-of-war In Germany during the First World War, followed by twenty years’ service In India) and older brother (Second World War).
Hamish Henderson of Edinburgh, a veteran of the Italian campaigns of the Second World War, makes all too rare an appearance as a recorded singer. He contributes born traditional army songs and identifiable compositions. including his own. At least one of these, ‘The Highland Division’s Farewell to Sicily’, has crossed the bridge by itself, acquiring quasi-tradition status.
Here then, are some samples of soldiers’ preoccupations ‘that are not to be found in dispatches’.

Warning: As these are uncensored soldiers songs, there is material on this album that some might find offensive.


1. Bugle Call Rhyme - Harold Wirdham
2. Salonika - Gordon Hall
3. The Highland Division's Farewell to Sicilly - Hamish Henderson
4. The REME song - David Blick
5. We Are the WAAFs - Margaret Gardham
6. Quartermaster's Store - Gordon Hall
7. The Codfish - George Bregenzer
8. The Soldier and the Sailor - Nibs Matthews
9. The Kriegie Ballad - Hamish Henderson
10. CRE Song - George Collinson
11. Down the Mine - Maurice Rooney
12. How Did I Ever Become a Corporal? - Rex Gregson
13. Three German Officers Crossed the Rhine - Gordon Hall
14. I Wore a Tunic - Gordon Hall
15. The Ballad of Wadi Maktilla - Hamish Henderson
16. This Old Coat of Mine - George Collinson
17. Lulu - Nibs Matthews
18. Valley of Jarama - Bill Alexander
19. Sulvla Bay - Gordon Hall
20. A Soldier's Farewell to India - Harold Wirdham
21. Orderly Song - Malcolm Speake
22. We are the First Herts Boys - Nibs Matthews
23. D-Day Dodgers - Hamish Henderson
24. Ragtime Soldier - John Pearce
25. Blandford in the Mud - Gordon Hall
26. Hanging on the Old Barbed Wire - Gordon Hall


This is now a digital download release only.


MP3 downloads are available from all major digital retailers, as full albums or individual tracks, and there you can listen to a sample of each track. The following links will take you directly to this album's page on amazon or iTunes.


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