Green Fields of France

OffGuardian has covered the first World War at length. We have a category for it. We have deconstructed the old propaganda, watched in-depth documentaries, relived the historic trauma.

We believe it is a foundational, vital area of study. Important to teach us about our limitations as a people and society…and to prevent the manipulation of the population by a war-hungry state.

There’s room for infinite analysis. There’s a need for academic research. But sometimes, some days, you just need to remember the tragedy and the waste.

Sometimes, a poem and prayer are all that is needed.

We love this song because it doesn’t glorify or sanitise. It tells the story of one man, that could be any of a million, and it underlines the waste and pointlessness of it all.


Well how do you do young Willy Mc Bride
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while in the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done

I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great falling in nineteen fifteen
Well I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or young Willy McBride was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fifes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined
And though you died back in nineteen fifteen
In some faithful heart are you forever nineteen

Or are you a stranger without even a name
Enshrined forever behind a glass frame
In an old photograph torn battered and stained
And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame

Well the sun now it shines on the green fields of France
There’s a warm summer breeze it makes the red poppies dance
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds
There’s no gas no barbed wire, there’s no gun firing now

But here in this graveyard it’s still no man’s land
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand
To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man
To a whole generation that were butchered and dammed

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fifes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

Well young Willy McBride I can’t help wonder why
Do those that lie here know why did they die
And did they believe when they answered the call
Did they really believe that this war could end war

Well the sorrow the suffering the glory the pain
The killing the dying was all done in vain
For young Willy McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they sound the fifes lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus?
Did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

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Nov 16, 2020 5:40 AM

My favorite song, always brings tears to my eyes. It aligns so closely with my own experieces and military service.

Dimly Glimpsed
Dimly Glimpsed
Nov 13, 2019 5:23 PM

Human beings are the only species on Planet Earth, that I can think of, who have surmounted basic survival issues. Yet instead of acting as benign gods toward Mother Earth, we play the role of devil. Most of human suffering is caused by humans. Sadly, much of the suffering of other species is also caused by humans. The suffering we humans inflict on ourselves and others is often needless, pointless, wasteful, immoral and most shameful of all, shameless.

Nov 11, 2019 4:04 PM

Thank you for the song I have been trying to remember what it was called. It used to be on an old anti war compilation CD I had years ago.

Nov 11, 2019 3:59 PM

And yet within the same day as the silence of Lest we forget. Corbyn is being pilloried and attacked for his anti war stance. The Bastard doesn’t even want to drop a nuclear bomb on any one. Dear god what is wrong with them all. Hears to the white poppy I say.

Nov 11, 2019 4:00 PM
Reply to  Kathy

Sorry, momentary lack of concentration. Should be here!.

Nov 11, 2019 10:48 AM

You have to add Edward Thomas to this piece

The propaganda for war is ever present. As many gathered in my town yesterday the relevance and irrelevance is sharply noted. The relevance of remembrance is astute. But my, how the propaganda survives and mutates. Most people do not see a difference yet the modern, illegal and putrifying notion of ‘war is the answer to everything’ remains and grips in its fervour.

Old Man
Old Man, or Lad’s-love,—in the name there’s nothing
To one that knows not Lad’s-love, or Old Man,
The hoar-green feathery herb, almost a tree,
Growing with rosemary and lavender.
Even to one that knows it well, the names
Half decorate, half perplex, the thing it is:
At least, what that is clings not to the names
In spite of time. And yet I like the names.

The herb itself I like not, but for certain
I love it, as some day the child will love it
Who plucks a feather from the door-side bush
Whenever she goes in or out of the house.
Often she waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling
The shreds at last on to the path, perhaps
Thinking, perhaps of nothing, till she sniffs
Her fingers and runs off. The bush is still
But half as tall as she, though it is as old;
So well she clips it. Not a word she says;
And I can only wonder how much hereafter
She will remember, with that bitter scent,
Of garden rows, and ancient damson-trees
Topping a hedge, a bent path to a door,
A low thick bush beside the door, and me
Forbidding her to pick.

As for myself,
Where first I met the bitter scent is lost.
I, too, often shrivel the grey shreds,
Sniff them and think and sniff again and try
Once more to think what it is I am remembering,
Always in vain. I cannot like the scent,
Yet I would rather give up others more sweet,
With no meaning, than this bitter one.

I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray
And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing;
Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait
For what I should, yet never can, remember:
No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush
Of Lad’s-love, or Old Man, no child beside,
Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate;
Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.

Nov 11, 2019 9:20 AM

I once read a book by Robert Holdstock, a British fanatasy writer. The book was called “Avilion” and contained a poem about his grandfather in WWI France. The poem was called Fields of tartan and recounted how the pipers led the troops over the top and into the machine guns. For the troops slipping and sliding in the mud, they walked to their deaths across a field of mud, blood and tartan.
Unfortunately, I can’t find a reprint of the poem but it has stayed with me through the years. I wish they read it to children.

Nov 11, 2019 2:08 AM

Thanks for this. Couple of minor points.

I’m surprised that the song is Ireland’s favourite folk song, given that they have so many fantastic songs of their own. It’s been covered extensively by many Irish bands and singers, but the writer, Eric Bogle, is actually Scottish.

The lyrics should be “the great fallen” not “the great falling”. I’d be very surprised if Eric made that mistake in his original version of the lyrics.

Nov 11, 2019 12:25 AM

sweet sounds, for something so sickly……deserves a deeper reach imo, progressive metal perhaps ?

Nov 11, 2019 4:48 PM
Reply to  Doctortrinate


I agree that the version attached to the article is a little too ‘nicely’ sung. Of course the impact and sense of meaning is in the words and that is the point of the article, but I do prefer this version sung by Finbar Furey. It is the passion and rawness that he brings to the song enhanced by the less than perfect audience participation that I find particularly moving. I saw the Fureys performing several times in the 1980s and they always sang this song which, without fail, prompted the audience to join in as one.

Nov 11, 2019 6:35 PM
Reply to  JudyJ

agreed Judy – that is an improvement. Thanks.

but still, not raw enough, imo.

Feed the War Cannibal – RATM, Bulls on Parade.


Nov 10, 2019 11:47 PM

Eliot’s Lines for an Old Man is one of my favourite poems…

Lines for an Old Man

by TS Eliot

The tiger in the tiger-pit
Is not more irritable than I.
The whipping tail is not more still
Than when I smell the enemy
Writhing in the essential blood
Or dangling from the friendly tree.
When I lay bare the tooth of wit
The hissing over the arched tongue
Is more affectionate than hate,
More bitter than the love of youth,
And inaccessible by the young.
Reflected from my golden eye.
The dullard knows that he is mad.

Tell me if I am not glad!

I’d rather be reporting on the absolutely appalling stuff that’s going on in France at the moment, but it’s difficult to do so.

This TS poem is seen as one of his minor pieces, yet I think it’s one of his best pieces, and is so relevant now.

Read it and make up your own mind.

Nov 10, 2019 11:59 PM
Reply to  RobG

Bloody hell, the formatting in this comment section is tres difficile.

And for the record, I’m not an old man; I’m 55 years old, and quite fit.

George Mc
George Mc
Nov 11, 2019 8:17 AM
Reply to  RobG

I have the same problem inserting copied lyrics. Even if I transfer them to Notepad and back, whenever I post them on Off-G, they always come out double spaced.

Nov 10, 2019 10:57 PM

Human rights are separate, inalienable to mankind, rights. But the governed in nearly every nation has allowed those that control the nation state (government) to decide what the rights are and when to honor them. Something is wrong with this picture?

Human rights should be the top level of all domains
| | | | | | |
USA UK French Saudi Israeli Russian China
govt govt govt. govt govt Govt govt.

Adopting this premise. that Nation states must serve mankind.
We need a new court the human rights court and a new set of laws<=the laws of humanity
The folks in government are the governed with respect to the laws of humanity. No
government has the authority to allow any of its elements to violate a law of humanity.
The humans that the governments governed, are subject to the laws of the government for all matters not
a matter of human rights. The persons who work for or deal with the government are the governed for purposes of the laws of humanity. Reciprocal law of mankind. Governments rule the earth, but humans rule the governors that operate the government.
Using this reciprocal model of governance, that human rights are superior in all respects to nation state laws when the issue involves a human right while government rights are superior in all respects to human rights when the government dictates its laws to those it governs, but not government person, law, or leader can violate a human law without punishment, and no human can violate a government law without punishment. Hence it becomes the duty of all humanity to spy on those who are an element in or to the government and it is the duty of the government to spy one those it governs. .

When a human member of the governed discovers a government persons (humans, corporations, congress and officers, government employees, members of the military or the bureaucracy, or contractors, suppliers and the like) violating a human right, the human should be able to file a complaint in the independent of the government, HRCOURT.
The HRCOURT should hear the complaint of the governed human and consider the evidence to decide it it should heard the arguments because the complaint has sufficient merit to proceed.
At that point the HRCOURT should remove the accused member of government who is the subject of the complaint, and hold that government person until the human rights court can appoint and impanel a jury of 12 governed humans to enable the prosecution and the defence to present to that jury of the governed their evidence and arguments in the case.
If the finding of the jury and the court is that the government person violated a human right, then the court shall deliver a punishment and the government person would not be eligible to return to the government for his or her lifetime.

so what are the human rights?
not to be lied to? not to be denied life, liberty, pursuit of happiness or to be kept in the dark as to the operations of the government, right to travel, right to the best education and medical technology each society has, right to compete in business or for pleasure without the imposition of a denying force, like monopoly powers vested in another, the right to fairness, justice and non negligent represenation by those in government (so corruption or illegal acts infringe human rights). this list needs to be worked on.

Nov 11, 2019 11:24 AM
Reply to  smokey


Of course you are absolutely right and morally justified. But, unfortunately: we have been through the process you advocate – with which I am in total solidarity – and we do not live in that world. Please read this brief history of the London Agreement 1945:

The London Agreement – or Nuremberg Charter – is the supposed foundation of all current International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Which has been abrogated by all major signatories – most obviously the US. IHL only really exists as a tool of the corporate revolution to demonise and eventually prosecute any dissenting persons: whilst itself being immune. They are above the law they created.

It goes deeper than that. The corporations themselves are legal persons – particularly under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. State governments are also legal persons. This confers limited liability on the natural persons that constitute both. This is known as the corporate veil. You can sue Exxon but not Rex Tillerson.

This has pros and cons: but the main con is that the sort of human rights you advocate do not exist. The corporations and the state have taken the human rights upon themselves as part of their legal fictional personhood. Natural persons have no real human rights. Ask an indigenous person shortly before they are murdered by the likes of Rio Tinto. Where can they sue for the forfeit of life to corporate commerce?

This is complicated by the corporations acting trans-nationally …as trans-national corporations or multi-nationals (TNCs or MNCs). Effectively; they have a global compact that is above any national law. And they have limited liability. But do not worry: they have all agreed to be socially responsible and regulate themselves. This is known as corporate self responsibility. So you can trust the TNCs to have your best interests at heart, can’t you? Except if you live in the Amazon or any other resource cursed country. Or biodiversity cursed country and you happen to have your ancestral lands their. Then you will be murdered by the WWF to validate Agenda 2030/2063 to ‘protect nature’ …from the ancient custodians of the land?

Effectively, as Susan George has called them – the TNCs are Shadow Sovereigns that control governments. They are the law of corporate self-responsibility, corporate self-determination, and ‘human rights’ conferred as legal personhood on fictive quasi-legal entities. A corporation or state is an entity separate from the natural persons that constitute it. For which the natural persons have limited liability – except when it comes to extracting the profit margin. And externalising murder.

Essentially, the hole IHL jurisprudence is skewed away from natural persons …especially indigenous ones who stand in the way of progress. The global governance architecture confers human rights on TNC and TNC ‘incorporated states’ which it administers through the UN Charter and WTO ‘rules based order’. When they talk of humanitarian law: they mean the TNCs – not you. When they talk of ‘social inclusion’ – they mean for them – and not for you and I. And indigenous people do not count at all.

I would have thought this was all self-evident by now. But we keep on ratifying a trans-national system of jurisprudence that is heavily weighted and prejudiced against us. And we keep on validating the incorporated state structure with our passive support: mainlining (sic) the illusion that they are working for us.

There is no system of natural justice – such as you propose – because jurisprudence and Common Law (such as where it is supposed to exist) – have been subordinated to the unnatural law of fictive legal personhood of statuted states and corporations. We, the People – the natural persons – are the source of all jurisprudence, natural justice, and human rights …but we gave that power away. That power – our own – is now the dominative overpower to which we confer legal status and legitimacy with our passivity and obedience. Your human rights are no longer yours anymore. Our obedience to a corrupt system is the dominative overpower we gave away and validated as we consented to our voluntary subordination. If that sounds fucked up: it’s because it is. Only, not a lot of people see it that way.

Nov 10, 2019 9:54 PM

Bolivia xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

It looks like there’s been some kind of military coup in Bolivia with Evo Morales forced to resign.
This has got the fingerprints of the Neocohens and the CIA all over it.

World’s largest reserves of lithium and all sorts of resources.

No doubt the BBC will shortly explain to us how he was a “dictator” who had to be overthrown and how wonderful this is.

Nov 11, 2019 12:19 PM
Reply to  mark

The CIA? No, the Almighty mossad again!

Nov 10, 2019 12:12 PM

Mankind is truly Lost in Space.
Surrounded by nothing making sense
but the wing flaps of a Butterfly.

He, who has no respect for Life, will
experience only Death. Inescapably.

When will the Universe give mankind
its fortune cookie that recommends:

“Try better next time.”?

Mike Leach
Mike Leach
Nov 10, 2019 12:00 PM

Eric Bogle – fantastic songwriter. The horror and waste of war is something of a specialist subject of his – ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ is another outstanding one.

Fair dinkum
Fair dinkum
Nov 10, 2019 8:48 PM
Reply to  Mike Leach

Spot on Mike.
Here it is>
Our sycophantic Prime Minister at the time, Billy Hughes, would have sacrificed another 60,000 Australian lives given his way.
Fortunately, the union movement in Australia stopped his conscription bill.

Mike Leach
Mike Leach
Nov 10, 2019 9:35 PM
Reply to  Fair dinkum