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Still In The War, Boys!

by The Crows Of Albion

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“It was eleven o’clock at night – twelve by German time – when the ultimatum expired. The windows of the Admiralty were thrown wide open in the warm night air. Under the roof from which Nelson had received his orders were gathered a small group of admirals and captains and a cluster of clerks, pencils in hand, waiting. Along the Mall from the direction of the Palace the sound of an immense concourse singing ‘God save the King’ flouted in. On this deep wave there broke the chimes of Big Ben; and, as the first stroke of the hour boomed out, a rustle of movement swept across the room. The war telegram, which meant, “Commence hostilities against Germany”, was flashed to the ships and establishments under the White Ensign all over the world. I walked across the Horse Guards Parade to the Cabinet room and reported to the Prime Minister and the Ministers who were assembled there that the deed was done.” POETRY FORM: Narrative
The Bicycle Scout bicycle wheel spins in blood drenched Belgian hops as the echo of a gunshot fades away behind the gorse hedgerow Private John Parr drops amid the yellow hypnotic summer sway he is the first scythe-cut of Britain’s young crops many come to deathly harvest from this day and when the madness eventually stops for him, and those that follow, the world will pray
Angel of Mons Perhaps it was the heartbeat of the guns Thump-thumping in a cacophonic rage, or the secret, sly, scurry of the rats that banished sleep those first nights at the front. For when I marched, the sky became a wall, the moonlight through the dust made me believe I saw some great cathedral in the gloom, with windows of stained glass cast from the stars. We lay upon the slick and oozing wounds, etched deep into the body of the land, for so long that the earth began to draw us back towards its decayed, tombstone, teeth. Oh, for the archers fresh from Agincourt to cloud the skies with arrows quilled with hope. Alas, poor Machen’s bowmen stayed at home, safe in soft sheets of the Evening News. I prayed and drowned beneath the tide of blood. Just as all faith began to ebb away a cry rang out across the Flanders fields of “Adsit Anglis Sanctus Georgius”, and to my tired eyes I thought I saw a figure clothed in gold rise from the mud. With wings unfurled and flaming sword held high this angel led us from the hell of Mons.
White Feather I didn’t see her pass me in the street, the woman with the husband at the front, but felt the tell-tale tickle of a feather - pressed discreetly soft against my palm. The accusation whispered in a hate-filled voice, “Coward”, dripped with venom from her lips and I assumed she talked to me, although I couldn’t see if the feather in my hand was truly white. For I had returned blind from a skirmish overseas - a fact, to which, the spiteful wife was blind. Though unlike her, I had lost my sight, not through ignorance, just mustard gas and pure white blast of ordnance designed to hurt and maim. I asked myself, if Jesus Christ had deigned to walk the earth in these testing times of blood and hate and war, would he have volunteered to go to fight in France or would he have stood in line with men of conscience and received the burning ridicule and misdirected spittle flung in their faces as they declared themselves pacifist? Would he have taken arms with intent to kill a fellow man who he had never met, in a ditch across the waves - and would that seething woman, have pressed into his hand a feather, white, with all that that entails and branded Christ a coward in the eyes of the self righteous? would she? would she? would she? and if not – then she should think upon the nature of a man and ask herself who is the brave and who the bravest…..
Remember Scarborough! The day our town was visited by war, we hardly had the time to ring the bells. The bairns were playing on our golden shore and savouring the fish and seaweed smells, building castles of sand, collecting shells, though these were not of molluscs but of steel - and all at once a thousand blazing hells fell from the sky with each chiming peel. Remember Scarborough –our wounds will never heal There were over a hundred Yorkshire dead A battery that flattened promenade destroyed cliffs as far as Flamborough Head brought death to each and every back yard there would be no pretty picture postcard. It took all of these honest folk to die Before England finally raised its guard The posters henceforth raised the battle cry “Remember Scarborough” the Hun are nigh!
Home By Christmas I fear I let my feelings rule my head, that you would have no trouble getting leave. You would be home by Christmas as they said. All through the Autumn, sleeping cold in bed, I dreamt of all our marriage would achieve. I fear I let my feelings rule my head. Not since the day that both of us were wed had we missed carols, sung that holy eve. You would be home by Christmas as they said. Yet, as the letters came, all proudly read, your tales of valour soon made me believe. I fear I let my feelings rule my head. Friends home on leave said you had taken lead - only wounded, it hardly tore your sleeve. You would be home by Christmas as they said. The truth was that my husband, dear, was dead - His body boxed and sent back, I could grieve. I fear I let my feelings rule my head, you would be home by Christmas as they said. ------------------------------- In the bleak mid winter, frosty winds made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen snow on snow, snow upon snow in the bleak mid winter - many years ago.
War Boys 03:31
War Boys “YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU” We’re going to war boys, we’re going to war, Lord Kitchener asked us so we formed a corps. Joe and Jack from the factory, Ted and Jim from the farm, the recruiting sergeant assures us that there’s little chance of harm. We’re part of the great pals army and we’ve fallen for his charm as we march away to war. We’re in the war boys, we’re in the war, we think we were lied to but we’re not too sure. Bullets are flying everywhere some of them get quite near, our cocky, jaunty demeanour is now riddled through with fear. Our pals are dying everywhere and there’s no time to shed a tear as we fight this blooming war. We’re sick of the war boys, we’re sick of the war, we’ve had enough of it, can’t take any more. I’ve seen friends explode in pieces, I’ve seen bone and guts and blood, and everywhere we march there’s this terrible fucking mud and when a shell flies by you you’re just praying it’s a dud. We’re so sick of this war. I’m home from war boys, I’m home from war, just me on my own, boys, from a hundred and four. They died like cattle in the field, cut down by bayonet and shell, sucked into the earth like they were journeying to hell. All my friends died horribly, only I was left to tell of the boys who went to war. I’m still in the war boys, I’m still in the war, I talk to friends who were with me before. I see their muddy faces, I hear their mournful boasts, buried under Flanders fields so they can’t desert their posts. I’m no longer with the living I’m just drifting with the ghosts of the boys who went to war.
Slamming Flies Arriving at the Dardanelles - guns flashing, the sound of rifle fire, they heaved our ship up to the shore. my nerves as taut as cheese wire. We sat there waiting for the dawn and saw a big marquee that made us think of village fetes. We had to go and see. Like boys going to a circus, we all rushed up to get in - but found it all laced up – and then we heard the buzzing. Unlaced and pulled back, It was full of dead Englishmen. with their eyes wide open. We hoped we knew none of them. We all stopped talking. I’d never seen a dead man before - then three hundred - all at once! God damn this bloody war. The next day we reached ‘dead ground’, where the enemy couldn’t see you, and we wandered it in the evening – we had little else to do. asking about friends who had arrived a month before. Had they survived? “How’s Ernie Taylor?” “Have you seen Albert Jones?” “Ernie and Albert? They’re gone” Just a few of the million bones. It taught us that our names were unimportant It taught us that our chances were scant. We reached a trench so full of dead men that we could hardly move. There was a cloying stink. There was nothing left to prove. For a while there was nothing but the living hordes being sick upon the dead. Splattering the boards We set to work to bury them, pushed them into the sides of the trench – there was nowhere left to hide. but bits kept getting uncovered and sticking out at angles, like people in a badly made bed. All flop and hang and dangles. Hands were the worst, they would escape from the sand, pointing, begging, even waving! Across the destroyed land. There was one we all shook as we passed, saying “Good Morning” Ignoring as it gassed. The bottom of the trench was springy like a mattress because of all the bodies underneath. A carpet of battle dress. Then the flies came and lined the walls completely with a density that was like a moving cloth. Rippling, discreetly. We killed millions by slamming our spades along trench walls but the next night it would be just as bad. Clanging like a church bell calls. We wept, not because we were scared but because we were so dirty. None of us were spared. Our Souls withered and died. In this place of fetid smell and we, the uninvited guests, were all damned to hell.
It's a Long Way to Tipperary It's a long way to Tipperary, It's a long way to go. It's a long way to Tipperary To the sweetest girl I know! Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square! It's a long, long way to Tipperary, But my heart's right there. That's the wrong way to tickle Mary, That's the wrong way to kiss! Don't you know that over here, lad, They like it best like this! Hooray pour le Francais! Farewell, Angleterre! We didn't know the way to tickle Mary, But we learned how, over there! It's a long way to Tipperary, It's a long way to go. It's a long way to Tipperary To the sweetest girl I know! Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square! It's a long, long way to Tipperary, But my heart's right there. It's a long way to Tipperary, It's a long way to go. It's a long way to Tipperary To the sweetest girl I know! Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square! It's a long, long way to Tipperary, But my heart's right there.
Grandchildren Of The Somme the dead lay on the injured earth all wearing grey death masks of mud a tally of what life is worth just bone and sinew flesh and blood attrition wrought its deadly cost the river Somme held back its flood humanity forever lost just bone and sinew flesh and blood sixteen miles wide and just six deep survivors wondered if they could block out the dreams that came in sleep just bone and sinew flesh and blood under blue skies and green fields bright grandchildren gather where they stood and count the rows of crosses white just bone and sinew flesh and blood
1916 04:04
1916 16 years old when I went to the war, To fight for a land fit for heroes, God on my side, and a gun in my hand, Chasing my days down to zero, And I marched and I fought and I bled and I died, And I never did get any older, But I knew at the time that a year in the line, Was a long enough life for a soldier, We all volunteered, and we wrote down our names, And we added two years to our ages, Eager for life and ahead of the game, Ready for history's pages, And we brawled and we fought and we whored 'til we stood, Ten thousand shoulder to shoulder, A thirst for the Hun, we were food for the gun, And that's what you are when you're soldiers, I heard my friend cry, and he sank to his knees, Coughing blood as he screamed for his mother, And I fell by his side, and that's how we died, Clinging like kids to each other, And I lay in the mud and the guts and the blood, And I wept as his body grew colder, And I called for my mother and she never came, Though it wasn't my fault and I wasn't to blame, The day not half over and ten thousand slain, And now there's nobody remembers our names, And that's how it is for a soldier.
Dead Men’s Boots tough as old leather their souls worn down eyes vacant of lace collected by the door the day they swapped their pit-boots for the Kings shilling and donned their shiny new military issue there they stayed gathering dust and old potatoes in their safe grasp neatly lined waiting for the return of father and two sons to the safety of their hearth day after day after day sometimes kicked askew but always realigned like a row of invisible soldiers standing to attention silent and obedient unquestioning and stoic until the morning that a knock came to the peeling door and a telegram fluttered from the fingers of wife and mother coming to rest across these dead men’s boots
Craiglockhart (Not Yet Diagnosed Nervous) I kicked over the wheelchair - couldn’t do the simplest task, except the epileptic flailing of my army antimasque. the hissing gas-lamp had me reaching for the mask. You opened up my mind and you didn’t even ask. I’m like a marionette with twisted strings, my limbs are jack-knifing and my inner ear sings of the pain of war and other perverse things. I can’t find the peace a hospital brings. CHORUS Sh-sh-sh shut the fuck up, I think I’m going insane, I’ve got all these bombs going off in my brain. I’m like a rabid dog at the end of it’s chain they’re gonna send me back to the front again. No matter how obedient your soldiers of war, when shells reign down they’ll be shaken to the core, until there comes a time when they can’t take anymore and their minds shut down behind a closed door. You think it might be shock waves, or poison from the shells that’s making me withdraw into this epileptic hell - sometimes you shrug your shoulders - say “we just can’t tell, if it’s lack of moral fibre that’s making him unwell”. REPEAT CHORUS Your treatments are barbaric, Persuade, Explain, Suggest - baths, massage, electric shocks are really for the best, when all my mind needs Is aching, morbid rest, and not feeling like a rat in a cataclysmic test. You put me in this chapel you sit me in this chair you give me books to read and feign a sense of care - but one day I will walk from here and people will not stare at the dancing crazy fucker. The Craiglockhart nightmare. REPEAT CHORUS
Pack up your Troubles Private Perks is a funny little codger With a smile a funny smile. Five feet none, he's and artful little dodger With a smile a funny smile. Flush or broke he'll have his little joke, He can't be suppress'd. All the other fellows have to grin When he gets this off his chest, Hi! Chorus Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, And smile, smile, smile, While you've a lucifer to light your fag, Smile, boys, that's the style. What's the use of worrying? It never was worth while, so Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag, And smile, smile, smile. Private Perks went a-marching into Flanders With his smile his funny smile. He was lov'd by the privates and commanders For his smile his funny smile. When a throng of Bosches came along With a mighty swing, Perks yell'd out, "This little bunch is mine! Keep your heads down, boys and sing, Hi! Repeat Chorus Private Perks he came back from Bosche-shooting With his smile his funny smile. Round his home he then set about recruiting With his smile his funny smile. He told all his pals, the short, the tall, What a time he'd had; And as each enlisted like a man Private Perks said 'Now my lad,' Hi! Repeat Chorus
DULCE ET DECORUM EST Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs And towards our distant rest began to trudge. Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind. Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!---An ecstasy of fumbling, Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime... Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. If in some smothering dreams you too could pace Behind the wagon that we flung him in, And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--- My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Passchendaele Blind, wide open, eyes. Dripping poppy petal tears. Crimson rivers flow. Fields transformed to mud. Deep cut trenches scar the earth. Wounds that will not heal. Gas clouds drift from hell. Death exhaled in fetid breath. Lost boys fall like flies. Ghosts haunt no mans land searching for their bitter souls in butchered bodies. Finding empty shells, cold bullet riddled corpses. Nameless and broken. First light cracks the dark Holy, holy Seraphim burn the battlefield. No place for God here. Just the stench of charnel house and false politics. Loss of Innocence on Golgotha’s barbaric ridge at Passchendaele.
Canary Girl 04:43
Canary Girl When she went there her eyes were clear, just seventeen, her skin was fair. She was my love, my Jeanie dear, she wore blue ribbons in her hair of blond, and I could only stare and wonder at her beauty wild. The sweet songbird - my only child. She had a voice that raised good cheer, when Jeanie sang we were aware in chapels (and after a beer), that angel song was not as rare as what my daughter chose to share. We were transfixed, bewitched, beguiled. The sweet songbird - my only child. She handled bombs for just a year, harsh chemicals – which took great care - and always there a nagging fear that woke her often with a scare of letting slip the dread nightmare - a spark that left the shell defiled. The sweet songbird - my only child. When she left there I shed a tear, her hair was green, not for a dare, but that’s what all the girls have here in Chilwell where the very air turns skin a yellow shade – and there she lay among the bodies piled - the sweet songbird - my only child.
Death Of A Poet The grey November sky has lost its light, just one more boy has fallen to his death, another lad who won’t survive the fight or pass beyond this final exhaled breath. Though many soldiers leave this war unheard, their stories lost forever, never told, this one will paint us pictures with his words that will not lose their power or grow old. A week beyond that fatal canal dawn a peace is brokered and the guns fall still. In Monkmoor Road a joyful early morn is destroyed and a mothers tears will spill. Outside the bright clanging Armistice bell chimes “Wilfred Owen has a tale to tell”. __________________________________ into Anthem For Doomed Youth What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells, Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, - The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires. What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds
Armistice (Gods Of War) The ink upon this document dries twice as fast as blood that seeps into this continent and mixes with the mud. The war to end all wars they say, though many have their doubts that a piece of paper, signed today, will quell the zealots shouts. So they dance beneath the spires of Britannia’s grieving towns and let the mourning of sad shires taint her flimsy tattered gown. The bells ring their grieving chime for all the missing souls and for the first time in a long time soldiers climb out from their holes. Home, to children they don’t recognise and wives who don’t understand the vacant look behind their eyes or the shaking of their hands. They won’t talk of what they’ve seen or what they’ve been made to do, mere ghosts of what they’ve been they walk in dead men’s shoes. So let them have this day, to rejoice and heal their scars, let the booming marching bands lead them all to joyous bars, for they are only Human and they all believe the lie - but we are still the Gods Of War and we will never die.
Ode Of Remembrance (For The Fallen) They went with songs to the battle, they were young. Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them. They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam. We will remember them….
Masters Of War Come you masters of war You that build all the guns You that build the death planes You that build the big bombs You that hide behind walls You that hide behind desks I just want you to know I can see through your masks You that never done nothin’ But build to destroy You play with my world Like it’s your little toy You put a gun in my hand And you hide from my eyes And you turn and run farther When the fast bullets fly Like Judas of old You lie and deceive A world war can be won You want me to believe But I see through your eyes And I see through your brain Like I see through the water That runs down my drain You fasten the triggers For the others to fire Then you set back and watch When the death count gets higher You hide in your mansion As young people’s blood Flows out of their bodies And is buried in the mud You’ve thrown the worst fear That can ever be hurled Fear to bring children Into the world For threatening my baby Unborn and unnamed You ain’t worth the blood That runs in your veins How much do I know To talk out of turn You might say that I’m young You might say I’m unlearned But there’s one thing I know Though I’m younger than you Even Jesus would never Forgive what you do Let me ask you one question Is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness Do you think that it could I think you will find When your death takes its toll All the money you made Will never buy back your soul And I hope that you die And your death’ll come soon I will follow your casket In the pale afternoon And I’ll watch while you’re lowered Down to your deathbed And I’ll stand o’er your grave ’Til I’m sure that you’re dead


From Declaration Of War to Armistice - this is the story of the first world war in poetry and music


released October 3, 2014


ALL WORDS: Ian Whiteley
ALL MUSIC: Martin Heaton & Ian Whiteley

ALL VOCALS: Ian Whiteley

RECORDED AT: The Music Projects, Wigan (17th April - 20th August 2014)
PRODUCED BY: Martin Heaton & Ian Whiteley


all rights reserved


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