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This year's poppy appeal song sanitizing its anti-war message is a disgrace and should be withdrawn

Sung by Joss Stone, the Royal British Legion's version of Eric Bogle's classic song The Green Fields of France has removed its powerful anti-war message.

Joss Stone with red poppies

Joss Stone singing the sanitized version of Eric Bogle's song that removes its anti-war message.


THIS YEAR'S poppy appeal song is a disgrace. The Royal British Legion (RBL), the charity that promotes the red poppy, has got Joss Stone -- accompanied by Jeff Beck on guitar -- singing a version of Eric Bogle's classic anti-war song The Green Fields of France with its anti-war message removed.

The RBL titles the song No Man's Land and uses as the background to its video the Tower of London poppies, vindicating art critic Jonathan Jones's view that the Tower's sea of red roses prettifies the First World War. The grisly facts of history, says Jones, are worth more than fake red poppy illusions.

The Royal British Legion has in recent years made the poppy appeal as much a jingoistic celebration of the military as a commemoration of those who died in Britain's wars. It is therefore hardly surprising that it has deleted this verse from its version of Eric Bogle's song:

Ah young Willie 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 cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying, were all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

The First World War was to be the "war to end all wars". Instead, as this verse highlights, it heralded a century of virtually endless war: "it all happened again, and again, and again, and again, and again".

Next Sunday, on Remembrance Day, the politicians who today are promoting wars "again and again" -- whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya or Syria -- will stand solemnly at the Cenotaph. They will wear their red poppies in the week that Britain has been bombing Iraq, and has announced that it is sending troops back to the country it spent ten years helping the United States destroy, killing up to one million Iraqis.

The dramatic increase in the number of people who will this year wear a white poppy is an indication of the growing opposition to the exploitation of the poppy appeal by the military, politicians and the media. It is for this reason that veterans from the UK armed forces will carry a white poppy wreath when they march to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day.

A petition has been launched objecting to the RBL version of Eric Bogle's song. As the originator of the petition Bob Banks says: "To see a great anti-war song sanitised like this, from a condemnation of the folly and obscenity of war, is an insult to the writer of the song, to the many singers who have sung it previously, and ultimately to the armed forces, who know better than anyone else the horrors of war."

The petition calls on RBL to apologise and to print the full words on its website. In truth, No Man's Land should be withdrawn as RBL's poppy appeal song. You can sign the petition here...:

The use of the annual poppy day to promote support for militarism is reflected in the commemoration of the First World War centenary, which David Cameron says he hopes will be a "celebration" like the Queen's Jubilee. The campaign No Glory in War was set up after Cameron's announcement, when an open letter was signed by many prominent public figures, calling for "an anniversary that is used to promote peace and international co-operation". The letter has now been signed by close to 20,000 people. You can add your name to the letter, here...

In the wake of the centenary commemoration, there has been an attempt by some politicians and historians to re-write history and justify World War One as a noble, and necessary war, regardless of the 20 million who were slaughtered and millions more seriously wounded.

We can remind ourselves of the folly and obscenity of all war by playing a version of Eric Bogle's classic song as it was meant to be sung. It is performed here by The Fureys with Davey Arthur:

Lyrics

Well, how do you do, young Willie McBride?
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 19
When you joined the great fallen in 1916,
I hope you died well and I hope you died clean
Or, Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And 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?
Although, you died back in 1916,
In that faithful heart are you forever 19?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed in forever behind the glass frame,
In an old photograph, torn, battered and stained,
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

The sun now it shines on the green fields of France;
There’s a warm summer breeze that 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 guns 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 damned.

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Ah young Willie 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 cause,
Did they really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying, were all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did they beat the drum slowly, did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play The Last Post in chorus?
And did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Source: No Glory in War


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