Originally written by Bogle in 1972, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda carries a fresh significance for Australians as we approach the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli, with the final verses of the song particularly relevant:
And the old men march slowly, old bones stiff and sore.
They’re tired old heroes from a forgotten war.
And the young people ask, ‘What are they marching for?’
And I ask myself the same question.
And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’,
And the old men still answer the call.
But as year follow year, more old men disappear.
Someday no one will march there at all.
Written in response to the Vietnam War, Bogle chose to set the song historically during World War I at battlefield that connects most deeply with the national identity of Australians. The lyrics of the song and the illustrations clearly share the very significant physical, emotional and mental impact of the wartime experiences on the young men who fought at Gallipoli.
The emotional impact of the illustrations combined with the very challenging lyrics creates a picture book that is sure to spark conversations about war and the ongoing impact for soldiers after the battle is over, a topic that remains relevant for current military campaigns. While perhaps too confronting for young children, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda is an excellent book for primary and high school aged readers and ideal to start conversations at school and home about the battle of Gallipoli and war in general.
You can watch a trailer for the book while combines a performance of the song with illustrations from the book and there are also teachers' notes available.
John Schmann's song I Was Only Nineteen has also been published as a picture book (in 2014) and deals with similar themes.
Author: Eric Bogle
Illustrator: Bruce Whatley
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $24.99 RRP
Publication Date: 28 January 2015
For ages: 8+