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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
eddie1 Veteran's Day (songs for) (109* d) Lyr Add: AS IF HE KNOWS (Eric Bogle) 10 Nov 09

Open Mike
It was the McCalmans. On "Far, Far From Ypres" (Greentrax CDTrax1418).

Like most here, I found your first post inappropriate at first but then I did some thinking.
In Edinburgh Castle, right in the middle, at its highest point, is The Scottish National War Memorial. There are plaques on the walls for most of the Scottish regiments and books, covered in red leather and bound in brass, with the names of the fallen.
One such plaque is devoted to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps and depicts the various animals that were used in war, from horses to canaries. Taken there as a small child by my parents, I always found this particularly sad.
All these feelings were brought back when I first heard this song, also written by Eric Bogle and also on the above CD.
In WWI the Australian Light Horse took 53,000 horses overseas to various theatres of war and of the 53,000, one horse was allowed to return home (a general's horse of course!) The reason for the rest not being allowed to return home was the fear that they would spread anthrax to the Australian beef industry. In the French, Belgian and German theatres horses were sold or given to local farmers and peasants but in the Middle East it was believed that the locals were cruel to their animals so a decision was reached that the horses should be shot, Each man agreed to shoot his best friend's horse.

"Recalling his days in Palestine, an old Light Horseman called Elijah Kohn who was in the Seventh Light Horse told of his horse, Banjo and of his best mate having to shoot Banjo. Even after 70 years, Elijah's eyes filled with tears. He'd forgotten the names of some of his mates, but he remembered the name of his horse, Banjo because, as he said, he reckoned it saved his life three or four times.
It's bad enough what we do to human being during war but what we do to poor dumb animals is just as reprehensible." (from sleeve notes)


It's as if he knows
He's standing close to me
His breath warm on my sleeve
His head hung low
It's as if he knows
What the dawn will bring
The end of everything
For my old Banjo
And all along the picket lines beneath the desert sky
The Light Horsemen move amongst their mates to say one last goodbye
And the horses stand so quietly
Row on silent row
It's as if they know

Time after time
We rode through shot and shell
We rode in and out of Hell
On their strong backs
Time after time
They brought us safely through
By their swift sure hooves
And their brave hearts
Tomorrow we will form up ranks and march down to the quay
And sail back to our loved ones in that dear land across the sea
While our loyal and true companions
Who asked so little and gave so much
Will lie dead in the dust.

For the orders came
No horses to return
We were to abandon them
To be slaves
After all we'd shared
And all that we'd been through
A Nation's gratitude
Was a dusty grave
For we can't leave them to the people here, we'd rather see them dead
So each man will take his best mate's horse with a bullet through the head
For the people here are like their land
Wild and cruel and hard
So Banjo, here's your reward.

It's as if he knows, he standing close to me,
His breath warm on my sleeve, his head hung low.
As he if he knew.

Copyright Eric Bogle July 2001

I can't listen to this song without a lump in my throat.


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