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Harvey Andrews – The British Soldier lyrics

In a station in the city a British soldier stood
Talking to the people there if the people would
Some just stared in hatred, and others turned in pain
And the lonely British soldier wished he was back home again

Come join the British Army! Said the posters in his town
See the world and have your fun come serve before the Crown
The jobs were hard to come by and he could not face the dole
So he took his country's shilling and enlisted on the roll

For there was no fear of fighting, the Empire long was lost
Just ten years in the army getting paid for being bossed
Then leave a man experienced a man who's made the grade
A medal and a pension some mem'ries and a trade

Then came the call to Ireland as the call had come before
Another bloody chapter in an endless civil war
The priests they stood on both sides the priests they stood behind
Another fight in Jesus name the blind against the blind

The soldier stood between them between the whistling stones
And then the broken bottles that led to broken bones
The petrol bombs that burnt his hands the nails that pierced his skin
And wished that he had stayed at home surrounded by his kin

The station filled with people the soldier soon was bored
But better in the station than where the people warred
The room filled up with mothers with daughters and with sons
Who stared with itchy fingers at the soldier and his gun

A yell of fear a screech of brakes the shattering of glass
The window of the station broke to let the package pass
A scream came from the mothers as they ran towards the door
Dragging children crying from the bomb upon the floor

The soldier stood and could not move his gun he could not use
He knew the bomb had seconds and not minutes on the fuse
He could not run to pick it up and throw it in the street
There were far too many people there too many running feet

Take cover! Yelled the soldier, Take cover for your lives
And the Irishmen threw down their young and stood before their wives
They turned towards the soldier their eyes alive with fear
For God's sake save our children or they'll end their short lives here

The soldier moved towards the bomb his stomach like a stone
Why was this his battle God why was he alone
He lay down on the package and he murmured one farewell
To those at home in England to those he loved so well

He saw the sights of summer felt the wind upon his brow
The young girls in the city parks how precious were they now
The soaring of the swallow the beauty of the swan
The music of the turning world so soon would it be gone

A muffled soft explosion and the room began to quake
The soldier blown across the floor his blood a crimson lake
They never heard him cry or shout they never heard him moan
And they turned their children's faces from the blood and from the bones

The crowd outside soon gathered and the ambulances came
To carry off the body of a pawn lost in the game
And the crowd they clapped and cheered and they sang their rebel songs
One soldier less to interfere where he did not belong

But will the children growing up learn at their mothers' knees
The story of the soldier who bought their liberty
Who used his youthful body as a means towards an end
Who gave his life to those who called him murderer not friend

Lyrics taken from /lyrics/h/harvey_andrews/the_british_soldier.html

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Corrected by harlem_rain

The British Soldier meanings Post my meaning

  • U
    + 5
    The song was inspired by an event which happened in belfast, northern ireland. In 1971 sergeant michael willetts of 3 para cleared a room in springfield road ruc police station of civilians because a bomb with a short burning fuse had been planted by the provisional ira. After the room had been cleared, sgt willetts then slammed the door to the room which contained the bomb, but realising the door was not strong enough to absorb the blast, he pressed his body against the door, shielding the people on the other side. The charge exploded, and he was killed instantly.
    Harvey andrews was so struck by the incident that he wrote the song to highlight the senselessness of violence and to make the point that soldiers, too, are human, and that sgt willetts had laid down his life for people who considered british soldiers to be nothing more than "murderers. " (the incident of the soldier embracing the bomb was poetic licence.) broadcasts of andrews' record were banned for some time by the bbc lest feelings be exacerbated in the nationalist community of northern ireland, or the british public be incited to attack innocent irish people. The ministry of defence advised (and still advises) british soldiers not to sing the song in pubs where it may incite strong emotive behaviour. Some have interpreted this as a ban.
    Harvey andrews' authorship is not always widely known, and many different, incorrect stories about the song's origin circulate. Harvey andrews intended the song to transcend sectarianism, but some have wrongly interpreted it as the glorification of military heroism.
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  • U
    + 4
    I heard this song back in 1987, back then I didn't understand I was too young, my first really strong memory was listening with my dad in the car. I found myself crying. I looked to my dad (who has now done 28 years in the British army) and he too was crying the only time I've ever seen him cry. Growing up and army child I found this song overwhelmingly poinient, so many of my friends and dads friends went to Ireland and 1 or 2 never came back.
    I played it at school when we did Northern Ireland to a bunch of 17 year olds who liked to glorify wars. Watching a room of 30 kids and a teacher slowly brake down proved just how strong this song really is.
    I'd love to meat Harvey Andrews and shake his hand what a powerful song.
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  • t
    + 2
    How anyone can confuse the meaning of the song I don't know. It certainly does not glorify the troubles at that time. Serving in belfast when I first heard it and found it so sad. Glorify! The fact that someone had died doing their duty. Maybe if it had been about any one but a british squaddie then it may of been more acceptable. When I joined up I learnt first aid before I used a weapon. People with a grievance don't want to hear a positive of their grievance they just start singing to drown out what they don't want to hear. This is not my opinion of the irish people alone. This is my opinion of anyone who was involved in the whole sorry mess, from the politician down to joe blogs. It's such a shame that the hierarchy of the bbc felt the way they did on such poignant song. Maybe if they hadn't then half the army at that time wouldn't of gone to the trouble of getting the song on tape.
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  • U
    I heard this song in belfast in 1972 as a serving soldier of 3 royal anglian. Many of us were just naive 18, 2o year olds. Whom knew nothing of northern irelands sectarian divides. How ever we chose to serve our country as soldiers. And as such we did loyally to the crown. I myself was shot and wounded on 12th july. Some of my freinds were also wounded. Some fatally. Today I still bare the scars of war in ireland. Mentally and physically. Even so l hold no malice towards the irish people. I learnt that catholic or protestant. Even most of them never fully understood the "Troubles ". The song Soldeir is a fitting tribute to all whom served in N/Ireland. To this very day it still brings tears to my eyes. Lest we forget. Rest in peace my freinds.
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  • t
    Memories maybe to long! For any event that means the needless death of men women and children should never be forgotten. As a child I learnt the hard way that matches burn. Because of that I'm now careful about fire. As we grow older many lessons learnt stay with us for our own safety. I have sat and talked with my children on what I have learnt about wwii. I've talked to them about belson or auschwitz. I hope that we never forget and through knowledge never allow such things to happen again. Memories maybe to long I hope not.
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  • U
    What lyrics. Learnt to play this by getting an old 45. Slowing it down write the lyrics and put chords to it.
    Years went by before I could get it on the internet.
    I was not far away with the chords.
    Played it for my father are. S. M in the artillery 30 yrs. First time I ever seen him cry. He had done 5 tours in ireland god rest his soul. What a guy.
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  • U
    - 1
    My brother was a soldier in northern ireland in 1971 he was one of the lucky ones to return home he brought me this record I used to practice the words non stop until I knew it off by heart I was only about 8 or 9 and I cried when I lost it I can't believe I have found the song after all these years it has so much meaning for me hat off to Harvey Andrews.
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  • S
    - 1
    Steve Dunstone
    I first heard this song in 1981 when Private Chris Taylor sung it to me during a joint military Arctic survival course in Northern Norway. I was serving in the raf at the time as a radar engineer. Chris had a reputation as a fighter and the squaddies at the transit camp in Hannover, Germany knew he was coming. Th lyrics had a profound impact on me and I never forget Chris Taylor and never saw him again. I have occasionally sung the first two verses to friends but know will learn the complete song as the writer has found the words in which to ridicule war and highlight it's futility. I would love to meet the writer of those words one day and also if Chris Taylor is still alive. Love to meet him! Steve Dunstone.
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    • U
      + 5
      The song was inspired by an event which happened in belfast, northern ireland. In 1971 sergeant... Read more →
    • U
      + 4
      I heard this song back in 1987, back then I didn't understand I was too young, my first really... Read more →

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