Private William McBride

War GravesPrivate William McBride, a young soldier who hailed from Co. Armagh was deployed with the 9th Battalion of the Inniskilling Fusiliers near Beaumont-Hamel. He died on April 22nd 1916 aged 21 (not 19 as Bogle wrote in his song).

Conditions in the trenches were particularly hellish that day. Constant heavy rain left The Tyrones, as the 9th Battalion was known waist deep in mud, slime and filthy water, unable to find refuge as the Germans dropped shell after shell on top of their position.

Willie was one of four children in a Presbetarian family from Lislea in Armagh. He attended Crosskeys school and planned to be a cobbler. Still a youngster he had started serving his apprenticeship when war began. William McBride enlisted in Belfast in the summer of 1915. Nine months later he was dead.

His now famous grave can be found at Authuille British Cemetery close to Beumont-Hamel, scene of some the war’s most bloody fighting and heaviest loss of life. The young soldier’s life and tragic death has been immortalized in the famous song by Eric Bogle, The Green Fields of France

When you buy your poppy this year, wear it in honour of young men like Willie McBride who as Eric Bogle says were ‘butchered and damned’ by ‘man’s gross indifference to his fellow man’.

The Green Fields of France

Well how do you do, Private William McBride

 Do you mind if I sit here down by your grave side?

 A rest for awhile in the warm summer sun,

 I’ve been walking all day and I’m nearly done.

 And I see by your gravestone that you were only 19

 When you joined the glorious fallen in 1916.

 Well, I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean

 Or, William McBride, was it slow and obscene?

 

 CHORUS:

Did they beat the drum slowly?

Did they sound the pipes lowly?

 Did the rifles fire o’er ye as they lowered you down?

 Did the bugle sing ‘The Last Post’ in chorus?

 Did the pipes play ‘The Flowers o’ the Forest’?

 

 Did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind?

 In some loyal heart is your memory enshrined

 And though you died back in 1916

 To that loyal heart are you always 19.

 Or are you just a stranger without even a name

 Forever enclosed behind some glass-pane

 In an old photograph torn and tattered and stained

 And fading to yellow in a brown leather frame?

 

 Well, the sun it shines down on these green fields of France,

 The warm wind blows gently and the red poppies dance.

 The trenches are vanished now under the plough

 No gas, no barbed wire, no guns firing now.

 But here in this graveyard it’s still No Man’s Land

 And the countless white crosses in mute witness stand.

 To man’s blind indifference to his fellow man

 And a whole generation that was butchered and damned.

 

 And I can’t help but wonder now Willie McBride

 Do all those who lie here know why they died?

 Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?

 Did you really believe that this war would end war?

 All the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame –

 The killing and dying – it was all done in vain.

 For Willie McBride, it’s all happened again

 And again, and again, and again, and again.

 

 Did they beat the drum slowly?

 Did they sound the pipe lowly?

 Did the rifles fire o’er ye as they lowered you down?

 Did the bugle sing ‘The Last Post’ in chorus?

 Did the pipes play ‘The Flowers o’ the Forest’?

https://youtu.be/ntt3wy-L8Ok

Download the full collection of today’s blog posts  EBF They fought for us

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