User:Cresby Brown

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Old England She Needs Soldiers

Military recruiting song thought to be from the Boer War era. Collected at the Putley Folk Festival 1992


        Now old England she needs soldiers & I hope you’ll all reply
        She needs you in the service for to conquer or to die
        She needs you in the service for to join the jolly crew
        & these were the regiments that were present at Waterloo


   there were the Light Guards & Cavalry, Mallitia men & volunteers, 
   Queens Bays, Scots Greys, some of our Infantry.
   the Royal Marines, the Engineers, the Coldstream Guards, the Fuselliers, 
   the Hundred & Ninth Malitia and the Royal Artiliary


        they sent us out to Egypt in the year of eighty four they
        sent us out to Egypt where the mighty cannons roar with
        General Gordon we did go when there he met his fate &
        these were the regiments arrived there an ace too late

Other verses referred to uniforms, red gold and black possibly. Though these were not remembered by Joe Latter.

From the singing of Joe Latter at Putley Folk Festival 1992. Joe learned it in 1940 while Joe was evacuated during WW2. Learned from Alice Marsden (then aprox age 50, born in Derbyshire) of West Chiltington, Sussex, The content and chronology led us to believe this is a Boer War recruiting song. Or perhaps a Music Hall satire thereof. When singing this in a club, one man recalled his grandfather, great Uncle and Father used to sing it (in his youth). Sadly he reported "Oh, I only remember the feel of the song and those last two words of the chorus, but it was that song.....".

Roy Palmer ("What a Lovely War" ISBN 0-7818-3357-9) felt the tune was a derivative of “the Ball of Kirriemuir”. The Bodleain Library [1] and especially it's music department were unable to help. Max Arthur ("When This Bloody War is Over" ISBN 0-7499-2285-4.) was not aware of the song. By Feb 1998 Roy happened across a reference to what was clearly a younger sibling &/or descendant of “Old England...”:

 The infantry went over the top, the Fuseliers as well
 As we engaged the Gerry at the battle of Neuchâtel
 For there were the RC's, C of E's, Chinese and Japanese
 Siamese and Portuguese and some of the infantry
 There were the bombadiers and brigadiers and Mademoiselle from Armentièrs
 Some of the Irish Rifles and the Royal Artillery.

(from a pre-WWII Territorial; learned from an old Sweat Instructor.)

The tenor and references to various groups makes one think immediately of a later age than Joe Latter's version. Video of Joe singing his version more recently has been obtained.

A programme on folk collecting in the 21st century is archived on Radio Britfolk [2] which includes a discussion of this and other collected bits - though a subscription is required to access it.

In the tradition of Sabine Baring-Gould this song was deemed too good to be so short. A modern extension can be seen on Mr Red's Mid West[3] [("Cresby's Songs" page)[4]] along with notation and other collected bits.

Cresby Brown.