Today, at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the Armistice was signed between the Allies of World War One and Germany that halted The Great War on the Western Front. It was the day the guns of war finally fell silent for most of Europe, although hostilities continued for a little longer in the former Russian Republic and the old Ottoman Empire.
I’ve recounted mine and Andrew’s personal stories for Remembrance Day on this blog before now so I won’t go over that again, it’s here if you’d like to find it. What I do want to share with you though is a song, written about the Battle of Anzio which took place in Italy early in 1944.
The Royal Fusiliers Company Z were ordered to hold a bridge against the approaching German Tiger tanks, but when you pit men against machines the outcome is never good for the men. Company Z lost every man standing that day, among the dead was Eric Fletcher Waters, father of Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist, Roger Waters. Roger later wrote When The Tigers Broke Free as a tribute to his father and an incredibly passionate and angry tirade on the futility of war. To this day, he performs this piece at his fathers grave site on the day he died. It was originally written for Pink Floyd’s 1978 album The Wall, but it never made the final cut as the other band members thought it was just too personal. It eventually turned up on a compilation album called Echoes: The Best of Pink FLoyd, released in 2001.
I have never in all my life listened to a song so imbued with so much hatred and pain. Waters kept the music very sombre, most of the background is provided by the mournful, deep tone of a Welsh male voice choir, which is completely at odds with Waters own personal turmoil and almost screamed lyrics. It makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck every time I hear it.
When The Tigers Broke Free
It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black forty-four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.
And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall,
In the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf adorned.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.
It was dark all around.
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free.
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that’s how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.
I really encourage you to listen to this track. If the You Tube link below is broken, just search for it on You Tube instead.