From The Green Fields of France to Waltzing Matilda: An Anzac Day playlist

As Australia commemorates the loss of life at Gallipoli, and the fallen from wars and invasions since, its ambassador to Ireland shares a selection of music

The Green Fields of France, one of Ireland’s most beloved songs, is written by an Australian, Eric Bogle. I’ve met people in Cork who thought Eric was Irish, but I can assure you he is Scottish Australian. His music, and that of so many others, allow us to reflect on the enormous loss that was endured by the nations involved in the first World War and other conflicts around the world. Their music helps us piece together and understand the stories and immense sadness for those who were lost.

This week in Australia there will be gatherings and remembrances at every war memorial in every town, big and small, across our island continent. There will be commemorations at traditional Australian Rules football games, on mine sites and fishing villages; people will gather at Marble Bar, in the north of Western Australia, where at sunrise it will be warm. They will gather at first light in Hobart, in Tasmania. My mum will be at the memorial service in Whyalla, in South Australia. My son, who serves in the Australian Defence Force, will be at the commemoration in Canberra, where it will be cold and probably wet. Anzac Day is when they turn the heat on for winter in Canberra, and have Anzac biscuits with our coffee and tea.

This Anzac Day we will remember those who serve our country and the fallen from wars and invasions since. In particular, our thoughts will also be with Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. We will think of Ukrainian families and soldiers as they stand their ground against Russia’s illegal invasion of their sovereign territory.

Radios across Australia will carry broadcasts of our dawn services; they will carry the music, the poetry and the verse of our nation. This is music of sadness and suffering, death and commemoration; it is not the music of celebration. Our Anzac music culture is one of reflection on Anzac Day and speaking the things that should be spoken.


The playlist we have created here at the Australian embassy in Ireland includes the West Australian band The Waifs, from the southern coastal town of Albany. They tell a heartfelt real story of Australian war brides of the second World War and their journey to new lives in the United States. Albany is the site of Australia’s first Anzac dawn service, more than 100 years ago. It’s also where our troop ships massed in 1915 before the voyage to Egypt, North Africa and, ultimately, Anzac Cove, where 100,000 people died in the failed invasion of Gallipoli – Turkish, Australian, New Zealand, French, Indian, Irish, English and Scottish.

Our music of the Vietnam War is deeply linked to the Adelaide band Red Gum and their principal, John Schumann, and another Adelaide band, Cold Chisel, led by another Scottish migrant, Jimmy Barnes, whose song Khe Sanh reminds Australians of the lost generation of our soldiers in the Vietnam War. I have included Becky Cole singing of our most recent war in Afghanistan.

The Irish are a literary and musical culture, and our Irish-Australian relationship is deep and real. There is no doubt Australia’s music culture has been influenced by our Irish forebears, and both nations seem to understand war ultimately is won and lost by people with histories and stories that are unique, personal and fundamental to how we view conflict. I hope you enjoy the thoughts and the music of Australia’s day of commemoration.

An Anzac Day playlist

  • Eric Bogle: And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda
  • Eric Bogle: No Man’s Land (Green Fields of France)
  • John Schumann: On Every Anzac Day
  • John Williamson: Cootamundra Wattle
  • Lee Kernaghan: When the First Bombs Fell
  • The Waifs: Bridal Train
  • Redgum: I Was Only 19 (A Walk in the Light Green)
  • Cold Chisel: KheSanh
  • Paul Kelly: Peace
  • Cold Chisel: When the War Is Over
  • Adam Brand: The Anzac
  • Becky Cole: Poster Girl – Wrong Side of the World