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Stop the Cavalry

This song, written and performed by the English musician Jona Lewie, was released by Stiff Records in 1980. It was the song’s blend of anti-war protest and brass band arrangements that helped make it a Christmas radio standard in Britain. The song is set at the Front during the Great War, where a soldier in a trench wishes he was home for Christmas. Lewie said about his song:

‘The first lyric line I had for this number was “Can you end the gallantry?” which led me to think of “Can you stop the cavalry,” and then I was thinking about the Charge Of The Light Brigade in the Crimean War in 1854 where the English army charged gallantly towards the Russians: but also towards their deaths.

The lyric mushroomed from there to include various war time scenarios and predicaments but its main concern was from the point of view of just one soldier who would be cold and hungry on the war front, say for example, in France in the trenches in the Great War of 1914-18, while the men who started the war, the leaders of the countries etc, were eating great food back home and sitting near their warm coal fires.

It’s an instant in time where the solitary soldier daydreams to himself that if there were ever an Office for all the Presidencies of the entire World, he would stand for that office and if he won the election he would make sure that he himself would end the gallantry and STOP all the guys in the cavalry in all future wars from ever charging to their deaths again.’

Stop The Cavalry Lyrics

Hey, Mr. Churchill comes over here to say we’re doing splendidly
But it’s very cold up here in the snow, marching to win from the enemy
Oh I say it’s tough, I have had enough, can you stop the cavalry.

I have had to fight, almost ev’ry night, down throughout the centuries
That is when I say, oh yes, yet again, can you stop the cavalry.
Mary Bradley waits at home, in the nuclear fall-out zone.
Wish I could be dancing now in the arms of the girl I love.

Dub a dub a dum dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dub a dum dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dub, dub a dub a dum
Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Bang! That’s another bomb on another town
While the czar and Jim have tea.
If I get home, live to tell the tale, I’ll run for all presidencies.
If I get elected I’ll stop, I will stop the cavalry.

Dub a dub a dum dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dub a dum dum, dub a dub a dum
Dub a dum dum dub a dub, dub a dub a dum
Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Wish I could be dancing now in the arms of the girl I love.
Mary Bradley waits at home, she’s been waiting two years long.
Wish I was at home for Christmas.

Lewie said that the song was never intended as a Christmas hit, and that it was a protest song. However, the line ‘Wish I was at home for Christmas’ as well as the brass band arrangements made it an appropriately styled song to play around Christmas time.

The song peaked at number three in the UK Singles Chart in December 1980, at one point only being kept from number one by two re-issued songs by John Lennon, who had been murdered on 8 December. It topped the charts in several European countries and became popular in the US and Australia as a Christmas song.

The song’s promotional video is set in the trenches of the First World War. The lyrics of the song mention cavalry and Churchill (who served as the First Lord of the Admiralty in the first year of the war, prior to serving in the trenches himself), however it breaks with the First World War theme with references to nuclear fallout and the line ‘I have had to fight, almost every night, down throughout these centuries.’ Lewie described the song’s soldier as being: ‘A bit like the eternal soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.’

 

This song was chosen by Aly Renwick who served with the Royal Engineers in Thailand and is a member of Veterans For Peace.

  • Gus Hales 08/12/2014, 22:26

    Another gem and enlightening classic Aly. Perhaps you could consider compiling a collection of these essays and produce a kind of anthology. Fantastic work and I look forward to your next offering.
    Peace
    Gus