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NEVER AGAIN: DANDELIONS

The song Dandelions picks up on the theme that the British Generals in WW1 were donkeys, while the men they led were lions. This view emerged from the many veteran accounts of the war, from journals, letters, notebooks or what was told to relatives.

It came from veterans’ experiences in Battles like the Somme in 1916, when the Generals kept sending wave after wave of troops, marching forward in formation in broad daylight – against German defences protected by artillery, machine-guns and barbed-wire. This carnage on the Somme went on and on – for days, weeks and months.

So, many of the ordinary soldiers began to view their senior officers as arrogant, uncaring and incompetent. Examples can also be found in the WW1 poetry of low ranking officers, like Owen and Sassoon, who shared front-line duty with their men. ‘The General’, by Siegfried Sassoon, is a typical example:

“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He’s a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

But he did for them both by his plan of attack.

Steve O’Donoghue wrote Dandelions about Arthur, his mother’s father:

‘He joined up as a boy, lying about his age. He was a sort of yellow colour due to the mustard gas. He never talked about the war, except to say, I’ve seen things no man should have to see’.

In the song Steve depicts Arthur as not keen on poppies being used to glorify war. A better image for him was the dandelion, its seeds blown away in the wind.

Now Arthur was only a young cub
A brave lion and merely fifteen
But with the rest of his pack
He was sent to attack
To a war that was cruel and obscene
But those lions fought hard and fought bravely
While the donkeys just grazed in a field
They had no sense of shame for their barbarous game
And the thousands of lions they killed

And when he saw them marching up Whitehall
I remember what old Arthur said
He said the donkeys are all wearing poppies
So I shall wear dandelions instead

Now every remembrance Sunday
Well I pause at eleven o’clock
And I remember those dandy young lions
And those donkeys and their poppycock
Cos they’ve taken those beautiful poppies
And they use them to glorify war
Well I remember those dandy young lions
And I don’t wear a poppy no more

And when he saw them marching up Whitehall
I remember what old Arthur said
He said the donkeys are all wearing poppies
So I shall wear dandelions instead

Now if you take an old dandelion
And just blow it quite gently he’d say
You can see all the dreams of those soldiers
In the seeds as they just float away
But then the wind takes hold of those seeds
And they rise and quickly they soar
Like the spirit of all those old soldiers
Who believed that their war would end war

And when he saw them marching up Whitehall
I remember what old Arthur said
He said the donkeys are all wearing poppies
So I shall wear dandelions instead
Cos those lions were dandy young workers
Who those donkeys so cruelly misled
And if the Donkeys are gonna wear poppies
I shall wear dandelions instead

And when he saw them marching up Whitehall
I remember what old Arthur said
He said the donkeys are all wearing poppies
So I shall wear dandelions instead


Info by VFP member Aly Renwick, who served in the British Army from 1960-68.

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