2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper”

Heard this classic tune on XM’s Boneyard the other day from the classic metal band Iron Maiden…classic

Play this loud…..

For those unfamiliar with the song it’s a tribute to the English Poet Laureate Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, which is based on events that occurred during the Crimean War.  The Crimean what?  Yeah, me too.  They don’t teach too much history about European conflicts that didn’t involve US Doughboys in trenches or Paratroopers dropping  onto the Normandy peninsula.   The Crimean war was fought between Russia and a coalition of Western European armies along with the Ottoman Empire (basically Turkey) between 1853 – 1856.  The Ottoman Empire was in decline and Russia was pressing to both annex and control Ottoman territory to include the holy lands.  England and France wouldn’t have it and they started a shooting war…that’s about all you really need to know to enjoy the song, and that is a bit in excess anyway.

The song itself concerns the suicidal charge of a light brigade of British cavalry consisting of Dragoons, Lancers and Hussars.  What, what and what? Yeah, me neither…I think they all wore funny hats with feathers in them.  Regardless, light cavalry were the special operators of their day…able to quickly move around the battlefield to exploit a weakness in the enemy lines, roll up his flank, block his advance or generally wreak havoc upon infantry troops with their speed and mobility.   In this particular instance all of that was wasted.  Through a series of communication and tactical blunders 600 men were ordered to ride into a low area surrounded by Russian artillery and cavalry forces.  This was a mistake….a big mistake.  You never actually want to be in a low area surrounded by enemy forces that can rain hell upon you…this is especially true in that era where “air superiority” could only possibly refer to your position from the latrine in relation to the prevailing wind.  Check out this pic…..

light brigade map

See that Kill Zone?, bad shit happens there….and that is where the Light Brigade was….

Now I am no tactician by any means, I left that stuff to the West Pointers…but to me to be in what is commonly called a “kill zone” or “kill box” is probably a bad thing when you got Russians, Ruskies and Commies-to-be  trying to kill you.  Bacically, the Brits got their asses handed to them, but they did manage to recover historically in typical British fashion.  The blind obedience to orders and stoic action in the face of overwhelming odds is a study in British military character upon itself.  It should be noted that those cavalry troopers actually reaching the Russians at the end of the valley were able to push they off their positions for a short period after some fierce fighting but were pushed back themselves by Russian reinforcements.

What the song celebrates is the do or die mentality of those troopers that boldly charged into the valley of death knowing their probable outcome but going anyway

“You take my life but I’ll take yours too,

You fire musket but I’ll run you through”

Yep, those are some pretty bad assed fatalist lyrics to start a song with….

I think people can identify with the lyrics no matter where you are from.  Every nation has a “Charge of the Light Brigade”.  The French have Dien Ben Phu, Americans we have the Alamo, Japanese have basically the entire ending of WW2, ect….

Back to the music, cool song all the way around.  Despite their reputation in some circles, Iron Maiden is not a satanic group.  They are actually more of “thinking man’s metal” group than anything.  Listen to their song subjects and lyrics.  You deal with subjects as far apart as war (“the Trooper”, “Aces High”) to Greek Mythology (“flight of Iccarus”).  They are often overlooked by radio and the press despite selling over 80 million discs and records and winning a grammy.  Oh yeah, that Grammy was won a couple of years ago…they are still out there doing their thing (abeit with a different lineup) almost 30 years after this sone was released!

When I was a young teen my parents sent my brothers and I to stay with my Great Aunt Elinor (who just passed away) for a week in the summer.  Elinor was of a different era and different tastes.  For quite a few years she had been the head of a ladies group that supported the National Symphony and had been honored by The Kennedy Center for her efforts and contributions.  Heavy metal was definitly not on her personal “playlist”.  Even so, we went shopping and she bought me the Iron Maiden album “Piece of Mind”, which is where The Trooper” came from.  I don’t know who must have been more bewilldered, Aunt Elinor wondering what I was thinking listening to this album with “Eddie” on the cover in a straight jacket….or the Russian artillerymen seeing over 600 Brits riding at a gallop into the muzzles of their cannon.  Probably Elinor…..



R.S.Breth said...

Maiden is still awesome - and "The Trooper" is a great song.

batvette said...

great post! Not many people know what this song is about, I've been an Iron Maiden fan for decades and only a couple of years ago found what the story behind The Trooper was and spent a few hours reading all about the event. This really is a beautiful thing the band did, I probably couldn't have cared less about this conflict or event otherwise. After reading all about it the next few times I heard the song it really took me to that place thinking about what they must have felt.
Maybe I missed it but I didn't see you touch one one aspect, that I've heard mentioned elsewhere and the lyrics don't quite allude to it but you almost sense it in Bruce's delivery of them.
Even though they knew death was certain for many and were watching their comrades or their mounts being cut down all around them, those who survived spoke of an exhilaration, an almost intoxicating high that they felt as they raced through the valley. They were true warriors, and knew no fear.
The ending verses convey the tragedy that meets so many in these events, while the fallen may find their sacrifice celebrated and deeply honored by many in the future, their passing is felt by them as painful, utterly alone, with their most basic needs unattended by anyone.
As General George S Patton said, "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died, rather, we should thank God that such men lived".
(as for Maiden the first handful of songs on Piece of Mind, including this, Where Eagles Dare and Revelations, may be the most powerful album opening lineup in all of metal)

Huey said...

nice comments batvette....yes, life has a flavor for those who have tempted death that the average person will never know. Maybe its the adrenaline or what but I got a couple of friends that loathe life after Iraq and Afghanistan for pretty much the same reason, no chance to get that high back.

And yes, when it comes down to it we all die alone...

batvette said...

When I felt compelled to serve my country I joined the Navy in '79, hoping to paint "hello Ayatollah" on the nose of the first bomb to drop on Teheran. Spent 4 years dodging planes getting at the ones we had to fix on the flight deck of the USS Coral Sea, mostly at night.
Thus my emotions seemed limited to "scared ****less" which never diminished,even as I became experienced.
As for the guys coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, maybe if the "welcoming committee" of the average US citizen wasn't telling them it was a "mistake" started on false pretenses they would feel more closure for their sacrifice?
I've often posited that contributed to the greater difficulties Vietnam vets had in getting on with their lives vs. WW2 vets. Both wars would have soldiers witnessing and participating in actions challenging their humanity, but WW2 vets came home and were told they saved the world. This is closure, and you can sleep okay knowing you had to take the life of another person,what you did was just and necessary.
Vietnam vets return and are told the whole war, and the actions of the soldiers in it, were wrong. Those who left a limb, or other piece of themselves, or even a best friend over there, were told that day would have been better off gone fishing. A mistake.
So as the saying goes you send a man to hell and back, and when he gets back you say "oops, sorry, it was a mistake, and everything you did just to stay alive is morally reprehensible".
They get no closure for their emotional wounds, largely so nincompoops can use foreign policy for politics. Hell Kerry ran on a platform of hoping to tank a war he voted to start, and while some claim otherwise if you carefully review the joint resolution authorizing military force on Iraq- the sole written document which listed the justifications- there is not one false claim in it nor anything proven wrong after we went in.
I don't know about this support the troops not the war stuff is what I'm saying. When I served it was at a time when we knew the Soviets would nuke our carrier groups right out the gate, I was okay with that risk, because the Soviet system was just plain wrong, just like Saddam and the way he ran his country and attacked our allies (and was plotting to destroy our economy with the help of our rivals Russia, China and France, using oil as a weapon) and supported terrorists. (see http://www.husseinandterror.com )
I hope this current generation of vets doesn't have to experience what Vietnam vets have.