This song, one of five composed by Rod Hall for Days of Pride (1981), is set in the trenches of the Great War. Hawtin Mundy of New Bradwell, the primary source of the material collected about that time, had vivid memories of trench warfare:
When you got in the line, especially the first time, when you left England you was full of beans, you wanted to see the war, you wanted to get to it, you volunteered for it, and you wanted to get into it. Well, once you got in those trenches, and you had a battering of shell fire, machinegun and shell fire, you altered your tune little bit, then, you realised what war was like…
I will always remember the shells going ever so high - these high explosions ever so high - and one of our chaps had a piece hit him and they carried him into a monastery very close just outside Armentieres and he died. And this chap’s name was Billy Holland from Newport Pagnell. He was the first casualty in the Buckinghamshire Battalion.
(Hawtin Mundy LAMK 1980)
The local newspaper collection at Milton Keynes Museum has many more stories:
May 17th … I am still quite all right up to the present, although, am writing under difficulties, an old bin for a writing pad, and sitting in a narrow trench which we have roughly roofed over with corrugated iron. The rain is pouring down outside, and, I am not sorry to say, we are a good distance behind the firing line… I expect my letters will be very uncertain after this. I don’t even know when this one will be collected, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear for some time.
(L/Corp W Field, Wolverton Express 28.5.1915)
A review of the Living Archive Band’s first CD, Real Lives (2000) commented: ‘The quality of performance and production is high, and much of the music has a pleasant swing to it, with a light jazzy feel to many of the numbers. However, Rod Hall’s tragic ballad, ‘Do You Ever Think of England?’ sung by Brad Bradstock in the role of a soldier in the Great War trenches, is more reflective, and has a really poignant quality.’
Images and material from LAMK archive. The song is featured on The Living Archive Band’s album Real Lives (LAMK)