While there are many things about soldiers that are unsavoury and often better left unsaid, there are also other things that can be considered remarkable, lasting, and to be admired. One of those more shining attributes, deserving of recognition, is camaraderie.
As someone who has served in the military (I have this: , and a military pension to show for it, and nothing much else but memories), I didn’t really value that time I spent, at the time, thrown together with other men that I didn’t know, in places that I had never been before and in situations that, while I was never in a position of real danger (though we were occasionally obliterated by nuclear attack during exercises – it was still the Cold War years), always demanded a degree of alertness and responsibility that are not expected of those in an ordinary job situation. Yet I can still say with some conviction, and pride, that I did experience the camaraderie of soldiery to some extent throughout that period of my life even though I am a very private person and don’t tend to mix socially all that much. I am sure, absolutely certain that the level of camaraderie I felt would be magnified exponentially among those who face very real danger, shared with others, in conflict situations on many levels.
Why am I writing this?
Well, being born towards the end of World War 2, I grew up with the effects and memories of that conflict which were for many years and still are to some extent, embedded in the social psyche of all who were involved in and survived, or succeeded (in the sense of ‘coming after’) it. It is no small wonder that I have had, and still retain, an interest in all (or most) things that came out of that war and its effect on subsequent history.
Someone once described soldiering with words something like ‘Long periods of idle boredom, interspersed with brief episodes of sheer terror’. In days gone by, those long periods of boredom, which would have likely included lots of marching, would probably have been filled with singing in an attempt to relieve said boredom to some extent. Singing songs would have been in any case a popular pass-time for most folk. We tend not to sing these days, preferring to be ‘entertained’ instead and paying dearly for it too. I can’t recall ever singing at all during my military career either but up to and including WW2 it would have been a big thing to sing meaningful songs and I suspect still is in cultures not yet too contaminated by western culture.
Why the title of this post?
The post title is also the title of a German song, popular among their soldiers in WW2 and even more so way back in WW1, when it first (as far as I am aware) became prominent. Initially it began life as a poem by Ludwig Uhland in 1809.
Here is the song set to some WW1 movie footage, in colour? Not sure, in fact doubt they had colour movies back then. Ah well, maybe it is tinted. The footage looks to be genuine.
Note: Love the little Dachshund (sausage dog) in the tin hat in that video.
I know of no other song in any language that encompasses the ethos of comradeship as this song does, nor the pathos of the loss of those who have through shared hardships become kameraden.
There are other English translations that can be found but this one is more or less literal to the original.
Is that still relevant?
While I have been aware of the song “Ich Hatt’ Einen Kameraden” for quite some time, I only recently discovered that it is still being used by the German Military as a mark of respect for their Gefallenen Soldaten even now during the Afghanistan conflict. Yes, there are German soldiers fighting and dying there today.
Note: This YouTube video is a replacement for the one originally placed here as I discovered that, while depicting a genuine military funeral for German soldiers lost in Afghanistan, it was also advertising a skinhead ‘hate’ website. My apologies if you saw that one.
I have long been an admirer of the mid last century German military machine, its men and equipment, which almost succeeded (this time in the sense of ‘achieving’) in heading world history in an entirely different direction to how it actually went.
This is in no way an endorsement of their political machine of the same period. The two must, at least for me (others are welcome to their own opinion but use your own blog, not mine, if you want to express them), be considered separately. Soldiers are soldiers. Evil, blatantly paranoid dictators, their political regimes and private thug armies are, well, evil, blatantly paranoid dictators, et cetera, et cetera.
Here is a video using WW2 photographs and soundtrack, which is dedicated to the fallen of all countries in that war. Our good comrades. Don’t forget, freedom is an illusion. We are all pawns of the powers (elected or otherwise) that direct the courses of nations.