Colonel Bogey March

Colonel Bogey March
"Colonel Bogey March"
Released 1914
Composer Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts

The "Colonel Bogey March" is a popular march that was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945), a British army bandmaster who later became director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth. Since at that time service personnel were not encouraged to have professional lives outside the armed forces, Ricketts published "Colonel Bogey" and his other compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth Alford. Supposedly, the tune was inspired by a military man and golfer who whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval) instead of shouting "Fore!". It is this descending interval which begins each line of the melody. The name "Colonel Bogey" began in the later 19th century as the imaginary "standard opponent" of the Colonel Bogey scoring system,[1] and by Edwardian times the Colonel had been adopted by the golfing world as the presiding spirit of the course.[2] Edwardian golfers in North America often played matches against "Colonel Bogey".[3] Bogey is now a golfing term meaning one over par.

The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times. "Colonel Bogey" is the authorized march of The King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) of the Canadian Forces. Many humorous or satirical verses have been sung to this tune; some of them vulgar. The English quickly established a simple insulting use for the tune, where the first two syllables were used for a variety of rude expressions, e.g. "Bollocks", then followed by "...and the same to you." and perhaps even more commonly "Bullshit, that's all the band can play, Bullshit, they play it night and day".[4] The best known, which originated in England at the outset of World War II, goes by the title "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball". A later parody, based on a 1960s television commercial which used the melody, sung by schoolchildren in the United States, is called "Comet", and deals with the effects of consuming a popular brand of household cleanser.


The Bridge on the River Kwai

The English composer Malcolm Arnold added a counter-march for use in the 1957 dramatic film The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was set during World War II. Although the lyrics were not used in the film, British audiences of the time fully understood the subtextual humour of "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" being sung by prisoners of war. Because the tune is so identified with the film, many people now incorrectly refer to the "Colonel Bogey March" as "The River Kwai March". In fact, Arnold used this name for a completely different march that he wrote for the film. Because the film concerned prisoners of war being held under inhumane conditions by the Japanese, there was a minor diplomatic flap in May 1980 when the "Colonel Bogey March" was played during a visit to Canada by Japanese prime minister Masayoshi Ōhira.[5]

In popular culture

  • The tune was whistled, as an insult, by Michael Redgrave in Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, which may be the first time it was heard in a fictional film.
  • The tune was ostensibly played by an American Army band parading in London in an opening scene of the 1945 British film I Live in Grosvenor Square. The Australian Military Band plays the song in the film The Crossing.
  • It has been used in films such as The Parent Trap, Caveman, The Breakfast Club, A Very Brady Sequel, Short Circuit, The Bridge on the River Kwai (perhaps the most famous use), Spaceballs, Brassed Off and The Card (1952).
  • It was used in both the Russian film Hello, I'm Your Aunt! as Colonel Sir Francis Chesney's theme, and in the British film Where's Charlie (starring the late Danny La Rue) with the lyrics projected on to a cinema screen, for the audience to join in singing. Both films were interpretations of Charlie's Aunt, but set in the Second World War.
  • The tune is played on kazoos in the 2001 animated film Recess: School's Out.
  • In the Doctor Who serial "The Face of Evil", The Doctor (portrayed by Tom Baker) whistles the march to show his disdain of his alien antagonizers as he explores a planet. The Doctor also whistles the march in the serials The Invasion of Time and The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
  • On Farscape, in the episode Mental as Anything, John Crichton whistles the tune while trapped in a cage heated with coals.
  • On Friends episode "The One with all the Poker", the six friends whistle the tune while they are preparing Rachel's CVs.
  • In the Lost episode "Catch-22", it was whistled by Desmond, Charlie, Hurley, and Jin as they march across the beach.
  • The actor John Candy used this piece almost as a signature theme tune throughout his television and film career. In SCTV, this was the theme tune for Candy's recurring fictional character Johnny LaRue. He performed renditions of it in his films "Volunteers" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles". Candy was in the audience for the American Film Institute's tribute to David Lean, director of Bridge on the River Kwai. When Lean rose to accept his award, the orchestra played "The Colonel Bogey March" ... and a camera cut to show Candy's reaction.
  • The British TV show Hyperdrive on BBC2 uses the tune as its theme.
  • On the Benny Hill Show, this tune was used in game show sketches where the host (Benny Hill) asks contestants to name that tune.
  • In 1950 or 1951 the Australian digital computer CSIRAC "stunned" an audience by playing the march for the first digital computer music performance.[6]
  • In the 1960s British comedy revue Beyond The Fringe and in the 1970s Broadway revue Good Evening, Dudley Moore performed a satiric arrangement of the march in the style of a Beethoven piano sonata, in which the coda drags on for nearly two-and-a-half minutes as a parody of the style. This item was identified in the playbills of both revues as "The Kwai Sonata", adding to the misconception that it was written for the film Bridge on the River Kwai.
  • Japanese children sing this melody with improvised lyrics of "Monkey (in Japanese, saru) -Gorilla-Chimpanzee" as a joke, while among grown-ups the lyrics as a title "Kuchibue Fuite (When We Whistle) are well known after a 1963 NHK children's program, Minna no Uta, performed this song.
  • Yoko Ono, in her book Grapefruit, relates a story of having put on a conceptual show in which one piece consisted of ten minutes' complete darkness. When the piece was performed in London, one audience member began whistling what Ono referred to as "the theme from Bridge of River Kwai", and soon the entire audience had joined in.

See also


  1. ^ The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 10th March 1892 reports the results of the Royal Cornwall Golf Club Ladies vs "Colonel" Bogey
  2. ^ Many references to the Colonel in the press include a letter from a "golf widow" to The Times of 3rd June 1914
  3. ^ Toronto; Globe 25 October 1904 p. 10.
  4. ^ A variation in the United States Army is sung to insult rival units: "Bullshit: it makes the grass grow green/XXXX: It does the same damned thing/Bullshit, or is it XXXX?/Both will grow grass the greenest you've seen."
  5. ^ The Canadian Press (6 May 1980). "Our band hit sour note for Japan's prime minister". Montreal Gazette: p. 1. Retrieved 16 October 2010. 
  6. ^ "Oldest" computer music unveiled

External links

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