British dopers: Englishmen and American war anthems?

I heard “The Battle Of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton on the Muzak at Mc Donald’s yesterday, a song I first heard when I was but a youngster and not since. So naturally I had to go out and download it.

So I’m listening, reminiscing, drifting back to the halcyon days of 5th grade and all of a sudden I realized that it really is a war song. An excerpt from the lyrics:

[complete lyrics (well, as complete as a folk song can be) here ]

And our National Anthem is another such song.

I had never really thought about it before, but it occurred to me that England, while one of the (if not THE) staunchest and most dedicated allies the US has ever had, was also our enemy in two bloody wars, and I was wondering how they feel about stuff like this.

So how about it? Are our English friends are bothered or made uncomfortable by songs written during and about the wars to build morale, whatever? Am I thought offensive for enjoying those songs? Is there resentment towards these rememberences that our Nation was born in war? Is there discomfort and detachment similar to what (I would imagine) Germans feel about WWII? I don’t mean the Holocaust, I mean just weirdness over the knowledge that current friends were once bitter enemies and victors in a previous war.

I’m in Canada, but at a pub I used to frequent which was run by a couple from England, “The Battle of New Orleans” was forbidden by the owners. The owners did not want a song about a British war loss in their pub. So, it was not on the jukebox, and nobody was allowed to do it on karaoke night.

For what it’s worth, my wife is American, and I know she sometimes feels a little uncomfortable when the gang at the pub gets to singing pro-Canadian and less-than-complimentary-to-the-Americans songs. (“Secord’s Warning” by Tanglefoot–about an event that actually happened in the War of 1812–is an example of such a song. You can find the complete lyrics here and judge for yourself.)

The percentage of the English/British population who have heard of ‘The Battle of New Orleans’, whether the song or the historical event, must be infinitesimally small. Nor do I think many have ever given much thought to the lyrics of the American National Anthem.

Lots of people have said and still say offensive things about the British. So what? We can take it.

In any case, if you think this is bad, bear in mind that the original version of the British National Anthem made rude comments about the Scots and various patriotic Scottish songs are equally rude about the English. Such songs are hardly intended to be fair, restrained or accurate.

“The Battle of New Orleans” is pretty mild stuff by that regard - and remember while you’re at it that is was written by the same guy (Jimmy Driftwood) who wrote “Sink the Bismarck!”, one of the most admiringly pro-British songs one could imagine.

“BoNO” seems like friendly teasing, especially when you compare it to the third verse of another otherwise-familiar song:

And where is that foe who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a nation should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!"*

Out of curiosity, how many British schoolchildren even get to hear about the War of 1812 in history class? It must rank as a pretty minor frontier skirmish from a European perspective, I would think.

In fact the “Battle of New Orleans” was a top 10 hit in the UK in either the late 50’s or early 60’s. The British hit version was sung by Lonny Donnegan. So quite a high proportion of Brits would have heard of the song.When it was played on the BBC the word “bloody” (as in "B. British) was always bleeped out.How times have changed!