“The Hungry Army (II)”


The singer enlists and is sent to Ballarat. The men are so thin a strong wind "blew the lot away"; the singer gets a medal for surviving. He eats cabbage broth. Utensils are only used to cut hair. Sent to drill still strong recruits, he is beaten.


Hall, notes to Voice14: "Servicemen also have the gift of moaning, and 'The Hungry Army', set in mid-nineteenth century Australia, is a typical squaddie beef at conditions and authority."

Ballarat is in Victoria, Australia, about 65 miles east of Melbourne. - BS

According to Andrew and Nancy Learmouth, _Encyclopedia of Australia_ (article on Ballarat in the second edition), the Ballarat region was not opened for settlement until 1837, during a drought. The population remained small until the 1851 gold rush; in 1851 "a septuagenarian digger named John Dunlop discovered the richest field of all, at Ballarat" (see Robert Hughes, _The Fatal Shore_, p. 562). I suspect that this is what brought Ballarat to the broadside-writers' attention -- especially since the British government charged the large fee of 30 shillings a month for a gold license (Hughes, p. 562),meaning that they needed some sort of law and order in the area. But gold rushes are almost always attended by squalor, since there are few supplies in the area. Hence, presumably, this song. But we note that it has mentions absolutely nothing about Australia except the name "Ballarat." I assume it is in fact an older piece adapted to the Australian gold rush.

Roud lumps this with "The Hungry Army (I)." But while the theme is the same, the plot is different enough that Ben Schwartz and I both believe it should be split. - RBW


  • Bodleian, Firth b.25(254), "The Hungry Army" ("When I was young and in my prime"), W.S. Fortey (London), 1858-1885; also Firth c.19(219), 2806 c.8(288), "The Hungry Army"


  • Walter Pardon, "The Hungry Army" (on Voice14)


  1. Roud #1746
  2. BI, RcHunAr2


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1886 (broadside, Bodleian Firth b.25(254))
Found in: Britain(England(Lond))