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"We Are The Old Bucks Boys"

8 September 2014

Dale Hurman tells the tale behind the banner which now graces the Frank Adams Stand.

This is a story about the song “We are the Old Bucks Boys” which has been associated with Wycombe Wanderers for over a century.

The story begins back in 1889 when the Royal Buckinghamshire Hussars Yeomanry were renamed. They had originally been formed as cavalry in 1794 in response to the threat of the French Revolution. They were a voluntary force and in December 1899 the decision was made to allow them to serve in the Second Boer War.

The Oxfordshire Light Infantry also fought in the Second Boer War before being renamed as the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1908. The song itself is likely to have been sung for the first time during the Second Boer War. It is a generic song sung by soldiers from across the whole of the United Kingdom.

The most popular first verse of the song is:

“We are the… [name of group]”
“We are the… [name of group]”
“We spend our tanners”
“We mind our manners”
“We are respected wherever we go”

The third and fourth lines are often interchangeable and many different groups adopted their own versions, most notably with second verses. A tanner is of course an alternative name for a sixpence.

The song seems to have gradually grown in popularity during the first decade of the 20th century, with the tune a variant on Mark Sheridan’s song “Who Were You With Last Night?”, which was released in November 1912.

There is a tale that the girls who worked in the newly-opened E.S. & A. Robinson paper manufacturers factory in Bristol, used to sing their own version of the song called “We Are The Robinson’s Girls.”

It was during the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 however that the song becomes popular with soldiers and was throughout the conflict. The following is an extract from the memoirs of the Church Lads’ Brigade battalion in France.

“With variations the above has become a sort of universal song in the New Army. The tune would fail to satisfy the fastidious master of music. But it has a good lilt about it, and it pleases Tommy. He sings it with a will, and his officers are not above following his
example. So it was no surprise when the 6th King's Royal Rifle Corps swinging through the streets of France for the first time, sang the old refrain lustily for the benefit, it may be presumed, of the friendly Allies who greeted the newly arrived troops with a welcoming smile as they went by.”

It would have been soldiers from the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry (Royal Bucks Hussars) who sung “We are the Old Bucks Boys.” C Squadron of the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry (Royal Bucks Hussars)were based in High Wycombe, with detachments in Stokenchurch, Taplow and Beaconsfield.

On their return from the war in 1918, it is likely soldiers sung the song around the town, and it is possible that they sung it on the terraces at Loakes Park during matches too. The lyrics are interchangeable but are suspected to be…

“We are the Old Bucks Boys”
“And we make a hell of a noise”
“Lend us a tanner”
“And we'll mind our manners”
“'Cos we are the Old Bucks Boys.”

The Buckinghamshire Yeomanry (Royal Bucks Hussars) underwent a number of reconstitutions and redesignations before the outbreak of the Second World War, during which they fought in France and Belgium in 1940 before the Dunkirk evacuation. They then fought in India and Burma from 1942 to 1945.

The 1st Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry also fought in France in 1940 before the Dunkirk evacuation and returned as part of the D-Day Landings in June 1944 and advanced East through Belgium and the Netherlands before reaching Hamburg in Germany in May 1945.

The 2nd Battalion of the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry re-roled as an Air Landing unit and played a part of Operation Deadstick, which was a precursor to the D-Day Landings. The operation was immortalised in the film The Longest Day. They returned to the UK in September before being rushed to Belgium just before Christmas 1944.

In March 1945 they were involved in the successful Operation Varsity, on the banks of the River Rhine, which is the largest airborne operation in the history of warfare. It came at a huge cost with 400 killed or injured out of a total battalion strength of 800 men.

The 6th Ox and Bucks served on the Arakan Front during the advance down the west coast of Burma in 1944/45 whilst the 7th Ox and Bucks took part in the final battle in the Tunisian Campaign in 1943. In the spring and summer of 1945, two companies of the Buckinghamshire Battalion were attached to a secretive unit known as T-Force, whose role was to locate Nazi scientists and military research facilities.

There is anecdotal evidence that “We are the Old Bucks Boys” was sung occasionally during games at Loakes Park after the Second World War; through the golden eras of the fifties under coach Sid Cann and during manager Brian Lee’s reign in the seventies. It has endured until this day, albeit a song which has lived on in myth and mystery, some of which may have been dispelled by this very article.

A group of Wycombe Wanderers supporters have designed and created a new banner with the words “We are the Old Bucks Boys” and you will be able to see it displayed on the TV gantry at the top of the Woodlands stand upper tier at Adams Park. It represents all of those who have walked before us as they followed the club and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

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