Colonel Bogey March

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Colonel Bogey March
March by F. J. Ricketts
Composed1914 (1914)
Audio sample
The "Colonel Bogey March", by Kenneth J. Alford, performed by the United States Navy Band

The "Colonel Bogey March" is a British march that was composed in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945) (pen name Kenneth J. Alford), a British Army bandmaster who later became the director of music for the Royal Marines at Plymouth. The march is often whistled. Featuring in films since it first appeared in The Lady Vanishes in 1938, Empire magazine included the tune in its list of 25 of Cinema's Catchiest Earworms.[1]


"Colonel Bogey March" sheet music

Since service personnel were, at that time, not encouraged to have professional lives outside the armed forces, British Army bandmaster F. J. Ricketts published "Colonel Bogey" and his other compositions under the pseudonym Kenneth J. Alford in 1914.[2] One supposition is that the tune was inspired by a British military officer who "preferred to whistle a descending minor third" rather than shout "Fore!" when playing golf.[3] It is this descending interval that begins each line of the melody. The name "Colonel Bogey" began in the late 19th century as an imaginary "standard opponent" in assessing a player's performance,[4] and by Edwardian times the Colonel had been adopted by the golfing world as the presiding spirit of the course.[5] Edwardian golfers on both sides of the Atlantic often played matches against "Colonel Bogey".[6] Bogey is now a golfing term meaning "one over par".[7]


The sheet music was a million-seller, and the march was recorded many times.

Colonel Bogey is or has been used as an official quick march by the following military units:

At the start of World War II, "Colonel Bogey" became a British institution[10] when a popular song was set to the tune: "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball" (originally "Göring Has Only Got One Ball" after the Luftwaffe leader suffered a groin injury), essentially exalting rudeness.[10]

In the 1947 feature film It Always Rains On Sunday, a pair of young would-be hooligans are interrupted in their trouble-making by an adult, and they march away whistling the "Colonel Bogey March" as a symbol of defiance and resentment.[citation needed]

In 1951, during the first computer conference held in Australia, the "Colonel Bogey March" was the first music played by a computer,[11] by CSIRAC, a computer developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

In the 1961 movie The Parent Trap, the campers at an all-girls summer camp whistle the "Colonel Bogey March" as they march through camp, mirroring the scene from The Bridge on the River Kwai.[12]

The square dance figure Grand Spin was written in 1967 and is performed to the music of the Colonel Bogey March.[13]

In episode 28 (1976) of The Benny Hill Show, Sale of the Half-Century game show sketch, the march was used in a Name That Tune-style question. One of the contestants' answers was "After the Ball" after which the host (Benny) responded with, "well, you're sort of half-right" referring to the anti-Hitler slur.

The march has been used in German commercials for Underberg digestif bitter since the 1970s,[14] and has become a classic jingle there.[15] A parody titled "Comet" is a humorous song about the ill effects of consuming the cleaning product of the same name.[16]

In the 1985 film The Breakfast Club, all the teenage main characters are whistling the tune during their Saturday detention when Principal Vernon (played by Paul Gleason) walks into the room.[17] It was also used in Short Circuit and Spaceballs.[1]

In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "I Know Why the Caged Bird Screams", the fictional ULA Peacocks have a fight song to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March.

In the UK, the Colonel Bogey March is still (2019) one of the most common tunes played by ice-cream vans.

In the 2019, the Colonel Bogey March was used in the TV series The Man in the High Castle, in episode 8 of season 4.

The song was featured in episode 5 of season 6 of Outlander, revealing a returning character from season 5. The song also continued through the credits.

The Bridge on the River Kwai[edit]

English composer Malcolm Arnold added a counter-march, which he titled "The River Kwai March", for the 1957 dramatic film The Bridge on the River Kwai, set during World War II. The two marches were recorded together by Mitch Miller as "March from the River Kwai – Colonel Bogey" and it reached #20 in the US in 1958. The Arnold march forms part of the orchestral concert suite made of the Arnold film score by Christopher Palmer published by Novello & Co in London.[18]

On account of the movie, the "Colonel Bogey March" is often miscredited as the "River Kwai March". While Arnold did use "Colonel Bogey" in his score for the movie, it was only the first theme and a bit of the second theme of "Colonel Bogey", whistled unaccompanied by the British prisoners several times as they marched into the prison camp. A British actor, Percy Herbert, who appeared in The Bridge on the River Kwai suggested the use of the song in the movie. According to Kevin Brownlow’s interviews with David Lean, it was actually David Lean who knew of the song and fought during the screenwriting process to have it whistled by the troops. He realized it had to be whistled rather than sung because the World War II-era lyrics (see "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball") were racy and would not get past the censors. Percy Herbert was used as a consultant on the film because he had first-hand experience of Japanese POW camps, he was paid an extra £5 per week by director David Lean.

Since the movie depicted prisoners of war held under inhumane conditions by the Japanese, Canadian officials were embarrassed in May 1980, when a military band played "Colonel Bogey" during a visit to Ottawa by Japanese prime minister Masayoshi Ōhira.[19]

Jewel Thief (1967)[edit]

S.D. Burman used this composition in the 1967 Hindi spy thriller heist film Jewel Thief. The opening lines of "Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechaara" draw inspiration from the marching song.[20][21]


  1. ^ a b "25 Of Cinema's Catchiest Earworms". Empire. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  2. ^ Gene Phillips (2006). Beyond the Epic: The Life and Films of David Lean. p. 306. University Press of Kentucky.
  3. ^ "The real Colonel Bogey".
  4. ^ The Royal Cornwall Gazette of 10 March 1892 reports the results of the Royal Cornwall Golf Club Ladies versus "Colonel" Bogey
  5. ^ Many references to the Colonel in the press include a letter from a "golf widow" to The Times of 3 June 1914.
  6. ^ Toronto; Globe 25 October 1904 p. 10.
  7. ^ Harris, Ed (2007). Golf Facts, Figures & Fun. Vol. Illustrated. AAPPL. ISBN 978-1-904332-65-7.
  8. ^ Pegler, Martin, Soldiers' Songs and Slang of the Great War, Osprey Publishing, 2014, ISBN 9781427804150, page 242.
  9. ^ "Duty - Army WAC Song", Women's Army Corps Veterans' Association website. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
  10. ^ a b O'Grady, Sean (23 October 2011). "Minor British Institutions: Colonel Bogey". The Independent. London. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  11. ^ "CSIRAC - Australia's first computer - CSIROpedia". CSIROpedia. 24 January 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Order of songs for Thunder Over Louisville". Courier Journal. Retrieved 16 April 2022.
  13. ^ Baker, Clark. "Database of all Square Dance calls". Retrieved 4 April 2023. A video of the dance figure being performed: Taberd, Ngọc Lợi. "The Grand Colonel Spin - Square Dance A.9 (Mỹ)". Retrieved 4 April 2023.
  14. ^ Christoph Schulte (2 March 2011). "Underberg: Eine Portion Wohlbefinden". Falstaff Magazin - Weine, Restaurants.
  15. ^ "Rheinberg: Underberg-Marsch nun als Weihnachts-Jingle". RP Online. 21 December 2013.
  16. ^ MacDonald, Ann-Marie (2003). The Way the Crow Flies. HarperCollins. p. 97. ISBN 0-06-058637-0.
  17. ^ Coyne, Tom (2019). A Course Called Scotland: Searching the Home of Golf for the Secret to Its Game. Simon and Schuster. p. 246.
  18. ^ Arnold, Malcolm. "The Bridge on the River Kwai - Concert Suite (1957)". Wise Music Classical. Retrieved 13 April 2022.
  19. ^ The Canadian Press (6 May 1980). "Our band hit sour note for Japan's prime minister". Montreal Gazette. p. 1. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  20. ^ "#9 Jewel Thief: Top 100 Bollywood Albums - Film Companion". Film Companion. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 22 May 2018.
  21. ^ "Bollywood Retrospect: The best of SD Burman - Part 2 | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 7 November 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2018.

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