New Top Ten Reveals Most Emotive Songs For The UK Armed Forces

Here's the top song named by the military community that reminds them of military life

  • Serving military, veterans and their families have named Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits as the song that best reminds them of military life


  • Nearly half (48%) of serving military said that the most important thing about music was “keeping up morale and reminding me of home” when deployed 

Whether it’s the memory of a tour in Afghanistan, the first time they set foot in Gibraltar, or waving goodbye to a loved one, more than a quarter (28%) of the British military and their families say that music was more important to them during their time in the military than it is in civvy life, according to research released today to mark 75 years of BFBS, the Forces broadcaster and media organisation.  

Since its first radio broadcast in 1944 from Algiers, BFBS has raised the morale, well-being and welfare of our armed forces and their families worldwide – and has continued to serve the Forces during operations overseas, including in the Falklands, Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.  

To celebrate 75 years of entertaining, informing, connecting and championing the UK Armed Forces, BFBS asked its global British audience to nominate the songs that best ignite their military memories and the moving stories behind them. 

The list was then voted on by more than 1,000 serving military, veterans and their families to create a Top 75. 

Taking the top spot was the Dire Straits number one hit, Brothers in Arms, written by lead singer Mark Knopfler during the Falklands War.

When told of the band’s top spot in the BFBS 75 list, Mark delivered a special message to BFBS audiences:

“Greetings to BFBS everywhere! I’d like to thank you all for voting Brothers in Arms the best song to ignite your own military memories whatever they may be.

"It means a great deal to me to have given something, however small, back to so many.”

Mark Knopfler

This was followed closely by Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell.  

Sailing by Rod Stewart came in at number three with one military wife remembering it as “the most played record in Pompey when the boys sailed off for the Falklands.

"The town seemed to change, families cheered - and their waiting game began.” 

American rock band the Eagles took the number four spot with Hotel California and The Moody Blues, Nights in White Satin made up the top five. 

The top ten most emotive songs for the military:  

1. Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

2. Bat out of hell – Meat Loaf

3. Sailing (1975) - Rod Stewart

4. Hotel California - Eagles

5. Nights In White Satin - The Moody Blues

6. Boys Are Back In Town - Thin Lizzy

7. Don't Stop Me Now – Queen

8 = Come On Eileen - Dexys Midnight Runners

8 = Leaving on a Jet Plane - John Denver

9. Sailing - HMS Ark Royal


Other songs which feature in the list of 75 tracks include A Horse with No Name by America at number 12, nominated by one member of the serving military who remembered it playing in Saudi when he pulled the radio stag ‘graveyard’ stint – he can “still smell the desert air when it comes on the radio." 

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler, came in at number 28 and reminded one RAF member of the time when he signed up in 1979, as it was playing in the Southampton recruitment office. Jethro Tull’s, Living in The Past (number 37), brought back memories of singing "pack up your troubles" in a Chinook helicopter, just before one regiment landed in the Falklands - bringing the song’s nominator to tears.  It still has the same effect years later.  

Although classic nostalgic tracks make up the majority of the list. There are also some songs from more recent years, reviving military memories for serving military and veterans, such as: Dry Your Eyes by The Streets (number 34), Where is the Love from the Black Eyed Peas (number 36) and Love Yourself by Justin Bieber at number 46.   

When asked what the most important things about music during their military life were, 36% of serving military and veterans stated that it cheered them up, and 47% of military families said that music helped them through difficult times.  

Pop proved to be the genre that most respondents associated with their time in the military (19%), closely followed by rock (17%) and then country (6%). When asked what emotions people associate with their time in the military the majority were positive, with pride (53%), belonging (50%) and happiness (44%) proving the most popular.  

Mike Howarth, Content Manager for BFBS said: “This really is BFBS at its very best.

"For 75 years we’ve been alongside the British Forces – entertaining and raising morale.

"Music really does bring people together and this list reflects that. It’s great to see so much variety – tracks which mean so much to people – and to hear the stories and memories behind them.”

BFBS Radio will be airing the full top 75 today from 10am.

Here's just a few of the comments that some of you made about the music that made the memories during your military life:

Garry Wilcock 

A Horse With No Name - America

"Always on in Saudi when I pulled the radio stag graveyard stint. I Still smell the desert air when it comes on the radio."

Robert Lucas              

Living In The Past 1969 - Jethro Tull

"In the NAAFI queue. You had to learn the past victories of the Corps! Singing "Pack up your troubles" in a Chinook helicopter, just before you landed in the Falklands. Tears, even now."


Dave Ball                    

If Only I Could  - Sydney Youngblood

         "I was in NI with the Royal Signals in the late 80s and after months of long hours, hard work and witnessing friends being killed, we went to the Cairngorms for an R&R week (it wasn't called decompression in those days).

"The biggest song being played at that time (1989) was Sidney Youngblood 'If only I could''s funky, it has a great rhythm and the lyrics have a message that have stayed with me throughout my career. I am always transported right back to that time whenever I hear that song... I hope it makes it to your 75.. Thanks BFBS Radio."


Margaret Cowell                    

Love Shack - The B52’s           

"Reminds me of the good times we had in Cyprus."


Margaret Davidson                

Distant Drums - Roy Orbison

"Played endlessly by the squaddies in Singapore in the early 1960s."


Milton Mcghie            

The Gambler - Kenny Rogers

"It was playing in the Southampton RAF recruitment office when I signed up in 1979."


Jenn Leonard              

Where is the Love - Black Eyed Peas  

"Telic 2 - every time I hear it, it reminds me of being away. Thank you @BFBS."


Angela Dobson                       

Wonderwall - Oasis    

"During Recruit Training, one of the guys on our flight could play the guitar and wrote a song to the music listing lots of funny things that happened during the training. Makes me smile ever time I hear that song. #9Flight."


Susan Searle               

Sailing - Rod Stewart

"Probably the most played record in Pompey when the boys sailed of for the Falklands. The town seemed to change. Families cheered - and their waiting game began."


Brian Dunkeld            

Stop the Cavalry - Jona Lewie

"HMS Alert in Northern Ireland waiting for HMS Vigilant to relieve us at Christmas time, and it finally came in January. Lol ?"


Robert Locking            

Dry Your Eyes - The Streets

"Whilst on Telic 4, the Black Watch were briefed by their commanding officer that they were becoming 3 Scots and would no longer be known as the Black Watch. During his brief he began to cry, obviously a very emotional brief to his lads.  Unfortunately for him, pretty much the whole of Telic 4 got wind of this. 

And as regular as clockwork, the request for Dry Your Eyes was dedicated on a daily basis to the Commanding Officer.  I think it hit a nerve in the end, as I’m sure when the Posties in Baghdad dedicated the song it was the last time."


Michael Hutchinson    

Love yourself - Just Bieber     

"Just Bieber Love yourself reminds me of Term 1 at RAFC Cranwell."


Tracy Goymer            

Runaway - The Corrs 

"My husband heard this song whilst in basic training in Pirbright, when he came home on leave, he took me to HMV to listen to it and it became our wedding song..and is still our song today."


Jed Daymond             

The Power - Snap       

"Always remember my brother dancing around to it on the bus LDY good days."


Daph Stephen 

When Will I See You Again (1974) - Three Degrees

"1974 Cyprus waiting to be flown home after the coup with my 4 week old daughter."


David Dougans           

Furniture - Brilliant Mind 1986          

"Played constantly on the NAAFI video duke box Catterick."


Meg Corner    

Billie Jo Spears - Blanket On The Ground       

"We adopted it in our basic training at Guildford, January 1980."


Doug Clark                 

Vanilla Ice - Ice Ice Baby         

"Remind me of memories for the 1st Gulf War."


Laurence Tysoe                      

Bachmann Turner Overdrive - You ain't seen nothing yet     

"Was playing on the jukebox in Woolwich barracks NAAFI when we first went in there as new recruits."


Tracy Fulbrook                       

Oleta Adams - Get here         

"When the lads were helping to liberate Kuwait ‘91... QOIH (LAD)."


Joe Collier                  

Wild Things - the Troggs        

"Our Training Cpl, at Depot Lichfield July 1966, Tommy Hawkes (Worcesters I think). His favourite song, when he was putting us through a load of (I will be polite and say) trouble, was "Wild Things" by the Troggs. I will never forget that song or Cpl Hawkes."


Laurence Tysoe                      

Bachman Turner Overdrive - You ain't seen nothing yet

"Was playing on the jukebox in Woolwich barracks NAAFI when we first went in there as new recruits."


Morven Slyper

Boney M. - Brown Girl In the Ring     

"M NAAFI BMH Munster. Got everyone up dancing ????"

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