Iron Maiden are known for their military-inspired song themes with a range of albums and tracks based on historic battles or Armed Forces heroism – so it is perhaps fitting that the British heavy metal band’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson has been attested into the Royal Air Force.
Here, we take a look at some of the best military-themed Iron Maiden songs after it was announced that Dickinson, who has performed with the band since 1981, has been awarded the role of Honorary Group Captain in the RAF.
There are many, many Iron Maiden tracks that reflect historical moments in history and the battles that went with them, from Alexander The Great to Viking raids in the song Invaders but this list reflects some of the best Maiden songs based on some key themes of modern warfare.
Aces High (Powerslave, 1984)
A song to stir the spirits of patriotism as it alludes to some of Dickinson’s own passions such as aviation, flight history, the battle for the skies and heroism.
The song begins with Churchill’s legendary “We shall fight on the beaches …” speech as it explores The Battle of Britain, triumph over adversity and the refusal to surrender against the odds.
The lyrics “Out for the scramble, we've got to get airborne, Got to get up for the coming attack” pays homage to The Few – the Spitfire pilots of the Royal Air Force and the aviators of the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Navy (RN) who thwarted the Luftwaffe as the German air force embarked on bombing raids over Britain.
The Trooper (Piece of Mind, 1983)
The Trooper, written by bassist and founding-member Steve Harris, is inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade, one of the most famous military charges in history, at the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 in the Crimean War, and Lord Tennyson’s famous poem.
The lyrics place us in the midst of the battle with the words:
“The horse, he sweats with fear, we break to run, The mighty roar of the Russian guns, And as we race towards the human wall, The screams of pain as my comrades fall.”
Paschendale (Dance Of Death, 2003)
A lyrical look at the Battle of Passchendaele from the point of view of a soldier in the battle of the First World War.
Reflecting other artistic accounts of World War One warfare, such as those penned by the great war poets, the lyrics tell us of the lonely soldier laying in an unknown grave, in a foreign field and they call the world to remember those who died in our name:
“On his dying words he prays, Tell the world of Paschendale.”
The Longest Day (A Matter Of Life And Death, 2006)
Like the 1962 epic war film of the same name, based on the 1959 book by Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day is about the allied forces invasion of Normandy during D-Day in the Second World War.
Alluding to the number of casualties, it is thought that many references pay homage to the Armed Forces who lost their lives on Omaha Beach in the first wave of what was one of the most legendary battles of modern history.
Tailgunner (No Prayer For The Dying, 1990)
A nod to the rear gunners on bomber aircraft of the Second World War, such as the Avro Lancaster or B-52, and another look at the battle in the skies of WW2, the song tells of the airmen who climbed to the skies, heading for Cologne and Frankfurt and the bombing raids by Allied forces over German territory.
Run Silent, Run Deep (No Prayer For The Dying, 1990)
A reference to the submarine warfare of the Second World War in the Pacific Ocean, as also depicted in the 1958 film starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.
The title refers to the tactic of submarine stealth tactic of silent running beneath the waters to evade discovery by sonar as underwater crews hunted enemy ships.
Fortunes Of War (The X-Factor, 1995)
The lyrics suggest a cynical view of what might be a soldier’s “fortune”, pointing to the struggles faced by the Armed Forces as they return home and struggle with the impact of conflict on wellbeing and the mind.
With words that reflect post-traumatic stress disorder, “vivid scenes and all the recurring nightmares”, the song takes a look at some of the hardships that some in the Armed Forces endure in the aftermath of conflict.
These Colours Don’t Run (A Matter Of Life And Death, 2006)
A patriotic battle cry with a statement about heroes never backing down in the face of an enemy.
Many Americans are known to have displayed these words on flags, bumper stickers and T-shirts, especially post 9-11 – a message to any enemy that the USA does not run away from a threat.
Dickinson, however, has been known to fly the Union Flag on stage to this song as he sings, “For the passion, for the glory”, in a homage to soldiers fighting the good fight everywhere.
Run To The Hills (The Number of the Beast, 1982)
A look at soldiers in history, depicting the running battles between Native American tribes and invading Anglo-Saxon soldiers.
The lyrics tell a story about the European invasion of the New World and the battles that ensured over the territory.
One of Iron Maiden’s all-time greats, the song was the band’s first Top 10 hit in the UK.
Where Eagles Dare (Piece of Mind, 1983)
Another song inspired by the stories of World War II, on a theme that is associated with the 1968 Brian G. Hutton film of the same name.
The story is about allied agents who stage a daring raid on a castle where the Nazis are holding American Brigadier General George Carnaby (Robert Beatty) prisoner, with plot twists along the way.
* Cover image: Bruce Dickinson playing with Iron Maiden in Florida (Picture: PA).