Men of Harlech (Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech), a Welsh Military March

 “Men of Harlech” (Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech) is a traditional military march and is said to chronicle the seven-year long siege of Harlech Castle in the 1460s. The incident is considered the longest known siege in British history. The garrison was commanded by Constable Dafydd ap Ieuan. The tune is also called “Through Seven Years.”  Zuluwar tells us, “It is the regimental march of several regiments historically associated with Wales. The Royal Regiment of Wales, now the Royal Welsh (UK), the Royal Canadian Hussars (Montreal) and the Governor General’s Horse Guards, Canadian Forces are three examples. It is also the regimental march for two Australian Army Reserve units, the 8th/7th Battalion of The Royal Victoria Regiment and Sydney University Regiment where it is played as a quick march.” There are others who associate the song with the earlier shorter siege of Harlech Castle around 1408, which pitted the forces of Owain Glyndŵr against the future Henry V of England. “Men of Harlech” is important for Welsh national culture. The song gained international recognition when it was featured in the 1941 movie How Green Was My Valley and the 1964 movie Zulu. It was also featured in a 1950 Western, Apache Drums, at the conclusion of the 1945 film The Corn is Green, starring Bette Davis, and at the conclusion of the 1995 film The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain starring Hugh Grant.

Harlech Castle - A general view of the castle

Harlech Castle – A general view of the castle ~ via Wikipedia

Wikipedia speaks to the history of the song: “The music was first published without words during 1794 as Gorhoffedd Gwŷr Harlech—March of the Men of Harlech in the second edition of The Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards but it is said to be a much earlier folk song. The earliest version of the tune to appear with lyrics, found thus far, comes from a broadside printed c. 1830. Since then, many different versions of the English lyrics have been published. It was published first with Welsh lyrics in Gems of Welsh Melody, edited by the Welsh poet, John Owen (Owain Alaw), published in London,  England and Wrexham, Wales during 1860. An edition containing Welsh and English lyrics was published in  Ruthin, Wales, during 1862. The song was published in Volume II of the 1862 collection Welsh Melodies with the Welsh lyrics by the Welsh poet John Jones (Talhaiarn), and the English lyrics by  Thomas Oliphant, President of the Madrigal Society. Another source attributes the Welsh words to the poet John Ceiriog Hughes, first published during 1890, and says that English words were first published during 1893, but this is clearly predated by the earlier publications.

Some people assume this song is the Welsh national anthem, but that song is called “Hen Wlad fy Nhadau” (“Land of my Fathers”).

In addition to listening to this haunting tune on two You Tube links below, please read this story of survival where the song played a part in the evacuation of the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2003.  Awesome Stories 

Men of Harlech ~ You Tube 

Modern Words used by Regimental Band

Tongues of fire on Idris flaring,
news of foe-men near declaring,
to heroic deeds of daring,
calls you Harlech men

Groans of wounded peasants dying,
wails of wives and children flying,
for the distant succour crying,
calls you Harlech men.

Shall the voice of wailing,
now be unavailing,
You to rouse who never yet
in battles hour were failing,

His our answer crowds down pouring
swift as winter torrents roaring,
Not in vain the voice imploring,
calls on Harlech men

Loud the martial pipes are sounding
every manly heart is bounding
As our trusted chief surrounding,
march we Harlech men.

Short the sleep the foe is taking,
ere the morrows morn is breaking,
They shall have a rude awakening,
roused by Harlech men.

Mothers cease your weeping,
calm may be your sleeping,
you and yours in safety now
the Harlech men are keeping,

ere the sun is high in heaven
they you fear by panic riven
shall like frightened sheep be driven,
far by Harlech men.

2-officers.jpgMen of Harlech (from the film Zulu) You Tube 

John Oxenford version (published 1873)

Verse 1
Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov’ring o’er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
At your sloth she seems to wonder;
Rend the sluggish bonds asunder,
Let the war-cry’s deaf’ning thunder
Every foe appall.
Echoes loudly waking,
Hill and valley shaking;
‘Till the sound spreads wide around,
The Saxon’s courage breaking;
Your foes on every side assailing,
Forward press with heart unfailing,
‘Till invaders learn with quailing,
Cambria ne’er can yield!
Verse 2
Thou, who noble Cambria wrongest,
Know that freedom’s cause is strongest,
Freedom’s courage lasts the longest,
Ending but with death!
Freedom countless hosts can scatter,
Freedom stoutest mail can shatter,
Freedom thickest walls can batter,
Fate is in her breath.
See, they now are flying!
Dead are heap’d with dying!
Over might hath triumph’d right,
Our land to foes denying;
Upon their soil we never sought them,
Love of conquest hither brought them,
But this lesson we have taught them,
“Cambria ne’er can yield!”



About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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4 Responses to Men of Harlech (Rhyfelgyrch Gwŷr Harlech), a Welsh Military March

  1. carolcork says:

    Harlech Castle is one of favourite castles. It has one of the most commanding views over the town of Harlech.

  2. Riana Everly says:

    I love Wales. Men of Harlach is one of a number of beautiful or stirring songs. I’ve actually got the first stanza to Men of Harlech on my coffee mug, but I can’t understand more than a word here or there. I speak very, very little Welsh, but I can pronounce it. Mostly. Mwynha dy ddiwrnod!

    • How very lovely. I would like a tea mug with the song on it. Like you, I speak very little Welsh – spoke more when I was younger, but lost along the way as the “old folks” died out. Wales is a significant chunk of my DNA.

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