It’s normally around the time of the Ashes that Australian cricket fans are ‘treated’ to the delights of England’s famous ‘Barmy Army’, with their trumpets and pre-organised sing-a-long antics entertaining crowds across the five major Test arenas.
The current T20 World Cup on Australian shores has created another opportunity to witness this spectacle, and as usual, the English haven’t disappointed (in the stands at least).
Having been present throughout their team’s World Cup campaign to date, the Barmy Army bandwagon is set to roll into Sydney on Saturday, when England takes on Sri Lanka at the SCG.
The volume of their songs has increased throughout the tournament, with England’s recent win over New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday being a particularly boisterous affair.
Who are the Barmy Army?
So, who are these people, and why do they make the trip halfway around the world every time their cricket team enters our country?
The Inner Sanctum caught up with the leaders of the Barmy Army in Brisbane to find out.
George Gallantree is the first person we met, looking resplendent in his St George’s flag suit, which he wears to every England game.
As Gallantree explained, the Barmy Army isn’t necessarily made up of the same people travelling around to each match (although many do). More often it’s a collection of ex-pats who live in each Australian city, supplemented by the die-hards who make the trip from the UK.
One such example is the group Gallantree co-founded – The Brisbane Barmies, which has amassed over 800 members since its inception six years ago.
As well as providing colour and noise whenever their team takes the field in Brisbane, George’s group also organises an annual charity golf day, with last year’s event raising 17 thousand dollars for a local Brisbane charity Hummingbird House.
“We have 144 players registered for this year [charity golf day], and some amazing raffle prizes. The England cricket team have also been incredibly obliging in terms of signing memorabilia for us, which is in aid of another Brisbane charity – Act for Kids” Gallantree said.
They may be barmy, but it seems they are also cricket fans with a heart.
Friends with the Richies?
Gallantree also shared that he had been invited to carry the ICC T20 World Cup trophy onto the Gabba ahead of the England clash with New Zealand, just before the teams were led out for the national anthems.
Gallantree told The Inner Sanctum how he managed to get the invite.
“The organiser of the Richies (Australian cricket supporters group) is a good friend of mine, and works for the ICC,” he said.
“He was the one that extended the offer to do it as he knows I am a passionate Englishman and that I co-lead the Brisbane Barmies. It was a true honour to be asked and to do it with my daughter made it extra special.”
As Gallantree headed off to carry out his ceremonial duties, The Inner Sanctum spoke to members of the Official Barmy Army, who have flown out from the UK for the tournament.
Dave Peacock, one of the founders of the original group way back in 1995, explained.
“There are only a handful of us here from England this time, given it’s the T20 [World Cup} and not the Ashes. We coordinate with groups like George’s in each state to make sure England fans are represented and can get together for a collective sing-song,” he said.
When asked how long are they in the country for?
“As long as England are in the tournament!” comes the quick-witted reply from Peacock.
There’s no doubting their dedication, and their sense of humour hasn’t been affected by the long trip.
The Sydney Chapter
Later in the week, we catch up with Tony Emmerson, another English ex-pat who is currently heading up the Sydney chapter of the Barmy Army.
Emmerson explained that his group have sold out bays 12, 13, and 14 at the SCG for Saturday’s game, and is expecting over 1000 English fans to join them in their designated area, as well as thousands more around the ground.
The Sydney Barmy Army has arranged a local watering hole close to the ground – Watsons – for England supporters to gather prior to the game. They have even secured their own trumpeter for the occasion (a regular feature of the Barmy Army entourage), who will lead the fans with a selection of their favourite cricket-flavoured ditties.
The level of organisation these guys have just to watch cricket is mind-blowing.
As the conversation ended Emmerson gave his prediction for Saturday’s crunch game, which England must win to secure progress to the next stage.
“Hopefully our boys come out hard as they did against New Zealand on Tuesday, and we can get the win to qualify for the semi-finals,” Emmerson said.
“It would also be nice to knock the Aussies out, as I’m sure they would be delighted if they were to do the same to us.”
It wouldn’t be the Barmy Army without a good-natured sledge of their archrivals, and we’ve no doubt that they’ll be repeating those sentiments at the SCG this Saturday night. You have been warned.
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