The song, inspired by Lord Tennyson’s poem about the Battle of Balaclava.
‘The Trooper’ is a song by Iron Maiden that was released as the second single on 20 June 1983 from the band’s fourth studio album, Piece of Mind.
Written by bassist and founding member Steve Harris, the song is based on the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava 1854, which took place during the Crimean War, and inspired by Lord Tennyson’s poem of the same name.
It’s quite an atmospheric song as the opening in “The Trooper” is meant to try and recreate the galloping horses in the charge of the light brigade. The first verses show the soldier’s patriotism: He’s willing to die if he can take an enemy with him. “Run you through” regards various kinds of blades – swords, spears (the presumed weapon of a light cavalryman) and bayonets installed atop the rifles to stab approaching enemies. And as the trooper dies, he feels lonely on the ground and slowly fading to death. Despite this feeling of emptiness and being “forgotten,” he dies without regret or fear.
A regular fixture in the band’s concerts, vocalist Bruce Dickinson has always waved a Union Flag during live performances and, more recently, has begun wearing an authentic red coat uniform which would have been worn during the battle on which the song was based.
However, sometimes it was a subject to some controversies, like during a performance in Dublin in 2003 when Dickinson’s flag-waving reportedly received a large amount of booing from the Irish audience and at the 2005 Ozzfest. Sharon Osbourne, accused Iron Maiden of disrespecting American troops, then fighting alongside the British in Iraq, for waving a Union Flag in the US, although Classic Rock magazine supported the band by pointing out that the song’s subject bore no relation to the military activity then taking place in the Middle East.