"When the Tigers Broke Free" (also listed as "When the Tygers Broke Free") is a Pink Floyd song by Roger Waters, describing the death of his father Eric Fletcher Waters, during World War II's Operation Shingle. The song was written at the same time as The Wall, hence its copyright date of 1979, but not released until the movie version of Pink Floyd's album The Wall and first released as a separate track on a 7" single on 26 July 1982 (running ~2:55), before appearing in The Wall film. The 7" was labelled "Taken from the album The Final Cut" but was not included on that album until the 2004 CD reissue.
The song made its first CD appearance on a promotional disc in conjunction with Roger Waters' 1990 live performance of The Wall at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. This was the original Pink Floyd recording from the Wall movie, and had a running time of 3:00. It would be generally released on CD with a duration of 3:42 on Pink Floyd's 2001 compilation album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. After that, the next time the song appeared was on the 2004 re-released, remastered version of The Final Cut, where it rests between "One of the Few" and "The Hero's Return", this time an edited version of 3:16.
The song sets up the story premise for The Wall movie, set over footage recreating the British contribution to the Anzio campaign's Operation Shingle, where Allied forces landed on the beaches near Anzio, Italy with the goal of eventually liberating Rome from German control. These forces included C Company of the Royal Fusiliers, in which Waters' father Eric served. As Waters tells it, the forward commander had asked to withdraw his forces from a German Tiger I tank assault, but the generals refused, and "the Anzio bridgehead was held for the price / Of a few hundred ordinary lives" as the Tigers eventually broke through the British defence, killing all of C Company, including Eric Waters.
In the second verse of the song (which makes up the reprise later in The Wall film), Waters describes how he found a letter of condolence from the British government, described as a note from King George in the form of a gold leaf scroll which "His Majesty signed / In his own rubber stamp." Waters' resentment then explodes in the final line "And that's how the High Command took my Daddy from me".
The underlying theme of the song is one of the primary catalysts for the character Pink's descent into isolation and insanity throughout the story of The Wall, especially in the film version.
It was just before dawn
One miserable morning in black 'forty four.
When the forward commander
Was told to sit tight
When he asked that his men be withdrawn.
And the Generals gave thanks
As the other ranks held back
The enemy tanks for a while.
And the Anzio bridgehead
Was held for the price
Of a few hundred ordinary lives.
And kind old King George
Sent Mother a note
When he heard that father was gone.
It was, I recall,
In the form of a scroll,
With gold leaf and all.
And I found it one day
In a drawer of old photographs, hidden away.
And my eyes still grow damp to remember
His Majesty signed
With his own rubber stamp.
It was dark all around.
There was frost in the ground
When the tigers broke free.
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that's how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.