The Colonel Bogey March was written in 1914 by Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts (1881–1945) (under the pseudonym Kenneth J.Alford) – a British Army bandmaster and later the director of music for the Royal Marines in Plymouth.
The story goes that the tune was inspired by an eccentric military man and fellow golf enthusiast (nicknamed Colonel Bogey) who, instead of shouting “Fore!” to warn of an impending drive, whistled a characteristic two-note phrase (a descending minor third interval). It is this descending interval that begins each line of the melody.
Such was the music’s popularity that it was almost inevitable that at some point the music would be accompanied by lyrics. Indeed, come the Second World War Alford’s music was paired with the popular song Hitler Has Only Got One Ball, becoming an unofficial national anthem to rudeness along the way.
The tune has been used in numerous films, but perhaps most notably as reworked by Malcolm Arnold in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) where it was famously whistled by the British prisoners as they marched into a WWII prison camp.