Morning lovelies …this weekend it is Remembrance Sunday where the nation will honour, remember and give thanks for those that fought and lost their lives during wars and conflicts in order to secure and protect our freedom. Many people across the world are still suffering the consequences of wars today.
You know I love my music and whilst musical taste can be very different, some songs and their sentiment have a way of uniting and expressing thoughts that bring us all together. Lyrics can make us reflect and whilst people might hold differing opinions based on experiences and their views of war, all of us are thankful for the courage and sacrifices those brave soldiers made that sadly lost their lives, firstly in WW1, then WW2 and in subsequent battles and conflicts..
Every family will have a story to tell, some more tragic and sad than others. Every family will have members of their family past or present, who have been affected by war. It is important we don’t forget our fallen heroes, the bravery they showed and the legacy that they have left.
I was brought up being very aware that both my grandfathers fought in WW1 and one in WW2. One grandfather was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserves (RNVR) and served in the coastal motorboat division. He worked on the Dover patrol which was very important in WW1 as they guarded and made sure the coast was safe, performing many important duties. My other grandfather served in the Royal Artillery in WW1 and whilst initially in WW2 he did the same, he was then moved to the Medical Corps where he served as an army Dr. He sadly spent the last six months of WW2 in a Japanese concentration camp, but never, ever talked about it. In fact, no family member was aware of his plight until after his death many, many years later, when a colleague who had been alongside him revealed what he went through and how it had affected him. How horrendous must it have been for him to have never said a word about what happened and how he suffered? A testament to the strength of character and coping mechanisms of such brave men and soldiers.
With this in mind I will share five favourite songs that take us back and give us a chance to reflect on the sacrifices, so many have made. Of course the songs will be sad, emotional and moving, but sometimes it’s important to just take time to remember.
Number One- Keep The Home Fires Burning (or Till The Boys Come Home)
This was a patriotic WW1 song composed by Welshman Ivor Novello in 1914, with words by American Lena Gilbert Ford. It was the first major success for Novello and the only one for Ford who lived in England for twenty years. During the early years of the war traditional music hall was still very successful and entertainers rallied support with the war effort by singing sentimental songs to boost morale and encourage recruitment. This song became very popular and an anthem for a whole generation during the war, giving encouragement to families whose soldier sons and husbands had gone to war. Meanwhile, they waited anxiously at home praying for their safe return.
“Keep the Home Fires Burning,While your hearts are yearning.Though your lads are far away They dream of home”
When you consider that WW1 (1914 -1918) was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, with over 38 million military and civilian casualties and 17 million deaths, the statistics for their sons and husbands safe return were tragically not good. Over I million soldiers were killed in the famous Battle of the Somme, including 30,000 in one day, which is extremely hard to imagine.
Number Two- Eric Bogle The Green Fields of France
After visiting the war graves in France this song was originally written and recorded by Scottish, Australian folk songwriter Eric Bogle in 1976, although the song was a huge success for The Furey Brothers and Davey Arthur in the eighties. The song reflects on the grave of a young soldier, Willie McBride, who died in World War 1 . Whilst paying tribute to the courage and bravery of those who fought in the war, it also considers the futility and loss of life. It’s chorus refers to two pieces of famous military music’ ‘ The Last Post’ and ‘The Flower of the Forest’.
“Did they beat the drums slowly. Did they play the fife lowly . Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down”
The song was also commissioned by The Royal legion in 2014 for the Poppy appeal song and was recorded by Joss Stone and Jeff Beck against the backdrop of the Tower of London Poppies. This version however was very different from the original and missed out the verses that were anti war. The 2014 version whilst popular, was criticised by some for it’s ‘sentimentalised’ version and the fact it didn’t reflect on the true price of war as the songwriter had wanted.
Number Three Vera Lynn The White Cliffs of Dover
This song made famous by Vera Lynn, was written in 1941 by Walter Kent with lyrics by Nat Burton. It was during WW2 (1939-1945) that Vera Lynn, now aged 98, found fame as ‘The Forces Sweetheart’ and she became a symbol of the British war effort . Her musical performances were enormously popular and she became one of the ‘superstars’ of entertainment during the war years, entertaining the troops abroad. She also had her own radio programme called ‘Sincerely Yours’ in which she read out messages to comfort those torn apart because of the conflict. She was accredited with keeping the nation going through the darkest of times, a war which killed 60 million people, 40 million of who were civilians.
The song ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ was written a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting above the cliffs of Dover. The song looks towards a time when peace would rule over the famous White Cliffs.
T’here’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover Tomorrow, just you wait and see.
There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after, Tomorrow, when the world is free’
In 1969 she was awarded an OBE and is one of the oldest living artists, at aged 97, to have a record in the UK top 20, with her album of wartime songs.
Number 4-The Poppy Girls The Call (No Time To Say Goodbye)
The Poppy Girls is a pop band from armed forces families. They were first formed in 2013 to raise money for The Royal British Legion. They performed at the Festival of Remembrance. The song reflects on how families, particularly children, miss their parents whilst they are serving their country.
‘Let Your memories grow stronger and stronger, Til they’re before your eyes,
You’ll come back, When they call you, No need to say goodbye’
The poppy has become a symbol of remembrance and to commemorate soldiers who have died at war since 1921. It was inspired by the poem ‘Flanders Fields’ where it refers to the poppy being the first flower growing in the churned up earth of soldiers graves. it was the only thing to survive and brought life, hope, colour and reassurance to those still fighting. Remembrance poppies are sold by the British Legion, which is a charity providing support to those who have served in the armed forces.
To mark the centenary of Britain’s’ entry in WW1 in 2014 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted in the moat at the Tower Of London, one for each British and Commonwealth fatality. I visited it last year and it was an amazing experience and hearing the names of the fallen soldiers a very poignant and thought provoking moment.
Number 5 Stars Unite We Will Remember Them
This was recorded in 2009 by 200 music stars at The Abbey Road Studios, who wanted to pay tribute to the armed forces past and present. They donated their time and talent to record an anthem to thank all who had served their country and to help raise funds to support those affected by war. The song was written by A1’s Mark Read and Robert Hart from Bad Company/The Jones Gang and artists from Michael Bolton, Hayley Westerner and Robin Gibb contributed to the song.
‘We will remember them, Give thanks and honour them, Won’t let the memory fade We will remember them’
My family and I remembered them in two events building up to the commemoration of the Centenary of WW1 in 2014, both of which gave us and those involved, time to reflect and which I still remember.
My husband made a film for the town of Thame in Oxfordshire, where the local museum was researching all the names on the war memorial and identifying their place of burial, so they could place a ‘Thame Remembers’ cross at each resting place. My son played the part of the soldier for a day, whilst I was the lady waving him off to war . Watching the film was very poignant and thought provoking.
At our Musical Society we did a concert of War time and Old Music Hall songs and one of the songs, again made famous by Vera Lynn that kept the country going through WW2 was the romantic hit, written just before the war by Eric Maschwitz, ‘ A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square’. The songs were all from a different era but the concert gave all of us involved, a feel of the time and a sense of patriotism, that is sometimes lost these days.
There you go, this weeks Five Friday Favourites and a little bit more! They are sad and reflective, but today and again on this Remembrance Sunday, I will and hope you will too, remember those who sacrificed so much…lest we forget.
Honestly Fiona xxx