Songs From The War Years: A Celebration In Music

Artist: Various Artists
Format: 3CD
Bar-code: 5060259820533
Cat No: DAY3CD053


Never underestimate the power of music to capture human emotion and raise the human spirit. The proof is in this stirring collection.


These sixty songs from the two world wars of the twentieth century capture the longing for peace and home by soldiers so very far from either. But they also demonstrate humanity’s capacity to find humour even in the darkest hours, and its readiness to work together, to sing together, for the greater good.


No one personifies that sense of coming together in adversity more than Dame Vera Lynn. She sings four songs here, including two of the most rousing British wartime melodies of all time.


‘The White Cliffs Of Dover’, written by an American who didn’t realise there were no bluebirds in Britain, was nevertheless a powerful image of clear skies over England’s European coast. It was released only a year after the aerial warfare of the Battle of Britain.


‘We’ll Meet Again’ is an archetypal song of wartime. It speaks of separation, of longing for reunion either in this world or the next. Vera recorded it in September 1939, only a fortnight or so after the start of the Second World War and shortly after she had been voted Forces Sweetheart by British servicemen.


There are many such songs in this collection. The stirring martial marches of military bands are magnificent. But they are not the songs sung by soldiers, or the loved ones they leave behind. Instead they sing of their homes that the men are fighting for (‘It’s A Long Way To Tipperary’) and that the women are tending (‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’). Both these songs and four others in this collection were later included in the 1963 musical Oh What A Lovely War.


Other songs tell of the moment of parting (‘Goodbye-ee’, and Gracie Fields’ ‘Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye’) or the longed-for reunion – ‘There’s A Boy Coming Home On Leave’ and ‘The Homecoming Waltz’.


Some composers raised our thoughts from the personal to the national. ‘Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty’ was a First World War song revived during the Second by Noel Coward in his morale-boosting film This Happy Breed. And what could be a better reminder of the Britain the troops were defending than ‘A Nice Cup Of Tea’?


‘There’ll Always Be an England’, the ultimate expression of jingoistic national pride, was written just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The British public bought 200,000 copies of the sheet music in the first two months of the conflict, a measure of their support.


Enthusiasm for military action is never universal, however. The United States didn’t join the First World War until April 1917. Before then there was significant opposition from the country’s pacifist movement, expressed in the 1915 hit ‘I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier’. The controversial song attracted parodies such as ‘I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Coward’ – and, when the US did declare war, Morton Harvey’s career suffered. Instead, recordings like ‘It’s Time For Every Boy To Be A Soldier’ found favour.


‘Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny! Oh!’ also dates from 1917, although its 1939 revival by the Andrews Sisters predates America’s entry into the Second World War. That was precipitated by the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, and the last line of the 1939 song ‘Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)’ was then rewritten as “Till I Come MARCHING Home” to reflect America’s military engagement.


‘Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition’ is also a direct result of the Pearl Harbor attack. The title is attributed to a navy chaplain, Howell Forgy, who used the phrase to rally the troops as he passed among them. It’s an example of a song sung by soldiers to each other, very often at the expense of their superior officers. ‘Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major’ is another, while ‘Bless ‘Em All’ is an old army song that originally cursed all officers.


Humour is a vital tool for the survival of the spirit, and it’s no accident that many of the recordings here are made by stars of variety and vaudeville from both sides of the Atlantic. These include Al Jolson, Morton Harvey, Charles H Hart, George Formby, Tommy Handley and, of course, Flanagan and Allen, whose gentle, cheerful singalongs united the British people.


Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen were already music-hall superstars at the outbreak of the Second World War, having been a double act since 1926, but met while on active service in Flanders during the First.


There isn’t space here to tell the story of every song in this release, but every song has one to tell. Sit back and be moved by the music and the memories. Enjoy the songs that kept spirits up and helped win two world wars.

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CD 1

1. Oh Johnny, Oh Johnny! Oh! – The Andrews Sisters
2. This Is The Army, Mister Brown – Harry Roy
3. (We’re Gonna Hang) The Washing On The Siegfried Line – Flanagan & Allen
4. Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty – Ella Retford
5. Goodbye-Ee – Courtland & Jeffries
6. Wish Me Luck As You Wave Me Goodbye – Gracie Fields
7. Hey Little Hen – Nat Gonella & His Georgians
8. Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts For Soldiers – Bill Murray
9. Whispering Grass (Don’t Tell The Trees) – The Ink Spots
10. It’s A Long Way To Tipperary – John McCormack
11. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square – Anne Shelton
12. Praise The Lord And Pass The Ammunition – Kay Kyser & His Orchestra
13. Over There – Nora Bayes
14. Yours – Vera Lynn
15. Good Morning, Mr. Zip-Zip-Zip! – Arthur Fields And The Peerless Quartet
16. The Sun Has Got His Hat On – Sam Brown
17. Roll Out The Barrel – The Rex Massed Bands & Chorus
18. You’ll Never Know – Dick Haymes
19. The Laddies Who Fought And Won – Harry Lauder
20. Goodnight Sweetheart – Al Bowlly

CD 2

1. There’ll Always Be An England – Alfred Piccaver
2. Bless ‘Em All – George Formby
3. Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit Bag – Reinald Werrenrath
4. Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major – Billy Cotton & His Band With Alan Breeze
5. The World Will Sing Again – Betty Driver With Harry Roy’s Orchestra
6. It’s Time For Every Boy To Be A Soldier – Charles H. Hart
7. Run, Rabbit, Run – Flanagan & Allen
8. American Patrol – Glenn Miller
9. How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down On The Farm – Harry Fay
10. Painting The Clouds With Sunshine – Jack Hylton
11. The Homecoming Waltz – Donald Peers
12. Lili Marlene – Lale Andersen
13. In The Quartermaster’s Stores – Tommy Handley
14. They Can’t Black Out The Moon – Harry Roy & His Orchestra
15. I’ve Got My Captain Working For Me Now – Al Jolson
16. When The Light Go On Again (All Over The World) – Vaughn Monroe
17. The Sunshine Of Your Smile – John McCormack
18. The White Cliffs Of Dover – Vera Lynn
19. Roses Of Picardy – Ted Lewis
20. I’ll Be Seeing You – Anne Shelton


1. Sing As We Go – Gracie Fields
2. Comin’ In On A Wing And A Prayer – Ambrose & His Orchestra With Anne Shelton
3. Keep The Home Fires Burning – John McCormack
4. Mr Wu’s An Air Raid Warden Now – George Formby
5. Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree – The Andrews Sisters
6. There’s A Boy Coming Home On Leave – Bebe Daniels & Ben Lyon
7. Till The Clouds Roll By – Anna Wheaton & James Harrod
8. Be Like The Kettle And Sing – Vera Lynn
9. The Spitfire Song  – Joe Loss & His Orchestra With Sam Browne
10. Oh! It’s A Lovely War – Courtland & Jeffries
11. Let The Rest Of The World Go By – Elizabeth Spencer And Charles Hart
12. When They Sound The Last All Clear – Harry Roy And His Band
13. I’ve Got Sixpence – Billy Cotton & His Band
14. I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier – Morton Harvey
15. I’ll Get By – The Ink Spots
16. Roll Me Over – Primo Scala
17. A Nice Cup Of Tea – Binnie Hale
18. Mademoiselle From Armentieres – Jack Charman
19. Down Forget-Me-Not Lane – Flanagan & Allen
20. We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn