Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
johncmullen1960

Anti-war songs

Recommended Posts

johncmullen1960

There are many anti-war songs written after the war about the First World War, some of them very famous. During the war itself, the anti-war movement in Britain was very much a minority affair, except in 1916 where it briefly could get the ear of a much wider public. Given the musical culture of the time, this movement must have had its songs; But I have found almost no anti-war songs from the war years, sung in Britain. If anybody has any sources, that would be great.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
IanA

There are a few parodies which were sung with gusto by the soldiers which could be interpreted as 'anti-war' - 'I don't want to be a soldier', 'Take me back to dear old blighty' and 'I want to go home' but were generally just mildly rebellious fun.

For anti-war songs to gain popularity they would have to be printed and distributed - a dangerous activity in war time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PhilB

In the mid 50s, Ann Shelton`s "Lay down your arms and surrender to mine" was IIRC banned at the request of the top brass so I assume that the WW1 top brass would be even more censorial.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lachlan

My Granddad (ex-6th BW, 51st HD) used to have a song, based on the tune of a popular Scottish jig:-

"Why did I join the 6th Black Watch ?

Oh why did I join the Army ?

Oh why did I join the 6th Black Watch ?

I must have been *blooming* barmy !"

*Well my dad was a boy when he heard it so I'm sure Granddad bowdlerized it for his benefit !

I don't think that's an war anti-war song though !

No doubt Granddad knew other songs like Whiter Than the Whitewash on the Wall, The Madamoiselle From Armentieres and I Don't Want To Join The Army (the song about the lady typist !)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw

I think the dearth of anti-war songs reflects the lack of anti-war sentiment. Men criticised officers and NCOs, jankers and chores and looked forward to the day they could return home. Sentiments shared by every soldier that ever was. Actual anti-war feeling in serving troops seems to have been conspicuous by its absence. The men who had deep anti war convictions were conscientious objectors and not given to writing songs about their beliefs. As was mentioned above, any anti war sentiment which might have been voiced would have received very short shrift. 'Conduct prejudicial ' could get a man into the glasshouse very easily.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Steven Broomfield

In the mid 50s, Ann Shelton`s "Lay down your arms and surrender to mine" was IIRC banned at the request of the top brass

Why? What was happening in the mid-50's to be so problematic? (Suez hardly seems such a massive threat that the top brass would need to worry about morale to the extent of having popular songs banned).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Frank_East

The War Office was obviously concerned that our boys would run away when the the Red Army hordes marched as ants across the North European Plain.

All we had to smack Joe was the deterrent delivered by piston engine jobs.Mind you we were all relieved when the US came to our aide with their Thor missiles.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jim Clay

In the mid 50s, Ann Shelton`s "Lay down your arms and surrender to mine" was IIRC banned at the request of the top brass so I assume that the WW1 top brass would be even more censorial.

Apologies for the late response, Phil (I only just read this ... :whistle: )

The top brass may have wanted to ban this - but they certainly didn't succeed! It was hugely popular on radio (ie BBC) at the time - Autumn 1956 - and was no. 1 on the Hit Parade for several weeks. I'm sure it would have received regular and frequent play - though I may be mistaken :o - on Two Way Family Favourites, broadcast to "our boys over there" (BAOR, Cyprus, elsewhere).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jack Sheldon

... and even more important, it was sung by the principal boy that Christmas in Aladdin, starring Jimmy Clitheroe and Nat Jackley which I saw at the Theatre Royal, Hanley. Ah! the blissful memories of youth.

Jack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Steven Broomfield

I must say the words "Jimmy Clitheroe", "Pantomime" and "Hanley" make me apprecaite what Arnold bennett meant bu Te Grim Smile of the Five Towns

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pioneecorps

Hi

The war was opposed by those who objected to war in principle, and their opposition gave currency to a newly coined term: pacifist. Politically, the pacifists found a voice through the Union of Democratic Control, but there were many others who acted out of religious or political conviction.

There was a Labour protest led by Clifford Allen, against the war, and a number of staunch Christians held similar views for different reasons.

Though widely reviled as cowards, they received support from writers and artists, philosopher Bertrand Russell, being one of them. In 1916, when compulsory military service into effect, the rights of pacifists were acknowledged.

Men who found it against their conscience to fight could ask for exemption at tribunals set up to test the genuineness of people's objections. Some 16.500 idealists, mostly political young men, withstood the legal and social pressures to join up. Of these, over half agreed to perform non combatant service, such as medical or agricultural work. Some 6000 refused to accept the authority of the tribunals and were detained, most of them eventually agreeing to the conditions of the tribunals.

However, 1300 "absolutists" refused all service, on a variety of religious, libertarian or political grounds.

These people were imprisoned repeatedly, until they recanted. Among the 1000 or so who remained adamant and were given hard labour sentences in Dartmoor prison, one of them being, Stephen Hobhouse, a Quaker from a wealthy family another a Henry Firth, succumbed to the appalling conditions and died in February 1918. Clifford Allen, president of the non conscription fellowship, was sentenced to consecutive, and increasing, terms of hard labour, after 16 months of this, he emerged a broken man, and died before he was 50.

Some conscientious objectors were drafted anyway, and could then be sentenced to death by courts martial: 41 were actually sent on active service to France for a month, until the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, had them brought home. Those who supported the conscientious objectors found themselves pressured and ridiculed, Bertrand Russell was fined £100 in 1916, deprived of his lectureship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and in February 1818 he was sentenced to six months in prison for publicly advocating a German offer to open peace negotiations, for Cos, the war against war did not end with the arrival of peace in 1918. Cos were disenfranchised for five years.

A strange punishment for their Idealism.

Gerwyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jack Sheldon

Oh Steven you are a Card.

Jack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw

I must say the words "Jimmy Clitheroe", "Pantomime" and "Hanley" make me apprecaite what Arnold bennett meant bu Te Grim Smile of the Five Towns

Jimmy the Kid had a Scots granda. "What's not to like?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
truthergw

Hi

The war was opposed by those who objected to war in principle

.........................................

A strange punishment for their Idealism.

Gerwyn

The subject of conscientious objectors is an ongoing topic on the forum and is debated at length and in depth. This thread is about anti-war songs.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Jack Sheldon

Tom

One Scottish aspect that occurs to me is whether the stand taken by John MacLean, which led to his 1918 trial for sedition, led to any such songs during the war itself. Several have, of course, appeared since, but there was such a hue and cry for his early release that I wonder if anything of the kind appeared in that early time frame?

Jack

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pioneecorps

The subject of conscientious objectors is an ongoing topic on the forum and is debated at length and in depth. This thread is about anti-war songs.

Hi, Thanks for pointing this out :blush: ,I typed "conscientious objectors" into search, and this was the first one I found with these words in.

Gerwyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Steven Broomfield

Oh Steven you are a Card.

Jack

:thumbsup:

Gerwyn, out of interest, the piece on COs: did you copy and paste it? I can't work out why it's in a different font and size to all your other posts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
pioneecorps

:thumbsup:

Gerwyn, out of interest, the piece on COs: did you copy and paste it? I can't work out why it's in a different font and size to all your other posts.

Hi. Mate, I did do it, by copy and paste, "I did not notice, there was a diffrence, in my font size". would that be a problem, with my posts, although I have put a few post in, I'm still learning my way around this Forum. Could some one, place my post on "Conscientious Objectors" , into the right place. Gerwyn

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...