For a large part of the Second World War Great Britain paid host to the governments in exile of many of the occupied nations of Europe, along with the remnants of their armed forces. Free French, Polish, Czechoslovakian and Norwegian troops were just some of those stationed and training in Great Britain before the invasion of Europe in 1944 when they joined the fight to liberate their home countries. Their British hosts did what they could to make these European guests feel welcome and between training many of these men mixed with locals, attended dances or were invited to other social events. To honour their guests, it was not uncommon to play both the British national anthem and the national anthem of the nation these European troops came from. Whilst most pianists of the 1940s could reasonably be expected to know the music for God Save the King, it was highly unlikely that they would know how to play the anthem for Poland or Czechoslovakia for instance. Sheet music companies were quick to recognise this need and tonight we have an example of a piece of sheet music with the anthems of Britain’s European allies:The cover depicts some of the flags of these allies and we can see that the music covers Greece, France, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium with the music of God Save the King included for completeness. This type of publication was not new, similar sheet music had been published in the first World War as can be seen here.
Inside the sheet music are both the tune and the words for each of the anthems, such as this one for Greece:Note how the words of the anthem have been translated into English to allow the people of Great Britain to join in the singing of the words- international co-operation and friendship only went so far apparently and it was not felt that the British would be able to sing in another language! Interestingly the playing of the allies national anthems was not limited to Great Britain. In the 1942-1943 season the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra ran a series of weekly concerts paying tribute to a different allied nation. Each concert was started off by the playing of that country’s national anthem and it seems the season of concerts was highly successful.