Category Archives: Documents

The National Anthems of the Allies Sheet Music

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:SKM_C284e18053008220The 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:SKM_C284e18053008221Note 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.


Request to remove man from Army Reserve letter

These days, happily, most companies are usually quite happy to have members of staff serving as reservists, conscious of the extra training and experience this will bring to their workforce. This situation has not always been so, and until quite recently many employees had to keep their service in the reserves a secret form their employers for fear of pressure to leave either the military or their jobs. Often these private companies argued that the reason for this was that the employee was an important part of their work force and couldn’t be pared for training or if war were to be declared. Tonight we are looking at one such case which comes down to us in the form of a letter written in 1929 to the officer commanding the Royal Army Service Corps in Croydon:imageThe letter comes from a company called Gowllands Limited who made lenses and ophthalmic instruments:imageThe letter concerns a new employee of theirs, J Plumb, who the company felt was too important to their workforce to be called up from the reserve:imageSadly the second page of the letter is missing and it is not quite clear if the man in question was serving as a member of the Territorial Army and was part of the country’s reserve forces or had previously been in the army and had now left but was liable to call up if war were to break out as an old soldier. I have tried to track down the piece of legislation or a report on the change to the status of reservists that the letter refers to, but so far I have drawn a blank.

The company ‘Gowllands’ is still in business today and still makes lenses and ophthalmic equipment in Croyden.

Mitcham Road barracks is also still in existence and is today a base for the Army Reserve and as of November 2017 held the following units: C (Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry) Squadron, The Royal Yeomanry, 150 Recovery Company, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, and the Mortar Platoon of B Company, 4th Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

Wings Over the Navy Sheet Music

Tonight we have another piece of sheet music form the Second World War to look at, this one though has one of the nicest covers I have seen on a piece of music with a wonderful illustration of planes flying over a fleet of battleships:SKM_C284e18053008200‘Wings Over the Navy’ was a song written for an American propaganda movie about naval flyers called ‘Wings of the navy’ this film was released before the US entered the war and the song became instantly very popular in the UK, its words very much reflecting the mood of a nation at war. What is interesting however is that the words themselves were subtly rewritten for a British audience to reflect the Royal Navy rather than the US Navy. Comparing the words in a section of the piece line by line shows the changes made to the lyrics:


If you ever come to town

And Uncle Sammy offers you a job

Pick out the aviation

When you put your moniker down

Wings over the Navy, wings over the sea,

We’re top o’ the service,

The Navy’s cavalry

High over the oceans

Flying wide and free

The soldiers, sailors

And marines are demons

At eating pork and beans.

Or posing in the magazines.

But we’re the Navy’s eyes.


A sailor is a guy they call a tar

A tars a guy who sails the seas afar

But listen all you country boys, if you ever come to town

And if you want some pips up or a star

Pick out the aviation when you put your moniker down

Wings over the Navy

Wings over the Sea

We’re top of the service

The navy’s cavalry

High over the ocean

Flying wide and free

The soldiers, sailors and marines are demons at pinching all the scenes

Or posing in the magazines

But we’re the navy’s eyes

The Admirals fireflies

We’re sky high riding aeronautical guys

SKM_C284e18053008210SKM_C284e18053008211The film the song comes from is today regarded as a middle of the road piece for its era, with some excellent footage of US Naval aviation of the period. Seton Margrave reviewed the film for the Daily Mail in March 1939 when it came out and his comments on the movie were generally favourable:

Now we go up in the air with “Wings of the Navy” at the Warner Theatre.

For the Air Force attached to the American Navy this is a magnificent propaganda and it is also good film drama.

Probably British producers will say again that if such a film were made of the British Fleet Air Arm nobody in the united States would have seen it. Again they will tell us about the apologetic way in which British films creep into the United States and the Anschluss by which American films are shown in Britain.

But the truth is the British film industry has not yet developed a national conscience.

Wings of the Navy is not a big picture, it offers George Brent and Olivia de Havilland perhaps the most harmless parts they have played to date.

The story is the very old one about a nice girl being engaged to one young man and at the same time being in love with his brother. Not that I dislike this story. On the contrary, I have a special grievance against British film producers for not having made it into, what I know, would be the only serious rival in popularity to ‘Smilin’ Through’ by filming Francis Brett Young’s “My Brother Jonathon”.

Wings of the Navy still leaves the way open.

The production is reasonable enough in all respects, but the best of it is the performance put up by the men of the American Naval Air Service.

American naval stations at Pensacola and San Diego have contributed brilliantly to the making of Wings Over the Navy and once again we have a tale of heroism on the part of American airmen without any corresponding film of British airmen in sight.

The Battle March of Delhi Sheet Music

In the nineteenth century it was very common to commemorate major victories in battle with pieces of music. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was no exception and in 1857 after the British had successfully recaptured Delhi from the mutineers a march in honour of this accomplishment was written by John Pridham, a school teacher from Taunton. The piece of music was published with a wonderfully engraved cover depicting the triumphant entry into Delhi by the British commander, General Wilson:SKM_C284e18053008222The general sits astride his horse, with troops surrounding him, the flag of the United Kingdom prominent in the centre of the image and the oriental towers of Delhi hidden in the smoke behind. The image is both romanticised and triumphant and would have appealed the nineteenth century British mind-set. It is hard to date this exact piece of sheet music, as the music was republished several times over the latter half of the nineteenth century. I suspect my copy dates from one of the later print runs, but I cannot find any date of printing on the work at all.

Jeffrey Richards in his book ‘Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876-1953’ provides this description of the piece of music:

The descriptive fantasia for piano of a battle or other military event became a stock item of the nineteenth-century musical repertoire. John Pridham’s zestful piano fantasia The Battle march of Delhi (1857), a military divertimento ‘descriptive of the triumphant entry into Delhi’, boasted a sheet music cover picture of the victorious general entering the Indian capital with kilted Scots troops. Each separate element of the scene is signalled in the score. It opens with the clock of the Palace of the Great Mogul striking four, and then a gentle pastoral interlude to suggest the break of day. This is interrupted by the rumble of distant drums- a repeated low-toned trill- and then a return to the pastoral theme broken by the morning bugle call. The rumbling notes of the drums indicates the mutineers in possession of Delhi, and an Indian air which sounds more like an English country dance than an Oriental melody.  SKM_C284e18053008230Then a bass drum, and trumpet call, and ‘the Mutineers are alarmed at the approach of the British cavalry’- jaunty, jogging, horse riding music. The spirited cavalry march culminates in ‘General Wilson’s arrival at the Cashmere Gate’: drums, gunfire from the mutineers, trumpet call for troops to form order of battle (‘General Wilson orders an immediate attack’) and there is a charge in musical form, the rumble of cannon and mortar, and the flight of the mutineers: musical notes indicate ‘Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, they fly’, and then there are successive passages from “Smile on in Hope”, “Old England” and the trumpets leading to “See, the Conquering Hero Comes” (marked ‘majestic’) and, after more trumpets, “The Campbells are Coming”. Vividly, stirringly and economically, it told in musical form the story of the capture of Delhi. It was originally issued in 1857, re-issued in 1858, 1859, 1880, 1902 and 1904, and was still current in the 1940s as a veritable old war-horse of the parlour piano repertoire.Capture_of_Delhi,_1857I do not suppose that this piece of sheet music is particularly rare considering the number of reprints it went through, but it is an attractive and interesting little addition to my collection and only cost me a pound.

1867 Envelope to a Captain in India

On this blog we occasionally step back before the First World War, however items do not come along as frequently as more modern objects and are frequently out of my budget. Tonight though we have a delightful little envelope from 150 years ago that came off eBay for just 99p. It still astonishes me that something so old and interesting can go for so little money, however I am not going to complain and it is of course great to have something like this in the collection and available to share with you.

This envelope is addressed to Captain George Conaught (I think) of the 35th Native Infantry at Saugor:imageThe 35th Native Infantry, I believe, refers to the 35th Bengal Native infantry, who had been reformed after being disbanded during the Indian Mutiny. Saugor is today called Sagar and is in Madhyar Pradesh in Central India. Saugor was a military cantonment at this period and had both British and Indian regiments stationed at it. Captain Conaught would have been one of the English officers in the employ of the Indian Army. Interestingly a receipt of some sort has been written on one end of the envelope:imageQuite what this was for is unclear, especially as I struggle with Victorian handwriting, but the sum of 79/9/6 whether in rupees or pounds, was not an insignificant one at this period!

The envelope has a stamp affixed to one corner indicating it was sent from Calcutta in April 1867 and the postage paid was 2 annas:imageThere were internal postal systems within Indian states and longer distance mail was under the control of the British Raj. Delivering the post in India was not without its hazards:

With the exception of such parts as may be infested by tigers, the post seldom or never fails of arriving within an hour of its appointed time, except, as has been observed, when the waters are out. In this case, many circuitous roads must be followed, whereby the way is considerably lengthened. Taking the average, a hundred miles per day may be run over by the dawk, or post, in fair weather. Each mail-bag is conveyed by an hurkaru (or runner) who is attended by one or two doogy-wallahs, or drummers, who keep up a kind of long-roll, as they pass any suspicious place

Child’s Clothing Ration Book

On 1st June 1942 the government announced that clothing was to be rationed. Men , women and children would get a set number of ration coupons a year that could be exchanged, with money, for different pieces of clothing. Fabric was desperately needed for the war effort so civilian clothing production had to be limited and most people received 66 coupons for a year. Those who already had extensive wardrobes were not too badly affected, but for many people this then created great difficulties in getting enough clothes to last them. A coat required 16 coupons, a jacket 13, trousers eight, a shirt five, shoes seven and underwear eight. This shortage became more acute in 1945 when the number of coupons issued dropped to 45 a year.

The clothing ration book had a red cover, rather than the buff of the food ration book and tonight we have the ration book for a child from 1944/45:imageThe inside of the front cover explains how to use the book:imageThe interior pages had coupons that were clipped out by the retailer, some are brown:imageOthers orange:imageFurther spaces for coupons were printed on both sides of the rear cover:imageimageExtra coupons were given for children and they needed less coupons for each garment as they used less fabric, both helpful considering how fast children could grow. The WVS also organised swapping systems to allow clothes that children had grown out of to be handed on to other younger children and replacement garments passed down from older boys and girls who had now grown out of them.

Monica Flook explains how clothing rationing impacted her:

All clothes (expect I think hats) were rationed by coupon, 26 coupons every six months. A fully-lined coat was 18 coupons, a half lined one 15. Stockings were 3 coupons a pair silk, 2 a pair lisle. Even underwear cost coupons. I can’t remember about shoes, whether coupons were required, or their very scarcity was a form of rationing. Large shoe shops like Dolcis and Saxone would open at 9.00 a.m., admit the first say 10 people in the queue, serve them, then shut up shop till the next day. Once I queued in the town centre 3 days running at 8.30 a.m. to get a pair of shoes to wear with my “going-away outfit” after my wedding.

There was one good thing about living in Leicester, it was famous of its manufacture of boots and shoes, and hosiery and knitwear. During the 6 years of war I was lucky enough to get 2 pairs of shoes “off ration” — and not quite on the Black Market. A family friend worked in a shoe factory, and once a pair of shoes in my size had a serious mark in the leather and she was able to buy them for me, as shops wouldn’t accept them. The other time was when another friend’s son, who was unfit for the Services, was learning the shoe trade and he had to make a pair by hand. He provided the leather soles, and uppers were from a blue linen skirt. I was discarding. I didn’t cultivate “friends” just because they were useful, but a third family friend often springs to mind. He was too old for military service, and had a small knitwear factory. He made rolls of “Lock knit”, mostly white but some coloured, and tightly woven 1 inch wide strips which were sewn round cardigans to accommodate the buttons and button holes, or round the necks of men’s pullovers. Occasionally a short piece would have a pulled thread, or it might get slightly soiled by machine oil. These pieces were seized upon by his wife and her friends and her friend’s children and their friends. My sister and I, over time, amassed a few yards of white edging, and some red, some green knitted pieces. Sheer desperation helped us to make a kind of bikini each, hers red, mine green, to take on holiday — and the weather was warm enough in Devon to wear them!default


Sandycroft Other Rank’s Holiday Home Information Card

Last week I was lucky enough to pick up a quite sizeable collection of documents relating to a National Service Signaller who served in Malaya at the end of the 1940s. There are plenty of interesting papers here and I will pick out some of the more interesting items with ‘a tale to tell’ to post on the blog:imageWe start tonight with a small card for the British Other Ranks Holiday Home in Penang, known as Sandycroft:SKM_C284e18050815140 - CopyIn the 1940s it was impossible for British soldiers to return home to the UK for their leave and officers were very keen to ensure their men did not spend their leave in some of the less salubrious flesh pots of East Asia. To solve this problem, holiday homes were set up that provided accommodation, bars, sports and recreation facilities within a day’s travel of the more far flung corners of empire and the one in Malaya was at Penang. It consisted of a number of chalets, swimming pools and a bar and was next to a large beach and the sea for men to swim in:59b67c79c27dcd0d1ed8ec650fec727ce027e86c0ed55eb6bd05b329aefd5049Not only was the holiday home there for servicemen, but also their families if they happened to be living in the country so many wives and children were able to take advantage of the facilities. Before going on leave, a man needed to have a leave pass signed by his unit, with details of where he intended to go so he could be recalled if needed. In this case we also have this leave chit for our National Serviceman, Lance Corporal W Proctor:SKM_C284e18050815140On arrival at the Sandycroft Holiday Home L/Cpl Proctor was issued with a card that included details of his room on the front and the various times of meals, assistance available to him and other information a holiday maker might need printed inside:SKM_C284e18050815150At some point in the early 1950s Sandycroft holiday home was renamed Sandycroft Leave Centre and it was to remain in use for the next twenty years.

Roger Mereweather took his leave at Sandycroft a few years later:

I was based at R.P.O.Malaya in Singapore (Nee Soon) from June 1956 to December 1957 and us poor national servicemen could just about afford Sandycroft Leave Centre for the two breaks we earned while in Asia. I didn’t know it as an RAF leave centre and the only women we encountered were the NAFFI Girls who took care of our every need (almost) I remember one of them as Molly but being a virgin soldier I had to behave myself.. In those days it took 24 hours to travel by train up to Penang and now I can do it in 12 from the UK and what a place it still is, well worth going to.

After the British withdrawal from Malaya, Sandycroft was taken over by the Dalat International School in 1971.R-R-at-Sandycroft-Leave-centre-Penang