Was there a definitive Canadian song during WWI?


by San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives

Question by Rick N: Was there a definitive Canadian song during WWI?
The quintessential American song of the period was “Over There”, the Brits had “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”, the Aussies had “Australia Will Be There”, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a Canadian answer thereto.

About as close as I’ve ever heard was “Vive la Canadienne”, which was the marching song of the 22nd Regiment, and was fairly popular among francophone Canadians but almost unknown among anglophones.

Do any of you know if there was such a thing?

Best answer:

Answer by a67driver
acctually it was royal newfoundlanders who first sang “its a long way to tipperary”. tipperary was the name given to the trench line leading to the front at the somme, the royal newfoundlanders had to make their way through the hundreds of wounded soldiers coming back to the dressing stations, making it a long road to travel.

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3 thoughts on “Was there a definitive Canadian song during WWI?”

  1. Well, here are some Canadian WWI songs; I can’t say if any one of them is “definitive”, though:

    (The evidence of letters, contemporary writings and the later recollections of veterans suggest that the songs soldiers actually sang were primarily from this repertoire, reflecting their daily privations and frustrations, along with a few popular items heard by the soldiers on leave in London or introduced by the various touring concert parties – British or American hits such as It’s a Long Way to Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles.)

    “Composers and lyricists could be amateur or professional, female or male, civilian or military. Mrs. Florence Ballantyne was the daughter of the Speaker of the Ontario Legislature and the wife of a university professor. As described in The Canada Weekly, January 5, 1918, she wrote her song The Call We Must Obey when recruiting lagged, to hearten her sons already overseas. Jean Munro Mulloy from Kingston, Ontario, was the wife of Trooper Mulloy who had served in South Africa. She recycled her Trooper Mulloy March and incorporated her daughter’s activities into new songs to encourage Canadians. The pugnacious-looking Rev. J.D. Morrow (“the athletic pastor of Dale Church, Toronto”) declared You Bet Your Life We All Will Go and, true to his word, on the cover of his third song, Memories of Home, he appears in uniform and is described as Chaplain to our Canadian Overseas Forces. Sadly, he died in 1921, at the age of 47, possibly as a result of war wounds http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/. His name is recorded in the first of the Books of Remembrance http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/sub.cfm?source=collections/books, which lie in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill.

    Professional songwriters certainly still plied their trade. Arrangers Jules Brazil and Arthur Wellesley Hughes did their bit by giving a final gloss to dozens of amateur creations as well as by composing, spontaneously or to order. Lieut. N. Fraser Allan was a professional musician who performed in the famous Dumbells troupe. Lieut. Gitz Rice, wounded in 1917 at Vimy Ridge, became the officer in charge of military entertainments for the Army. Rice’s portrayal of the life of the soldier has a compelling ring of truth. Although he did not write the lyrics of his greatest hit Dear Old Pal of Mine, he was the lyricist and composer of He Will Always Remember the Little Things You Do (encouraging women in their war effort) and Keep Your Head Down Fritzie Boy.

    Gordon V. Thompson, one of the most prolific composers of the war years, was also the owner of the long-lived Thompson Publishing Co. With an acute sense for popular taste, he quickly shifted his compositional themes from the evangelical and religious to the patriotic and sentimental, all with lavishly illustrated covers. The frequent appearance of the song I Want to Kiss Daddy Good-night on present-day sale lists, and the evident heavy use of the surviving copies, indicate that this sentimental ballad was one of the best-selling and most frequently played items in the Canadian repertoire.

    Not all songs were newly written. A Handful of Maple Leaves by William Westbrook, a very popular song from the South African War (1898-1902), was rejuvenated by substituting “Belgium” for “South Africa” in the second verse with a minor musical adjustment.

    Another example of textual adjustment, although for different reasons, can be found in Herbert Ivey’s extremely successful song Somewhere in France. According to the printer’s copies from the Whaley, Royce & Company files, held at Library and Archives Canada, this piece was reprinted at least nine times. As the War ground on, alternative lyrics were included for the last verse – “… for he doesn’t advertise and God bless him where he lies Somewhere in France” became “for he doesn’t make a fuss, pray God send him back to us from Somewhere in France”. In its final printings, the original lyrics were omitted entirely.

    Recruiting was a dominant theme, reflecting the intense pressure exerted by government and society to enlist. The powerful role of the mother as recruiting agent is well represented in these songs. The sense of stigma attached to non-serving young men can be witnessed in the following declaration which composer John C. McFadden felt compelled to attach to his song Liberty — “Being unfit for the Fighting Front as my certificate shows, ….” Those who were not enlisted were urged to contribute money — in the words of Walter St. J. Miller “If we cannot do the fighting we can pay” (lyric from He’s Doing His Bit – Are You? ). Conscription was addressed obliquely, one of the few examples being O.P. Cochrane’s The Call for Soldiers: “My men sign now for your King and country call. Don’t wait to be forced to answer it, But step up one and all.” In her sheet music, Canada preferred to volunteer.

    Reading accounts of the War, it is hard to reconcile the cynical, disrespectful and often bawdy soldier presented as typical, with the patriotic, upright and faithful young man portrayed in these songs, some of them written by soldiers themselves. In Grace Morris Craig’s book But This Is Our War, she quotes a Canadian soldier writing home: “One sees some rather dreadful sights in this place which it pays to forget about as quickly as possible and not to write about at all….” The sensibilities of the audience at home were indeed respected, but a basic decency and perhaps even some patriotism seems to have survived among many fighting men. Attempts to appear to be “one of the boys” — like Morris Manley’s somewhat precious What the Deuce Do We Care for Kaiser Bill? — are rare.

    Few songs opposing the Great War appear in Library and Archives Canada’s collection. The most famous Canadian example for the period, I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier (lyrics by Alfred Bryan), was written not against the war in Europe but to oppose the establishing of a cadet corps in New York schools. In Song of Freedom by T.A. Simpson, lyricist Alex. W. Grant, wishing for a better world, presents a policy of forgiveness: “Come men awake the dawn is near, Forget the night of strife and fear, Lift up your voice in mighty song, Forget the frightful wrong.” Pacifism might have been present but not often in public. By contrast, even previously pacifist suffragette women rallied ’round the flag and pressed their sons into service.”

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