The mood in Henry Fisher’s refreshment rooms that morning (the part of it reserved for the men) was a little downbeat. The war had not been going for two months yet, but no one now seemed to think it would all be over by Christmas.
The chaps had fallen to talking about what they would normally be doing on the first day of October. There was a pleasantly seasonal nip in the air which reminded them that today signalled the start of pheasant shooting and there was nothing to prevent them except a general feeling that it would be in poor taste to engage in shooting for sport at a time when the lads were at the front, shooting for their lives.
‘Come on, fellows, this won’t do!’, said Albert White of Barford House, going to the piano and striking up the new tune, which everyone seemed to be humming or whistling these days – whistling in the dark, perhaps, but still effective.
The Guns’ Obligato*
The day after the Canadians attacked Vimy Ridge my battalion of the Royal Fusiliers advanced from Bully Grenay to a chateau on the outskirts of Lieven under heavy shell fire.
At the back of the chateau a street led to the main road to the town. There, despite the bombardment, we found a Cockney Tommy of the Buffs playing “Tipperary” on a piano which had been blown out of a house into the road.
We joined in – until a shell took the top off the chateau, when we scattered!
L.A. Utton, 184 Coteford Street, Tooting, S.W.
You may have seen Gareth Malone’s explanation of the popularity of Tipperary, in which he says:
On the Western Front, marching bands were sent to accompany the troops. Soldiers would regularly put on concert parties and almost every division had its own entertainment troop. In the long periods of waiting between battles, songs played an important role in staving off boredom and boosting morale.
‘A Long Way to Tipperary’ was the first hit of the war – a lively tune with fond thoughts of returning home soon. Songs about home resonated throughout the war, with ‘Keep the Home Fires Burning’, released in 1914, remaining popular throughout. As war continued, upbeat messages about staying cheerful and carrying on, such as ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’, played a vital role in keeping spirits up. The songs united people in a shared experience whether they were at home, on the Western Front or stationed further afield.
Memoirs & Diaries – The Best 500 Cockney War Stories – Not Yet Blasé and Other Stories
Published in London in 1921, The Best 500 Cockney War Stories comprised, in the words of its newspaper publisher (The London Evening News) “a remembering and retelling of those war days when laughter sometimes saved men’s reason”.
via First World War.com