Thursday, April 26, 2007

There'll Always Be An England ?

Mark Steyn on the song :

"that summed up what was at stake in that testing time between the fall of France and Pearl Harbor when Britannia and her lion cubs stood alone. Its sentiment matched the challenge posed by Churchill: Does England mean as much to you as England means to me? If it does, we can press on, and win."

The piece reminded me of the deportations from Occupied Jersey in WWII. Many of those deported were to die in prison camps.

Most islanders hoped that that the Nazis would be defeated and that life in Jersey would return to normal. This hope became fervent after 1942, when orders came through for the authorities to deport 2,000 people from the island for internment on the European mainland.

Top of the list of those to be deported were Jews, ex-servicemen, and those born on Britain's mainland. On the day that these people were deported, a group of islanders went down to watch the ship depart. As the deportees sailed away they struck up a chorus of 'There'll Always be an England'. From across the waves they could hear the deportees joining in.


As Steyn says, the song :
"belongs to a pre-ironic England. On November 25th 1941 off the coast of Alexandria HMS Barham was torpedoed by a German U-boat during a visit to the battleship by Vice-Admiral Henry Pridham-Wippell. The ship lurched to its port side, the commanding officer was killed, and the vice-admiral found himself treading oil-perfumed water surrounded by the ship's men and far from rafts. To keep their morale up, he led them in a rendition of "There'll Always Be An England". The 31,000-ton Barham sank in less than four minutes, the largest British warship destroyed by a U-boat the course of the war. But 449 of its crew of 1,311 survived. "There'll Always Be An England" was written for that England."


Not the last time either. Here's another pre-ironic song that young Britons of eighty years back would have learned at school :

"Sons of the sea,
All British born,
Sailing the ocean,
Laughing foes to scorn.
They may build their ships, my lads,
And think they know the game;
But they can't beat the boys of the bulldog breed
Who made old England's name !"


And here it is in context. Prisoners of the Japanese, their (Japanese) ship has been torpedoed and hundreds are drowning :

Not far from us was an upturned lifeboat and seated astride it were many Jap officers, still clutching their briefcases and with their swords dangling from their sides. What a pretty sight to see and our lads did not hesitate in expressing their feelings; they made rude gestures to them and called them all the dirtiest names under the sun. Our boys were in good spirits now and someone suggested we cheer the bastards with a song, which we did by singing 'Rule Britannia' and 'Sons of the Sea' and despite our condition we had put them to shame.


And from an American who joined the British Army in 1915 :

There was, however, one burst of enthusiasm, as we started on our journey, which struck me as being spontaneous, and splendid, and thoroughly English. Outside the harbor we were met by our guardians, a fleet of destroyers which was to give us safe convoy across the Channel. The moment they saw them the men broke forth into prolonged cheering, and there were glad shouts of —

"There they are, me lads! There's some o' the little old watch dogs wot's keepin' 'em bottled up!"

"Good old navy! That's w'ere we got 'em by the throat!"

"Let's give 'em 'Sons of the Sea!'"


And they did. They sang with a spirit of exaltation which Englishmen rarely betray, and which convinced me how nearly the sea and England's position as Mistress of the Seas touch the Englishman's heart of hearts.

It was a confession of faith. On the sea England can't be beaten. Tommy believes that with his whole soul, and on this occasion he sang with all the warmth of religious conviction.


Different world - and different Navy - to that of Faye Turney.

5 comments:

Observer said...

Obviously different because it was not individualistic self-gratification.

It was not flaunt it celebrity in wall-to-wall video images and Hello magazine funding for meretricious weddings

It was a sense of permanence - in The Church or Chapel if not in the town or village

Self-reliance is a threat to the New Order

Sam Tarran said...

The undermining of the Navy is, in my view, the biggest failure of the New Labour Government. Whatever problems we may have had at home, the Navy used to be the international symbol of British authority. Now, it is only living in the shadow of its former glory.

A Brummie said...

Different world - and different Navy - quite so.

Different England too, we don't rule the waves, we don't even rule ourselves.

The latter will change I'm sure of it.

fido said...

I have to say that I am suprised at Faye, I thought she would have done an in depth interview on Page 3 of The Sun by now.

Still give the girl time, after all they took on David Blunkett so the paper is used to dealing with talentless people.

JuliaM said...

"...I thought she would have done an in depth interview on Page 3 of The Sun by now."

Page three girls aren't hired to provide in depth interviews on page three of 'The Sun'. And she's totally unqualified to give what they do provide for it....