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Remembering WWI

Saskatchewan Wartime Contributions
School Program

George Shepherd Library

Training Courses

Popular Songs of the First World War

Music inspired both the troops and the folks back home during the First World War. Songwriters put pen to paper with patriotic words meant to encourage Canada’s defence of the British Empire. Radio was not yet part of everyday life so one way of popularizing the latest tunes was through sheet music. Publishers produced these songs by the thousands, often with colourful covers designed for mass appeal.

Most songs rallied support for the war, urging men to join up. Others tunes were sentimental, echoing a longing for home and country. A rare few were anti-war.

Here are some examples from the WDM collection.

Click photos for larger images. 

Your King and Country Need You

Local writers sometimes wrote their own songs. This one comes from Moose Jaw.

Your King and Country Need YouVerse 1:
Come sing the old, old story,
The Empire’s pride and boast;
That ne’er the feet of foemen
Shall desecrate our coast.
We’ll welcome gallant Belgians
Unto our sea-girt shore,
But the Kaiser’s brutal legions
Shall be met with cannon’s roar.

Your King and Country need you,
The flag is wide unfurl’d
the Empire and its Allies
‘Gainst German millions hurl’d,
Our King and Country ever, We’ll shout it to the skies
There’s Glory, Freedom, Honor,
Where the flag of Britain flies.

Why Don't You Wear A Uniform

Vancouver’s George Warnicker published this march in 1915. It was dedicated to R.L. Borden, Prime Minister of Canada.

Why Don't You Wear A UniformVerse 1:
When you hear the rolling of the drums,
When you hear the martial music play,
See the guns and bayonets a-gleaming
As the soldiers march away;
When you think of the Glory of their Mission,
As they fight ‘gainst cruelty and sin;
Don’t you hear a still voice calling?
Awake!, Fall in! Fall in!

Why don’t you wear a uniform?
Why don’t you all fall in?
Why don’t you help your country
In her hour of need to win?
Your King and Country call on you
To fight through thick and thin.
In a good old British uniform
Fall in!

Farewell Dear Canada

This march was dedicated to Winnipeg’s Lieutenant Colonel George Henry Nicholson who had served in the Canadian Militia prior to the First World War.

Farewell Dear CanadaVerse 1:
The trumpets are loudly calling; Look down the busy street.
Good fellows in line are falling;
Their alien foes to meet.
All the brave boys are marching;
At the sound of the beating drum,
May they return with honor;
After the battle’s won.

Goodbye dear mother,
Farewell sister too,
Fond wife or sweetheart,
So loving and true.
After the war is ended;
Then we will cease to roam,
But will return with honor,
To our dear Canadian home.

The Khaki Lads

Sales from this sheet music were in aid of the Red Cross or Patriotic Purposes.

Khaki Lads Why Our Soldier Boys Are FightingVerse 1:
Why our soldier boys are fighting,
Why our laddies cross the sea,
Leave home and friends and all they love so dear,
People often stop and wonder,
But the answer’s plain to me
If you’ll listen I’ll explain what may seem queer.

Ev’ry soldier lad who’s in Khaki clad
Has a lassie he’s left at home
A mother, sister or a wife so dear
Or a sweetheart, all his own,
Tho’ he’s far, far away he is fighting today not for glory
Or renown,
He is fighting to protect the girl he loves in his home town.

Home Sweet Home For You We're Fighting

Captain Joe Lawson, who penned the lyrics, is pictured on the cover. Lawson was 50 years old when he enlisted in 1916. The song was published in 1916.

Home Sweet Home - For You We're FightingVerse 1:

In the battle trench we stand
Far away from our dear land,
Singing songs of home and country o’er and o’er,
We are fighting day and night
For the vict’ry of the right
For the day we’ll see our home sweet home once more!


Home, Sweet Home! for you we’re fighting!
Cheer up! Lads the day will come,
When we’ll drive the foeman back;
And we’ll save the Union Jack,
Then we’ll march back to Home Sweet Home.

These two songs paid tribute to the “Red Cross Girl”

My Red Cross Girl Farewell

My Red Cross Girl FarewellVerse 1:
I cannot bear to leave thee,
Your parting kisses grieve me,
But there’s a call we must obey
From many souls so far away.
Wounded there are brothers,
Sighing for their mothers.

My Red Cross girl farewell,
Farewell it’s time for us to part,
My loss is not in vain,
It’s for my country’s gain
Although it breaks my heart,
We’ll meet some day they’ll tell, dear,
While mid the shot and shell,
May that cross upon your arm keep and shield you from all harm,
My Red Cross girl, farewell.

Verse 2:
Once more in fond embrace, dear,
I kiss your tear-stained face, dear,
The cross to which you give your life,
There’s no more worldly sacrifice,
I fight for liberty,
You for Humanity.

The Girl Who Wears a Red Cross on her Sleeve

My Red Cross Girl FarewellVerse 1:
There’a a grey-haired mother in a far off town,
And her thoughts are on the field of war,
She is thinking of the million broken hearts,
There will be when the battle is o’er,
She says “I would be glad,
If I had a lad,
To fight for his country like a man,
And tho’ I had no boy,
It just filled me with joy,
To give my darling girl when war began.”

There’s a girl at the front among the soldiers,
She is one of a thousand girls or more,
Who works with the heart of an angel,
“Mid the sound of the canon’s roar,
She is caring with love so sweet and tender,
For the Sons of the mothers who grieve,
And many are the hearts that are grateful tonight,
To the girl who wears a red cross on her sleeve.

Some songs expressed the longing of soldiers for their sweethearts.

When Your Boy Comes Back to You

When Your Boy Comes Back to YouVerse 1:
Keep the lamp of hope still brightly burning,
Till your boy comes back to you,
And although your heart may oft’ be yearning
For one whose love is true,
Bear in mind the day he’ll be returning,
So then, cheer up! Don’t be blue!
Ev’ry day you’re far apart you grow dearer to his heart,
Till your boy comes back to you!

When your boy comes back to you,
You will keep your promise true,
You will watch, you will wait by the old garden gate,
Till the regiment appears in view,
When your boy comes back to you,
And the bands are playing too,
Won’t your heart be beating fast,
Just to welcome him at last?
When your boy comes back to you!

Verse 2:
Don’t forget to heed this word of warning,
It will mean so much to you,
Though it’s dark tonight the sun at morning
Will shine with brighter hue
On the boys with glory all adorning,
You will share that glory too!
Wear a bright and sunny smile, tho’ you wait a long, long while,
Till your boy comes back to you!

This song, published in New York in 1915, expressed the sentiments of the pacifists who did not want the United States to join the conflict.

I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be A Soldier

I Didn't Raise My Boy to be a SoldierVerse 1:
Ten million soldiers to war have gone,
Who may never return again.
Ten million mothers’ hearts must break
For the ones who died in vain.
Head bowed down in sorrow
In her lonely years,
I heard a mother murmur thro’ her tears:

I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier,
I brought him up to be my pride and joy,
Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,
To shoot some other mother’s darling boy?
Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,
It’s time to lay the sword and gun away,
There’d be no war today
If mothers all would say
I didn’t raise my boy to be a soldier.

Verse 2:
What victory can cheer a mother’s heart,
When she looks at her blighted home?
What victory can bring her back
All she cared to call her own.
Let each mother answer
In the years to be,
Remember that my boy belongs to me!

Find more Great War sheet music on the University of Saskatchewan Remember Us website.


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Teachers: Saskatchewan Wartime Contributions Hands-On Discovery Box program

Students will learn about Saskatchewan's participation in the world wars, our contributions, and about life on the home front. The in-museum Discovery Box program focuses on the home front and the effects of war on the people of Saskatchewan. In-classroom lesson plans discuss how young people helped war efforts and the experience of Aboriginal people during and after the First World War.

Find out more about the Wartime Discovery Box -->