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The Very Latest British War Songs

Date: 1916-1920
Overall: 284 x 220 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Ink on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Sheet music
Object No: 00009045
Place Manufactured:Sydney

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    This sheet music, titled 'The Very Latest British War Songs', features a portrait of the British Admiral of the Fleet, John Jellicoe, along with and illustration of HMS LION at sea. It was published in Leichhardt, Sydney, probably between 1917 and 1920. It contains songs from a variety of countries that were part of the Allied forces during World War I.
    SignificanceThis dramatic genre of music was designed to inspire patriotic fervour, particularly in a time of war. This is especially illustrated through the appearance of a popular figure in World War I, Admiral John Jellicoe, who was famous for leading British, Australian and Canadian forces in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.
    HistoryThe publication of music reached its peak in the 19th century as recital halls, theatre shows and parlour music became an integral part of social life in Britain, Australia and America. Sheet music publishers flourished and their product was sold cheaply and widely distributed. In this sense, sheet music represented an easily accessible form of entertainment and social interaction.

    Admiral John Jellicoe commanded the Grand Fleet, which consisted of British, Australian and Canadian forces, in the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. It was the largest naval battle of the war and in the end, despite the German fleet being outnumbered, the result was inconclusive. Though Jellicoe was criticised for his leadership techniques, after the battle he was appointed to First Sea Lord, the head of the Royal Navy.

    HMS LION, seen depicted on the front cover, was the leading battlecruiser of the Royal Navy during this battle. The vessel was almost destroyed; however, Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey who was mortally wounded in the battle ordered the magazine to be flooded and saved the ship. He was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross medal.

    It is possible that this sheet music was made before the Battle of Jutland, and may have served as an inspirational piece designed to ignite patriotism and support for the Allied forces. In any case, at the heart of each piece, sheet music displays prevalent social and cultural motifs. This type of music forms part of a range of maritime themed songs; a vibrant collection of narratives designed to illustrate messages of love, friendship, identity and heroism.
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