Category: music

Troops of the 12th Battalion, London Regimen…

Troops of the 12th Battalion, London Regiment (The Rangers, 58th London Division) returning from the lines on the Villers-Cotterets road, headed by their band, 6 April 1918.

I found this picture in the memoir of Major Ge…

I found this picture in the memoir of Major General Beauvoir De Lisle at the Liddell Hart Archives. I assumed it was a woman who had been entertaining the troops as all that was written on the back was “W Threlfall – Queenie”. Thinking that she might have been semi famous I had a quick look and found out that I was partially right. 

This is Private William Threlfall part of the Diamond Troupe from De Lisle’s 29th Division. Most divisions had a concert party of musicians and performers. They served as an important entertainment outlet for the troops out of the line when they put on performances.

Threlfall was indeed well known. He was a very popular female-impersonator and became famous within the army for his performances as Queenie, particularly duets. 

Many members of the Diamond Troupe continued performing after the war with Threlfall going on to become a cruise ship performer and famous White Star and Cunard liners.

The Diamond Troupe with Threlfall centre stage in black.


                                                         “Must have music!”

“October 12 1918 – Found an old organ in the church & had a
little music — But it suddenly went heavenward! Tough luck! Will try fixing the organ in the morning. Must have music! How strange it seemed to play the Lost Chord & the Doxology in the church — a ruin in the
battleline. It was twilight too…”

Diary of H. Andrew Wallhauser, a first lieutenant ambulance driver in the 165th Ambulance
Company in Exermont, Meuse-Argonne sector, France –
The New Jersey Historical Society

Photo: October 11 1918, a WW1 historic photograph showing this impromptu organ recital in the wrecked church of Exermont,
France. See awesome then & now photos of Exermont (photo#10) and its famous church

                                    “Had some …

                                    “Had some
music this evening & much vin. None myself!”

July 20-22 1918 – American ambulance
driver’s diary, Chateau-Thierry sector Franklin & Marshall College – Photo:
July 22 1918, Chateau-Thierry, Americans listening to music on a phonograph
found in the rubbles. La Contemporaine

‘Sunday June 30 1918 – Eggs for breakfas…

‘Sunday June 30 1918 – Eggs for breakfast. Loafed. Cleaned
a mouthorgan and had a little bit of music with field hospital 10. Slept most
of Afternoon. Loafed evening away.’

Poinson-lès-Fayl, Marne, France – American ambulance driver’s diary – Franklin &
Marshall College
– Photo: WW1, “a little bit of music”.

“The long twilight offers great openings for s…

“The long twilight offers great openings for songsters
and we reel off all the songs we know – very college-fashion.”

June 1918, France, American ambulance driver – In a letter to his father, he writes that singing brings back memories of college days – Text and photo from the beautiful new book “The Black Cats of Amherst”—  Also, here, the fun & smart Black Cats’ Twitter feed

‘Sunday June 9 1918  – Quiet day. Petit…

‘Sunday June 9 1918  –
Quiet day. Petit Parisien for today*
shows picture and account of little girl we brought in wounded from Oigny
. Good sing tonight.’

The French article mentions the good care the wounded little girl received from the American ambulance drivers and doctors.

In Villers-Cotterets, Aisne, France, American ambulance
driver’s Record of S. S. U. 585 – 1918,
somewhere in France, American soldiers’ “Broadway Quartet” in the fields
– Western Newspaper Union

‘May 9-10 1918 – Cars are parked on squa…

‘May 9-10 1918 – Cars are parked on
square. Lots of British troops here. Section assigned quarters in small
barn. Fine English canteen. The band has
demonstration this evening.’

ambulance driver’s log in Picquigny near Amiens, Northern France Record of S. S. U.
– Photo: 1918, France, American military band’s concert for the
villagers and the soldiers. Archives du Ministere de la Culture, France

                       April 26 1918 — “…

                       April 26 1918 — “Musicians
in khaki leading the boys through France”

said to the officer “I’m glad to see those bands;
but why have you so much music?” He said “Can’t you understand what an effect
music has on the troops? First, there is the attitude of mind. A pleased mind
bends more readily to discipline; and look at those men marching. Can’t you see that they
instinctively keep step better, and that makes for discipline. Our men are all
right, but they are independent in feeling and habit, and we have to treat them
like intelligent human beings.”

– A New York Times journalist embedded with American troops in the Somme,
France.The New York Times Current History – 1918 – Photo: April 26 1918, early morning, Northern France, American troops passing through Noyer-Saint-Martin, on their way to the Somme front.

“Thurday, April 18 1918 – On duty at 7 P…

“Thurday, April 18 1918 – On duty at 7 P.M. — Very quiet. Hardly a gun shot. Cook from
Nice is a music wizard – No Calls.”

American ambulance in Argonne, Verdun sector – France – Diaries of Samuel Keplinger – Photo: WW1 French soldiers playing music in the abri at night.