Something for the weekend. There’ll Always Be An England. This was always a favorite of my sainted mother. It was played frequently during World War II in Newfoundland when she was a child. Newfoundland sent off a very high percentage of its military age male population to fight, about 10% of the entire population served in the British armed services and Merchant Marine during the War, and some 900 Newfies died in service. (On a per capita basis that is roughly the equivalent of the US war deaths in World War II.) Mom always remembered how many Newfoundland fathers, sons, brothers and uncles never came back from that War, and taught her sons to remember this sacrifice by a small nation.
This sacrifice was typified by the stories she would tell about Uncle Bill Barry, her uncle, my great uncle. Uncle Bill was a fun loving Irishman and a boxer. He joined the Royal Army in 1939, saying that “Someone has to teach the Limies how to fight!” He served throughout the War, and was in combat from D-Day to the fall of Germany. Uncle Bill was a fighter indeed, and his courage earned him promotion to sergeant after his platoon took a village. He was placed in charge of the village. He told his men to do as he did and led them on a raid of a local wine cellar. The Lieutenant in charge of the platoon found Uncle Bill and his men dancing in the village square, all blind drunk, when he got back. The first thing he did was to bust Uncle Bill back to private, which did not upset Uncle Bill nearly as much as the hangover he had in the brig the next day.
Uncle Bill got back to Newfoundland in one piece. My mother was at his home one evening when an older couple came to visit. They were the parents of a 19 year old private who had died in Uncle Bill’s platoon. Uncle Bill told them that their boy had been well liked, that when he was killed that he suffered no pain, and that he had been buried with full military honors. The parents of the 19 year old left very comforted. Uncle Bill then began to cry, which shocked my Mom as it was the only time she ever saw her tough, happy uncle ever cry. He turned to Aunt Nool, his wife, and said, “I didn’t think I was such a good liar. That poor boy stepped on a mine. There wasn’t enough of him left to bury!”
Newfoundland provided important bases to the US during the War. The Americans and their Newfie hosts got along famously, as symbolized by some 25,000 Newfie women marrying 25,000 American servicemen during the War. Considering that the entire population of Newfoundland at the time was about 350,000, this is a very high number indeed! The Americans stayed on with the consent of the Newfies after the War, and the marriages continued. I am a product of such a marriage with my Dad serving in Newfoundland in the Air Force where he met my Mom and married her in 1956. Uncle Bill after I began to talk would tease me by saying, “There’s that dirty Yank!” to which I would respond “There’s that dirty Newf!”
Here is Deanna Durbin’s unforgettable rendition of the song which always serves to remind me of Newfoundland as well as England: