Music and the Military

First published: 2019.

Music and the military have always had an interesting relationship.

The Tank Museum’s Archive has some fantastic examples of military sheet music, including this wonderful selection from the Peter Payne Collection.

Peter Payne was a prolific private collector of all things related to the Royal Tank Regiment and its predecessors, and indeed all things tank related full stop.  His very large and unique collection was acquired in 2018 for The Tank Museum’s Archive, following his death. Pieces include a revised version of the Regimental March of the Royal Tank Regiment’s ‘Little Willie’, approved on 12 November 1946 by King George VI, and a small pamphlet for the Tank Song ‘Tommie-Over-There’, to be sung atop a tank to encourage the purchase of Tank Bonds.

However, interestingly, a significant selection of the sheet music is American orientated and mostly First World War. These include a copy of the official song of the United States Tank Corps ‘The Yanks with the Tanks (Will go through the German Ranks)’ written by Corporal Jimmie Shea and Andrew B. Sterling, Bernie Grossman and Arthur Lange‘s ‘We’re Going Over the Top and We’ll be Marching Thro’ Berlin in the Morning’

A graphic of a WW1 Sheet Music showing a First World War tank driving over a trench with a photograph of a lady in the bottom left corner.
A graphic of three soldiers with a first world war tank behind them. The Eiffel Tower is in the background with the words 'Home Coming Week In France'.

Written for pianoforte and voice, the sheet music features the accompanying lyrics and beautiful cover artwork, such as Seneca G Lewis’s ‘Home Coming Week in France’ cover showing five nations below the Eiffel Tower.

While the reverse even features the “Save Wheat, Food is Ammunition and Help Win the War” slogans. The song, written in 1918, refers to the parades in Paris and joyfully proclaims:

“Have you heard about the grand review to be held in gay Paree,
what you might call Old Home-coming week for the sons of Liberty,
all the ranks and the races,
all the aces and tanks,
will be back from the watch on the Rhine.”

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