On the eve of the First World War the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, wrote to the Permanent Secretary, Sir W. Graham Greene:
Importance is attached to revival of singing in the Fleet. A good song-book should be prepared and issued, together with leaflets of the words. An officer in each ship should organize the singing and take an interest in it in addition to his other duties. Captains should arrange that there is a ship “singing” not less than once a month throughout the year. Half the programme should be choruses from the song-book and the other half the music hall turns which are now popular. It is desirable that the men should sing together, and that everyone should join. The Vice-Admirals and Rear-Admirals commanding should take an interest in these “singings,” and money can be provided for a small prize, say a silver wreath, to be awarded by the Vice-Admiral to the best ship in the squadron or on the station each half-year. Part singing should also be encouraged where possible; but this is much more difficult to organize. The ordinary ship’s singing should become a regular part of the routine, and should be carried out as unquestioningly as if it were a gunnery or torpedo practice.
I wish to receive constructive proposals.
Greene’s response, and any subsequent action, are regrettably unknown. It would be interesting to know what sort of songs Churchill had in mind, but the mixture of prescribed songs and “popular” music is an interesting one.