The White Cliffs of Dover
“(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover” is one of the most popular World War II songs, composed in 1941 by Walter Kent to lyrics by Nat Burton. I’ve always loved this emotional song.
The song was written about a year after the Royal Air Force and German aircraft had been fighting over southern England, including the white cliffs of Dover, in the Battle of Britain. Nazi Germany had conquered much of Europe and in 1941 was still bombing Britain. With neither America nor the Soviet Union having yet joined the war, Britain was the only major power fighting the Axis powers in Europe. The American lyricist, Nat Burton, wrote his lyric unaware that the bluebird is not indigenous to Britain and asked Kent to set it to music.
The lyrics looked towards a time when the war would be over and peace would rule over the iconic white cliffs, Britain’s symbolic border with the European mainland. My father always told me that it is hard to describe the overall feeling of what it was like during World War II. I still can’t imagine how it felt for the English fighting the Germans alone at this point in time, with everyone in their country feeling that their entire way of life was imminently threatened. This song goes a long way toward capturing these emotions.
P.S. For anyone who wants to get a better feeling of what it was like during that era and how it occurred, I’d like to recommend a great historical fiction novel by Len Deighton entitled “Winter,” about a German and an American family between 1900 and 1945.