Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Soldiers' sweetheart Lili did go up the aisle

Musical backing: Hannah McPhillimy
Sketch shows Lili and her young German soldier sharing a last kiss before he was posted to the front in First World War

I surely started something when I wrote about Lili Marlene who was the heroine in song of First World War. It emerges now that there is a sequel to the original ballad. It's called The Wedding Of Lili Marlene.

Yes, according to lyricist Tommie Connor, Lili, who was the favourite of every soldier on both sides of the conflict, survived the Great War and walked up the aisle to be married.

Not bad for a young lady who really didn't exist. Connor, who died in 1993, is to blame. He wrote the hit about Lili's wedding and it was recorded by Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton, Frank Sinatra and several other artists and made her a sweetheart of men in uniform all over again in peacetime.

My sketch today shows Lili and her young German soldier sharing a last kiss before he was posted to the front in First World War. Next time she came to meet her beau in uniform he was confined to barracks and she never saw him again.

So that wedding existed only in Tommie Connor's head, but what an emotional piece and Ol' Blue Eyes loved it.

The story began 100 years ago in 1914 when that soldier wrote a poem dedicated to his girlfriend Lili just before he marched away.

In 1937 another German, distinguished composer Norbert Schultze transformed the poetry into the song Lili Marlene which became a hit with both German and British and later American troops, recorded first by Marlene Dietrich.

The follow-up about the supposed wedding of Lili was just as big a hit, especially the version by Vera Lynn.

Schultze's Lili Marlene remained popular long after the war ended in 1945 and was in the UK charts in the '80s. And its sequel, The Wedding of Lili, still has its fans to this day.

Hannah’s novel approach

Novelist Jan Carson's lunchtime reading from her new book Malcolm Orange Disappears is going to sound all the better because singer-songwriter Hannah McPhillimy will be adding a touch of magic with songs from her new album Seeing Things.

She's one of the newer girls on the music scene and is a fan of Jan's stories. She is delighted to be involved in this bash on Wednesday, July 23, in the Ulster Hall.

In between her songs, Hannah will be listening to Jan reading about the adventures of a young boy forced to grow up in a retirement village and his relationship with the older people who become his friends.

Author, Jennifer Johnston, will be the Ulster Hall lunchtime guest on Wednesday, August 27.

Her novels have enjoyed widespread popular and critical acclaim — including Shadows on our Skin which won her the Booker Prize. Jennifer's The Old Jest was filmed as The Dawning, starring Anthony Hopkins.

Tomahawk terror for Nazi pilot

Here's a Battle of Britain story from the Second World War which old timer Wilson Magill of Lisburn says was passed on to him from a relative who was a member of the Home Guard in Kent — and which he swears is true.

Apparently in a village near the coast, the amateur dramatic society was putting on a dress rehearsal of Rose Marie, the musical they were about to present to the men in uniform in respite from fighting the Hun.

As the shadows lengthened, an already damaged German aircraft was shot down by an RAF gun emplacement with the pilot parachuting into a meadow.

Shaken up but not injured, the young man was soon surrounded by a group of villagers dressed as Canadian Mounties and sporting wooden revolvers.

“This England?” asked the puzzled flyer. But before he got a reply, up rode the local police constable on his bike.

And the German pilot fainted on the spot. You see, the fact that this cop was dressed as a Rose Marie character, complete with head-dress, tomahawk and with war paint all over his face was all too much.

I take it he was much relieved to wake up in a cell still alive and without the tomahawk in his head.

Rose Marie is set in the Canadian Rockies and its big song is The Indian Love Call.

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