The Royal Signals Org.UK Datasheets

Recording Signalling Methods, Technology, Equipment & History for Posterity

The following is a compilation of many different sources and information by Petra, some she found from on-line web sites, some from books, some translations from German sources and a lot is simply written by herself, including the noticeably "odd" inclusion of her very twisted humour from which everyone distances themselves! (even Petra) That said you can hopefully still learn a lot and have fun? So anyone who is unhappy with the content of this free newsletter or datasheet can ask for a full refund under our standard Policy. A copy of the policy can be purchased for three hundred pounds sterling including P&P from Petra directly

Royal Signals DATASHEET WW2 Songs (no.2)

Vera Lynn & Lale Andersen WW2 Song "Lili Marlene"

While VERA LYNN (Later Dame Vera Lynn, OBE) was probably Britain's most popular "Wartime" singer, for the German's Lale Andersen suddenly became their forces favourite, and both sang the same song… and one name that almost any ex-signaller can associate to, regardless of when they served. Especially as there were several Signals Versions made too to the same music, being that of the song "Lilli Marlene" which was well known in both German and English, but also made in French, Russian, and after the war in 48 other languages, including Japanese.

Lili Marlene (German name) Lilli Marlene (English Name)

Lili Marlene was based on a poem written by the German soldier Hans Leip during World War I (in April 1915), and published in 1937. Effectively it was a mild anti-war song, based on the stronger anti-war poem.

Original German lyrics from a poem The Song of a Young Sentry by World War I German soldier, Hans Leip Born 22. September 1893 in Hamburg, died 6. June 1983 in Furthweilen, near Frauenfeld (Thurgau), Switzerland. His poem was left unpublished after the spook of war had passed, but as war loomed again he had it published to warn the new generation about the effects of war. It was published in a collection of his poetry in 1937.

The poems caught the attention of Norbert Schultze, born 1911 in Braunschweig, who was too young to know the horror of the first world war, but immediately understood the warning in the Poem's original version. Schultze died on 14th of October 2002, first set this poem to music in 1938. And made a more consumable version for public acceptance in 1939.

Schulze was already rich and famous before the success of The Girl under the Lantern (the first name the Allies gave to the song), who awaited her lover by the barrack gate. As much as this song was a great Success on both sides, his operas, film scores, marches and tunes for politically inspired lyrics were less successful, and worse he got into trouble by both sides for this particular piece.

The tune had a very rocky road. The propaganda secretary of the Nationalist-Socialist party, Joseph Goebbels didn't like the song at all, he wanted a march. Lale Andersen didn't want to sing it and the DJ who was supposed to get it on the charts in 1939 also gave it big thumbs down.

Recorded just before the war by Lale Andersen (Eulalia Bunnenberg), the song sold just under 700 copies, until German Forces Radio began broadcasting it to the Afrika Korps in 1941.

During the time between recording and hitting success, the Singer and the Composer were both in trouble with the Nazi's and under house arrest and concentration camp arrest respectively for Moral sabotage of the national aims, and suspected treason. If the record had not become so popular due to the Afrika Korps airplay in 1941, then both the signer and composer would have probably died or been executed within the year.

The song was immediately banned in Germany when charges against Andersen and Schulze were made, and despite attempts to try to stop it becoming popular, it was requested so often that the Nazi's actually not only reprieved the pair, but also had to bribe them to appear publically as if the Nazi's had had nothing but praise for the song.

One story puts the way the song was first aired as follows, but this is maybe created to underpin the story that Rommel was willing to go against his bosses so much that he ordered it to be played against other orders from Berlin.

After the German occupation of Yugoslavia, a radio station was established in Belgrade and beamed news, and all the propaganda fit to air, to the Africa Corps. Lieutenant Karl-Heinz Reintgen, the director of Radio Belgrade had a friend in the Africa Corps who had liked the tune. He aired Lale Anderson's version for the first time on 18. August 1941. General Feldmarschall Rommel liked the song and asked Radio Belgrade to incorporate the song into their broadcasts, which they did. The song soon became the signature tune of the broadcast and was played at 9:55 pm, just before sign-off.

The alternative story is more likely because it fits several other facts that were reported shortly after the end of the war, and also in a film about the Song.

Norbert Schultze set the poem to music in 1938 and it was recorded just before the war. It was banned by the Nazi's for two reason's 1). The Singer had Jewish connections and was caught sending information into Switzerland , and 2). It was considered too melancholy and not in keeping with the desired Heroic Militarism of the National Socialist approved songs. Especially as the first version the composer made was very much an Anti-war song and considered close to treason.

Radio Belgrad (Beograd) which was being used by the Germans for their "Wehmachts" Troop Radio, lost all their records except for five when the station was shelled. Three of the five records that had survived were banned, so effectively there were only four songs to play (two sides of two records) but soon the nerves of the Broadcaster and the listeners were wearing thin.

One of the few records to survive on the banned list was Lili Marlene, and it had survived because it was at the bottom of the stack of German Records. Eventually it was played and soon became an overnight favourite of both German troops (and the English in North Africa who could receive no other station than Belgrad) when it was broadcast over and over again to the Afrika Korps in 1941.

The German Authorities were livid, and wanted it stopped, but it was by now so popular that even the Berlin National Station was allowed and even later ordered to play it. It became the Closing song of the Army Show just before the Ten p.m. News. The composer who had been thrown in a concentration camp was quickly reprieved and allowed to play it on stage for the troops and German High Command.

After the song was broadcast there was no holding it back. The Allies listened to it and Lili Marleen became the favourite tune of soldiers on both sides, regardless of language.

The immense popularity of the German version among the British North African Troops led to a hurried English version done by Tommie Connor and broadcast by the BBC for the Allied troops.

The immense popularity of the German version spawned a hurried English version, supposedly when a British song publisher named J.J. Phillips reprimanded a group of British soldiers for singing the verses - "in German" while on leave in London. One irate soldier shouted back : "why don't you write us some English words?". Phillips and a British songwriter Tommie Connor soon had an English version in 1944. Anne Sheldon's English hit record started the song's popularity with the Allied countries. Vera Lynn sang it over the BBC to the Allied troops.

The British Eighth Army adopted the song.

The BBC also commissioned a German version with a subtle anti-Hitler slant, to remind the troops in Russia and France that due to Hitler, their wives were suffering alone at home with the hardships of war.

The official versions however were sung in military hospitals, railway stations, factories, and blasted over huge speakers, along with propaganda nuggets, across the frontlines, in both directions, and in both languages.

Marlene Dietrich featured The Girl under the Lantern in public appearances, on radio and "three long years in North-Africa, Sicily, Italy, in Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, in England," as she later recalled.

An RCA US recording, by an anonymous chorus in June, made it to No. 13 in 1944. It hit the US charts again in 1968, the German charts again in 1981 and the Japanese charts in 1986.

The song is said to have been translated into more than 48 languages, including French, Russian and Italian and Hebrew. Tito in Yuogoslavia greatly enjoyed the song.

Lili Marlene is easily the most popular war song ever. Its theme of dreaming for one's lover is universal. Why is the song so popular? The last word goes to Lale Anderson : "Can the wind explain why it became a storm?"

The German singer was Lale Andersen, an anti-Nazi. But the most celebrated singer was another anti-Nazi German - Marlene Dietrich, began to sing it in 1943.

The English version of the song embellishes an already sentimental German original.

After the war, the song's fame was perpetuated by Vera Lynn who sang it in every NAAFI concert she gave for British BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) soldiers stationed in pre-NATO Germany, to thunderous applause and stomping feet.


Lilli Marlen (Vera Lynn 1944 Version)

Underneath the lantern by the barrack gate,
Darling I remember
the way you used to wait,
'Twas there that you whispered tenderly,
That you loved me,
You'd always be,
My Lilli of the lamplight,

Time would come for roll call,
Time for us to part,
Darling I'd caress you and
press you to my heart,
And there 'neath that far off lantern light,
I'd hold you tight,
We'd kiss "good-night,"
My Lilli of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Orders came for sailing
somewhere over there,
All confined to barracks
was more than I could bear;
I knew you were waiting in the street,
I heard your feet,
But could not meet,
My Lilli of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Resting in a billet
just behind the line,
Even tho'we're parted
your lips are close to mine;
You wait where that lantern softly gleams,
Your sweet face seems to haunt my dreams,
My Lilli of the lamplight,
My own Lilli Marlene.

Background singers sing "Dumb-de-dumbdidy-
dumb-de-dum" version vocals till fade out


Lili Marlen (Lale Andersen 1939 Version)

Vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen Tor
Stand eine Laterne, und steht sie noch davor
So woll'n wir uns da wiedersehn,
Bei der Laterne woll'n wir stehn
Wie einst, Lili Marlen,
wie einst, Lili Marlen.

Unsre beiden Schatten sahn wie Einer aus
Dass wir lieb uns hatten, dass sah man gleich daraus
Und alle Leute soll'nn es sehn,
wenn wir bei der Laterne stehn
Wie einst, Lili Marlen,
wie einst, Lili Marlen.

Schon rief der Posten: sie blasen Zapfenstreich
Es kann drei Tage kosten! - Kam'rad, ich komm ja gleich!
Da sagten wir auf wiedersehn,
wie gerne wollt'ich mit dir gehn
Mit dir, Lili Marlen,
mit dir, Lili Marlen.

Deine Schritte kennt sie, deinen zieren Gang
Alle Abend brennt sie, mich vergass sie lang
Und sollte mir ein Leid geschehn,
wer wird bei der Laterne stehn
Mit dir, Lili Marlen,
mit dir, Lili Marlen?

Aus dem stillen Raume, aus der Erde Grund
Hebt mich wie in Traume dein verliebter Mund
Wenn sich die späten Nebel drehn,
werd' ich bei der Laterne stehn
Wie einst, Lili Marlen,
wie einst, Lili Marlen.

Who was Lili Marlene?

Many speculations were made as to who Lili Marlene is or might be, and it was often believed it was maybe a prostitute who plied her trade by the camp gate, or a Girl who had come to tell her soldier-friend that she was pregnant, and was denied the chance to see him when he was confining to barracks prior to being shipped out. The final version of the song that was later made, differed from the story originally told, in so far as the girl was meeting her soldier friend while he was on guard duty, but he had to go as if he were late back at his guardhouse he would get three days punishment…

The real Lilli Marlene (Extract from the Nordsee-Zeitung 23rd of March 2000).

Hans Leip (a teacher) from Koelens met Klaas Deterts (who was also a teacher and called up in the same draft) during their basic training in Berlin in 1915. Leip and Deterts were not all that much different in age, and indeed had two similar aged girlfriends living near the camp, Lili and Marleen.

Lili was a Salesgirl in a Greengrocers, and Marlene was a Doctor's daughter, who also helped out in the camp's Army Field Hospital. Their love was short, then suddenly the soldiers were confined to barracks, ready to be sent to the slaughter trenches of France. The Girlfriends could be seen outside the gate, in the smog waiting under the lantern, in the hope of seeing their soldier boyfriends.

The image of the girls waiting for their boyfriends who they might never see again, haunted Leip and in the chance he got during lulls in-between battles he wrote a poem (in April 1915) which was a mixture of his Romantic memories, the shock of war and deep sorrow.

Leip first published his poem in 1937 in a book of verse "Hafenorgel" (Barrow Organ) the words were a lot different to both the German and English versions shown above.

Norbert Schultze set the poem to music and had it recorded, where it immediately infuriated the Nazi party for its anti war sentiments.

Added to this was the fact that the Singer, Lale Andersen, was under suspicion of being a Jewish sympathizer, both were charged with conspiracy to subvert the German nation, and Norbert was actually thrown into the Political Prisoner Concentration Camp, where he may have languished.

Fortunately he had also wrote the more acceptable version which had been pressed and distributed in small numbers before he was found guilty. The distributed records were however also placed on the Banned list, and ordered to be destroyed.

The propaganda secretary of the Nationalist-Socialist party, Joseph Goebbels, made a futile attempt to replace Schultze's melancholy melody with a march rhythm. The composer was forced to work for the Nazis on More "Stirring music" under threat of being sent to Jail or even to the front. He admitted he was a coward, and feared being drafted. So he composed the music for propaganda films such as "Bombs for England," "Tanks Roll into Africa," and the film "Kolberg," and subsequent marches and military songs. In 1945 the Allied Forces classified him as a sympathizer and forbade him to work in his profession. He worked in heavy-construction and as a gardener, before he was eventually reprieved and resumed composing in 1948. The original text of Lili Marleen, shown below, bears little resemblance to either the German song or the well known British version. The Original German lyrics were a plea for sanity in the turmoil leading up to World War Two and based on the horrors many had seen in World War One.

Short translation of the original German text, shown right, of the banned Lilli Marleen



Short translation of the original German text,
shown right, of the banned Lilli Marleen

Outside the barracks,
in front of the main gate,
stood a single lantern,
where it still stands today!
It stands there silent witness
and cannot understand what is,
once more, happening to us -
as once did Lilli Marleen!
as once did Lilli Marleen!

Is it down to national pride,
or only due to power?
What has with just one swoop,
has robbed us of our senses?
Whichever way we twist or turn
we will still land before death's judge-
some day, Lilli Marleen!
some day, Lilli Marleen!

Who recovers the bodies,
Lost in desert sands?
Who counts the victims
on the oil-soaked beaches?
Tell me, how much pain must pass,
'til we see the waste and stupidity of it all?
Oh God, Lilli Marleen!
Oh God, Lilli Marleen!

From the empty (barrack) rooms,
now from the earth below, there rises
before me (as if in a dream) your deathly
"lili" white face haunts me,
in the swirling mists wafting by.
Let war and hate come to an end - now,
today, Lili Marleen!

Norbert Schultze, 1938



Lili Marlen (Original "Banned" Version)

Vor der Kaserne
Vor dem großen Tor
Stand eine Laterne
Und steht heute noch davor!
Steht da und kann es nicht verstehn,
Was wieder mal bei uns geschehn -
Wie einst Lili Marleen -
Wie einst Lili Marleen!

Geht es noch um Ehre
Oder nur um Macht?
Was hat uns mit einmal
Um den Verstand gebracht?
Wie wir's auch wenden,
Wie wir's auch drehn -
Wir werden vor dem Richter stehn
Dereinst, Lili Marleen -
Dereinst, Lili Marleen!

Wer birgt die Toten
Verweht im Wüstensand?
Wer zählt die Opfer
Am ölverseuchten Strand?
Sag, wieviel Leid muss noch geschehn,
Bis wir den Wahn, den Irrsinn sehn?
O Gott, Lili Marleen!
O Gott, Lili Marleen!

Aus dem stillen Räume -
aus der Erde Grund
Hebt mich wie im Traume
Dein todesbleicher Mund!
Eh sich die späten Nebel drehn,
Lass Krieg und Hass zu Ende gehen -
Noch heut, Lili Marleen!

Norbert Schultze, 1938

Norbert Schultze, 1938

Schultze had unusual luck with "Lili Marleen". Goebbels wasn't the only one who didn't like the song -- vocalist Lale Andersen didn't want to sing it at first, even thought later it probably saved her life. And the radio moderator, for whom he had composed the softer version of the song, also rejected it. He felt that the softened text of Hans Leip was way too lyrical. An employee of the military radio station in Belgrade finally discovered the forgotten song in 1941 in a dusty crate of records, when there was nothing left to play.

Figure 4 Any Remarks?, Drop Petra a Letter (A postcard from about 1917)

Royal Signals .. A postcard from about 1917

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