The independent London newspaper

Battle lines: Corporal’s song in First World War exhibition

26 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Mark Aston

A FIRST World War song about Islington takes pride of place at a new historical exhibition about how the borough coped in the war years.

“This thing literally popped up while I was looking through the archives. It was almost like serendipity,” said Mark Aston, local history manager at the Islington Museum in Finsbury.

The music for “Bravo! Islington” was written by Corporal Thomas Uren in 1916 and includes the lyrics “We’ve the boys they need of the Bulldog breed who laugh at German bluff”.

“We would probably see it as a bit jingoistic now,” said Mr Aston.

Corporal Thomas Uren

The tune was first performed at Stroud Green Festival in the summer following Mr Aston’s lucky find and will be heard again at the museum in St John Street on November 26.

Corporal Uren died at the battle of the Somme in 2018 – two years after he wrote the song.

The exhibition at the basement of Finsbury library marks the centenary of the end of the First World War in 1918.

Also featured are the poignant photographs of Victor Hember taken in the trenches a few days before he also lost his life during the battle of the Somme.

The tiny matchbox-size photos of the soldier from Tufnell Park were captured by his comrade Gerard Paterson who was also from the borough. They show the 26-year old relaxing at the reinforced entrance of a trench.

Mr Aston said: “He went over the top on the first day and not far in he disappears. As the battle unfolded and the days went on he was lost. No one had seen him. As it happens one of his colleagues who was captured by the Germans wrote a letter to his family and said, ‘I saw him badly wounded and die’.

As previously reported in the Tribune, Mr Aston’s own relative died during the First World War and he went to visit the gravestone of Edwin Harold Struebig, his paternal grandmother’s cousin from Highbury, in France over the summer.

Mr Aston said: “It was a moving experience. Especially as I went on the day he died at the battle of Amiens.”


Share this story

Post a comment