“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Tomorrow, just you wait and see.”
Remember Vera Lynn?
During the darkest days—or years—of the Second World War, the songstress had an uncanny ability to rally Britain’s courage, and to muster hope for victory and a return to peace.
There have been many comparisons between our efforts against the Covid-19 virus and the all-out Allied campaign to win the war. For one thing, the duty doesn’t just fall on the front-line combatants. It’s not just the healthcare workers today, just as it was not just the soldiers then, that will carry the day. It’s all of us.
And we must endure sacrifices and privations to get the job done.
The sacrifices we must make, so far, are trifling compared to the suffering witnessed in Europe and elsewhere during the war years. But there is uncertainty and there is fear.
Vera Lynn’s most famous song is remembered as an anthem of hope in a dark time. I prefer to think of it as a call for calm and courage. It was written in 1941, before the US entered the war (ironically the words are by Nat Burton and the music by Walter Kent—both Americans). Britain and its empire, including Canada, were the free world’s only bulwark against the Axis powers.
While the lyrics paint pictures offering a return to earlier, peaceful times, the song is not wistful—it is reassuring. “The shepherd will tend his sheep, the flowers will bloom again.”
Londoners sang this song during “The Blitz,” while bombs rained from the sky every night and reduced neighbourhoods to rubble. Two million houses were hit, with more than 40,000 civilians killed and maybe three times that many injured. Meanwhile, in continental Europe, the Nazis were engaged in their now-infamous brutalities.
The song reminded those Londoners, and others, of what they were fighting for.
Today we face a menacing, deadly pandemic. We don’t know how long we’ll have to resist it, or what the cost will be. But we are not huddled in cold subway tunnels overnight, listening to the bombs drop. We’re not rolling away rubble and debris at first light, searching for survivors.
To be sure Covid-19 is a serious threat. Our best bet to win this war? Stay home. Watch TV, read a book, play the piano, bake some cookies. Chat with friends and family on the phone. Do some puzzles.
If we pull together and do our bit, the sooner we will emerge to hear Vera Lynn’s bluebirds.
“Just you wait and see.”