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“Don’t Be a Forgetter, Write the Soldier Boy a Letter”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 08, 2010

This song, with words by then-YLMIA counselor and general YWMIA president-to-be Ruth May Fox, and music by Tabernacle organist Edward P. Kimball, made its first appearance in April, 1918, in the Improvement Era. It is perhaps difficult to imagine it appearing in a current hymnal, but soon after its World War I publication it was published in an LDS hymnal.

Is there somebody — soldier, missionary, student — you should cheer up with a letter or email today?

This sound recording is presented by Keepa’s own organist/pianist, The Phantom.

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Typed text, for the sake of search engines:

Write the soldier boy a letter;
Wheresoever he may be,
He is training for the battle,
That shall set the nations free;
Tell him how his mother loves him!
How his father’s heart approves him!
Sister, don’t be a forgetter!
Write the soldier boy a letter.

Write the soldier boy a letter!
Send it, friend, across the sea;
He is fighting in the trenches,
Facing death for you and me;
Oft his heart is sad and weary,
Oft his days are bleak and dreary,
Brother, don’t be a forgetter!
Write the soldier boy a letter.

Write the soldier boy a letter.
Louder than the cannon’s roar,
Deadlier than stroke of lightning.
Bursting shells around him pour;
Brave he struggles through the danger,
Wondering, will distance change her?
Sweetheart, don’t be a forgetter!
Writer the soldier boy a letter.



5 Comments »

  1. Two quick comments:

    I wonder, if Bro. Kimball wanted the thing sung at “Fervent March Tempo”, why he didn’t mark it in cut time. If I could play the piano, I’d try it 1.5 to 2 times the speed the Phantom played it, to see if it would be singable.

    As to writing letters–the world’s future historians will love you if you do. You don’t need a brother/son/sister/friend in the army (or on a mission). Write it anyway, and keep copies!

    Comment by Mark B. — July 8, 2010 @ 10:36 am

  2. Thanks Phantom, for the music; it adds so much to the post. (It would be perfect accompaniment to a Ken Burns Documentary filled with grainy black and white photos of troopships full of “doughboys”.)

    And I heartily second Mark B’s comments about letters. I’m writing a biogrpahy about the grandfather I never knew. The carbon copies he made of his letters (to politicians, hobby societies, church leaders, and friends) have proved invaluable. I’m quite thankful phone calls were so expensive back in the day.

    Comment by Clark — July 8, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  3. This was fun. I agree, the tempo is a little sluggish to be considered a “fervent march tempo.” Anyhow, it’s fun to hear the music while reading the text.

    It is a little surprising to me that the piece appeared in a hymnal. Then again, the underlying sentiment is universal.

    (Note the phrase “He is training for the battle,
    That shall set the nations [plural] free” — To me, this sounds very 1918!)

    Comment by David Y. — July 8, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

  4. The whole thing — words and music — screams 1918 to me. The tempo of the recording may not be the suggested march tempo, but it conjures up images of 19-year-old girls with fluffy hairdos and the last long and lacy dresses before the flapper era singing melancholy songs around the piano about their soldier boyfriends being far away.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 8, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

  5. Thanks again Phantom! Always nice to have the music !!

    Comment by Allison — July 9, 2010 @ 11:41 am

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