|Composer(s) Walter Kent||Lyricist(s) Nat Burton|
"(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover" is a popular World War II song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version, written in 1941 by Walter Kent with lyrics by Nat Burton. The song was one of Lynn's best-known recordings, and also among the most popular World War II tunes.
The song was written about a year after British Commonwealth and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain i.e. late June 1940 until the end of October. At the time, Nazi Germany had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. Neither America nor the Soviet Union had yet to join the war, and Britain was the only major power fighting the Axis in Europe (see The Darkest Hour). The lyrics refer to the RAF and RCAF fighter pilots (in their blue uniforms) as "bluebirds" and expresses confidence that they shall prevail. The song references terms such as "Thumbs Up!" which was an RAF and RCAF term for permission to go, and it references "flying in those angry skies" where the air war was taking place. There will probably never be wild bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover as the bluebird is not indigenous to Europe and is non-migratory.
The lyrics also looked towards a time when the war would be over and peace would rule over the iconic white cliffs of Dover, Britain's de facto border with the European mainland.
The full song includes two verses - rarely found in any recordings:
I'll never forget the people I met braving those angry skies.
I remember well as the shadows fell, the light of hope in their eyes.
And tho' I'm far away, I can still hear them say "Thumbs Up!"
for when the dawn comes up,... There'll be blue birds over...
When night shadows fall, I'll always recall out there across the sea
Twilight falling down on some little town;
It's fresh in my memory.
I hear mother pray, and to her baby say "Don't cry,"
This is her lullaby.... There'll be blue birds over...
World War II performances
Glenn Miller recorded a version of the song in November 1941.
Jimmie Baker frequently performed it in Europe during the war.
The song was sung by the vocal group The King's Men on a 3 February 1942 episode of the Fibber McGee and Molly Show.
Ray Eberle and Tex Beneke also included it in their repertoires.
The song is the terrace anthem of the supporters of Dover Athletic FC.
The Checkers, an American group, released an R&B version of the song in 1953 which became very popular. Other artists who have recorded the song include Connie Francis, Bing Crosby, Ray Conniff, Jim Reeves, Acker Bilk, The Righteous Brothers, and The Hot Sardines on their debut album released in 2014. The 1990s pop duo Robson & Jerome recorded the song as the B side of their U.K. No. 1 hit single "Unchained Melody." The Jive Aces released a swing version in 2005 (similar to Acker Bilk's arrangement)
On 18 February 2009, a story in The Daily Telegraph announced that Vera Lynn was suing the British National Party (BNP) for using her version of the "The White Cliffs of Dover" on an anti-immigration album without her permission. Dame Vera's lawyer claimed sales of the song would help boost the BNP's coffers and would link her name to the party's far-right views by association.
On 12 October 2009, Ian Hislop presented a half-hour BBC Radio 4 programme about the song.
On 9 May 2015, Elaine Page performed the song at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember at Horse Guards Parade in London.