Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

VE Day Soho busker 1945

SEVERAL RECORDINGS SURVIVE in the BBC archives of the Victory in Europe celebrations which began on the night of 7th May 1945. Most have commentary but a couple don’t and elsewhere in this section you can hear the celebrations in a Wapping pub.

This recording of a busker (BBC catalogue number 822006) was made on 9th May, giving him enough time to come up with his own song to mark Hitler’s demise. The catalogue entry is brief:

Street musician recorded outside the Rose Restaurant, Soho. Song about Hitler, with banjo accompaniment.

The song gets going after a 20-second introduction on the banjo:

We haven’t seen old Hitler for a hell of a while
We haven’t seen old Hitler for a jolly long while
He went to France just to see what we was doing
He said ‘The air force will be my bloody ruin’
We haven’t seen old Hitler for a hell of a while
Maybe he’s blown up with a mine (let’s hope so)
He’s the leader of a German sausage band
Old Hitler he’s a filthy old –
You thought I was going to say something else didn’t ya?

That something else is left to the imaginations of the spectators. The trick of leaving out the final word of a verse for suggestive comic effect was an established feature of the time – see, for example, She went for a ride in a Morgan in the poet Christopher Logue’s compilation Count Palmiro Vicarion’s Book of Bawdy Ballads, published by Olympia Press in 1956.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

VE Day Soho busker 1:02