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The Origin of an Immortal Song
The Origin of an Immortal Song 

Western Mail, Thursday 29 June 1933, page 2

The Origin of an Immortal Song

Dear “Non Com.” – Enclosed, you will find a par out of the “Sunday Express.” I thought it might interest you and readers of the red page. I wonder if it is dinkum! I quite agree with the writer when he says some of the original verses became garbled somehow, what say you? Wishing you and the red page the best and a long-life - "A “Full Private," (44th)., Spearwood.

[Of course it’s. dinkum, Pat. You met Marie yourself; when you were in Armentières. I fancy she was the same girl who took 'your eye (and mine!) when we billeted in Neuve Eglise just before Messines. Do you remember? Thanks for the story, anyway. - "Non-Com.”]

The paragraph states that following an announcement in the "Sunday. Express describing how the famous war song. "Mademoiselle from Armentières" came to be written around Marie, the waitress in the Cafe de la Paix at Armentières, a man walked into the office and claimed to be the author of the immortal ditty. The article goes on:

He is Mr. Reginald Rowlands, Sergeant “Red Rowlands," late of the A.S.C. and now the manager of a kinema in Putney. This, he says, is the authentic history of the song:-

Early in 1915 Sergeant Rowlands organised a concert for troops billeted in Bailleul. The men were sick of sloppy sentimentality, and songs like “Come back to Erin.” or "Don't go down the mine, Daddy," would have been bowled down.

"The men asked for a song with some go in it, and I had to write it," said Mr. Rowlands: What were they interested in? Girls? Food? Drink?

"In a flash the inspiration came. There was in Armentières a girl who had set the hearts of almost the whole British Army throbbing. Marie of the Cafe de la Paix was the embodiment of universal womanhood. She was vital, alive, silent and magnetic. With her great mane of blonde silken hair she, would stand before the cafe door challenging life and commanding adoration. Her aloofness became legendary along the whole-British line. Men worshipped her, but with none did she become friendly.

“l thought of Marie as my mind searched wildly for a subject for a song with pep and snap to it. Mademoiselle. Our mademoiselle. Mademoiselle from Armentières. Mademoiselle from Armentières. As soon as I had said it to myself I knew I had found the song. The subject was one they all knew. Mademoiselle from Armentières! The lilt was there. You could feel yourself marching to it!

"Within half an hour the verses were written. In fifteen minutes that lightning music composer, Gitz-rice, had set it to music. That night I put over a winner. The original verses, somehow became garbled. Some of the later verses do not quite carry out the song's original theme, as many ex-soldiers will know.

"I have never heard what has happened to Marie, but England owes a great debt of gratitude to this cafe waitress who made it easy for men to march resolutely to what, for many of them, was death."