Originally called "Till The Boys Come Home", the greatest patriotic song to come out of England during World War One, although written in London, was actually the result of a collaboration between an American woman, Lena Guilbert Ford, and a Welshman, Ivor Novello; its genesis is recounted in W. Macqueen-Pope's biography Ivor
. The outbreak of war in 1914 generated an intense outburst of patriotism in Britain, so much so that young men literally flocked to enlist; patriotic songs were all the rage, and Novello's mother, the famous music teacher and choir leader Madam Clara Novello Davies, begged her pride and joy to write one. He was disdainful as they were literally being churned out by the dozen, so she wrote one of her own to show him how it should, or perhaps should not, be done. After she had performed "Keep The Flag A-Flying
" to him, he relented, probably thinking he couldn't do any worse, and wrote something in a similar vein before contacting Lena. She was a family friend, a divorcee who lived in London with her young son; she also dabbled in lyric writing. Although a US citizen, she had evidently been in England for sometime, and appears on the 1901 census as Lena Ford, a foreign subject "Living On Own Means".
After Novello had tinkered with the melody and some of the chorus, Lena finished off the lyrics. In April 1916, a report in the New York Times
said Novello had dashed it off in ten minutes in a moment of inspiration, and that his mother had asked him to write it to take the place of "It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary
" which had become tiresome due to its constant repetition.