Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams, Myra Hess, Albert Sammons and Lionel Tertis to the Editor of The Times

Letter No.: 
[Thursday May 22 1947]

We wish to put on record our grave concern over the inevitable effects of conscription in peace-time on certain occupations and professions.
We are not viewing this question from any political or pacifist angle, nor do we claim any knowledge of strategical necessities. We feel very strongly, however, that while a year or two in the forces may be little more than inconvenient to many people, to a small minority, with definite vocations, the consequences can be disastrous. The value to the community of this small minority, particularly in times of reconstruction like the present, is quite out of proportion to their numbers. They are our cultural ambassadors, and are largely responsible for the ultimate projection of our country, age, and civilization.
Though this distinction applies to various occupations wich are dependent on uninterrupted practice for the perfection of their technique, we are here concerned with certain branches of the musical profession (particularly the executant), of which we have some knowledge. The view, sometimes put forward, that enforced peace-time service will broaden the outlook of young artists is not that usually held by outstanding artists themselves, for they know only too well that the front rank is never attained without continuous and intensive labour.
We do not offer any solution of this difficult problem, but we wish to record our belief that damage is being done to the country, and that its cultural life is being debased, when outstanding young individuals are prevented from exercising their talents to the fullest capacity. Furthermore, we would ask whether it is not a more "truly genuine and national service" for such people to pursue their wowrk uninterruptedly, rather than to devote a period of their lives to peace-time service in the armed forces?
We remain, yours, &c.,
Myra Hess, Albert Sammons, Lionel Tertis, Ralph Vaughan Williams

General notes: 

Printed in The Times, Thursday, May 22, 1947, p. 4, headed "Conscription and the artist: Young Musicians"

The Times, (50767), Thursday, May 22, 1947, p. 4.