'A Broken Melody' is the title of an immensely popular musical play first performed in London in 1892. Although one of the first reviewers pronounced it 'feeble, tedious and commonplace', The Times declared that the combination of the music, the acting and the sentiment made it irresistible. The London Daily News attributed the play's success to Auguste van Biene, the musician who played the leading role. But, it said, touching though Mr van Biene's playing of the violoncello was, violoncellos alone will not make a successful play:

"The secret lies in the fact that the simple blend of pathos and humour goes home to the hearts of the unsophisticated spectators, who enjoy the eccentricities while they sympathise with the domestic sorrows of the poor deserted musician."

Van Biene is thought to have performed the role more than 6,000 times before he died in 1913. He and his wife also starred in the film version, which was made in 1896.
I believe the play was so popular that it gave rise to a figure of speech. The term 'a broken melody' came to be used to describe something that came to an end when it had been expected to keep running sweetly along. And the phrase even came to be parodied, as when a group of rowdy sailors were stopped by the police from playing their bagpipes in a public place. The photograph of the sailors in the newspaper appeared under the headline - 'A broken melody'.
For all its popularity it has been impossible to find out anything about the plot other than from the promotional strapline used by the cinemas showing the film. This described the film as, "A heart touching story of a struggle between love and duty". I have worked out that the story is about a musician, and that many different musical pieces were played during the evening. However, there was one piece that never failed to feature, it was called 'A Broken Melody' and you can here it played by Auguste van Biene.
James Keating was only 19 when he died. He served originally with the Yorkshire Regiment before transferring to the 1st Gun Carrier Company, Tank Corps. These were tanks that pulled guns into battle behind them. The idea was that the artillery could quickly set themselves up as the battle moved forward. However, it turned out not to be such a good idea and from May 1918 these companies were used to deliver ammunition not guns.
Keating died on 27 September 1918 when the British army was in action all along the front line. His parents announced his death in the Daily Gazette for Middlesborough on 5 October. The announcement says that Keating was "killed whilst on active service".