Bringing music and laughter
to Britain’s fighting forces
In a large hall that in the short space of three weeks has been transformed
from a bare looking gymnasium into a gaily decorated theatre at a military
camp "somewhere in the North," hundreds of Tommies forgot their grouses
on Saturday night to give a full-throated welcome to George Formby and
his West End Company who appeared at the opening of the theatre.
From the word "go" there was an atmosphere of friendliness between
the performers and the audience — an atmosphere that is quite peculiar to
these concerts for the troops. The artists, top-liners from the halls, and the
irrepressible Tommies let themselves go with an intimate freedom that
added to the enjoyment of the soldiers and the actors, too.
The inimitable George said as
much when he spoke to the
audience after the first show. Their
enthusiasm and their obvious
appreciation, he said, had made it
a pleasure to work—and he spoke
for the whole company.
And work they did—in fact had
the soldiers had their way poor
George would still be strumming
on his ukulele and singing those
catchy verses that he has made
When he took the stage he did
not have to puzzle out which of the
hundreds of songs from his
repertoire he should sing, for the
Tommies knew what they wanted,
and they shouted until they got it.
Time and again George was
recalled and he always obliged
while his laughing audience joined
in the choruses—from officers and
men to the trim uniformed Waffs.
Such songs as dealt in no
uncertain fashion with the sergeant
major, earned the soldier's
unstinted applause—and the line
about those medals being won at
darts brought roars of applause
that drowned the rest of the song.
Since George Formby has been
touring the military camps—he has
already put on 14 shows for the
troops—he conceived the idea for
a marching song and sat down
and wrote the words and music.
On Saturday night he sang it for
the first time and he had only to
run through it once before the rest
of the audience was giving full
value to the , chorus of "Swinging
along, singing a song, like the
boys of the new brigade."
Yet George Formby and his
company were not in the limelight
all the time, for once while they
were putting over their numbers,
powerful arc lamps flooded the hall
and the news reel units "shot" the
happy Tommies as they roared out the choruses.
The programme included sketches by George and his wife Beryl that
have drawn the applause of the best known halls in the country, songs and
patter by soubrettes. and truly uncanny feats by an illusionist, and as the
curtain rang down George Formby promised that they would return and
hinted that when other obligations had been fulfilled he would be going over
to France with Beryl to entertain the troops on active service.
The show was arranged by the N.A.A.F.I., in conjunction with the
Entertainment National Service Association, and Mr Basil Dean, who is the
director of entertainments, and who has been all over the country—and to
France as well—to organise the entertainments,
was among the audience.
Speaking to a " Darlington and , Stockton
Times" reporter he said that E.N.S.A. was giving
entertainments all over the country and although
the organisation kept him busy he made time to
go round and form contact with the various
companies and the troops.
Mr Dean was in a familiar place at the camp,
however, for it was here that he built his last
theatre at the end of the last war when he was
doing similar work among the troops.
The Sappers who carried out the work of
reconstructing the gymnasium into a theatre did
their work well. It has a spacious stage, large
auditorium and an orchestra pit, and it is hoped
that professional shows will be given there for the
troops every week.