Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Garrison Theatres.

Has any one got memories pleasant or otherwise of the good old Garrison Theatre.
Every Garrison had one, they were used for Dancing, Shows with either travelling players, or amateur shows put on by the men of the garrison.
Often as places for the unit to be lectured or briefed on some move or manoeuvre.
My memories are mainly the once a week dance at most of them but I also saw and helped one very good amateur show and a classical pianist who played a concert for us.
See Comment.


Blogger Tomcann said...

Apparently there was a theatre at Streatlam Camp of Barnard Castle, this was according to a cimema projectionist who ran the films on a nightly basis - this had to be after my time as the only place we had for dances was the Gymnasium - the last thing we would have had was a classical pianist or even a fourth rated Ensa party, it was all work and the only concession was the friday night dance with SSM Bob Christie of the Horse Guards quaffing beer and keeping an eye on us.

Wednesday, 23 August, 2006  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...

Garrison Theatres?

Back to my Album & Diaries and I see that I had this to say about our month at Ulm in Germany in 1945.

The canteen at the camp had a film projector and nightly shows were given for those in transit. Because we had a different audience every night, it must have occurred to someone that it was not necessary to change the film, and therefore the whole month that we were in Ulm the film was always "Cover Girl" with Betty Grable. As the town itself was off-limits to the camp staff, we would invariably find ourselves watching the film and consequently we knew all the script and the dance routines backwards! For months afterwards some of the lads would break into one of the complicated song and dance routines. One favourite lyric was "Who's complaining, I'm not complaining, together we'll see this thing through, Because of Axis trickery my coffee's now all chicory, and I can hardly purloin a sirloin."

Ah me.... we were so young then !

Wednesday, 23 August, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Ron - know the feeling as we had to struggle through seven showings of "Mutiny on the Bounty" until we nearly mutinied ourselves - that film followed us all through Africa and Italy - with one exception - it was a mystery with Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton where he was her favourite uncle who turned out to be a murderer.
The denouement was in a newpaper cutting which gave the game away - but we could not see the cutting in the English version as it was blacked out.

We finally did see the cutting after about the fourth showing - but is was in Italian !!! What a let down - I still don't know what it was all about !

Wednesday, 23 August, 2006  
Blogger Ron Goldstein said...


You really musn't get me started on these memories and yes...I know I've already told this story on the BBC WW2 Archives but I couldn't resist telling it again..so there!

It concerns a young Lt.Whitfield.

The campaign in Sicily had been sucessfully concluded and we were waiting for our next move, the invasion of Italy.

Someone at Regimental level had decided that the Batteries should put on their own concert parties to 'entertain the troops' and young Lt.Whitfield had drawn the short straw, he was now 84 Battery Entertainments Officer.

In a moment of madness I had volunteered to play on a battered 'joanna' and other fools had likewise offered to sing, tell jokes or tell monologues but all this was not enough for Lt.Whitfield who obviously considered that this was his moment for show business glory.

“What we are going to do” he proudly told us ('us' being his not over-enthusiastic band of volunteers and pressed men) “is to finish the first half of the show with every one on stage singing “Come landlord fill the flowing bowl until it doth run over”.

“The clever part” he confidently continued “is that whilst this is all going on, we will have other chaps coming down the aisles dishing out mugs of vino, which I will organise”.

Came the night, the show went like a dream and we duly sang ‘Come landlord fill the flowing bowl’ as though we meant it.

Bang on cue, the mugs of vino were brought down the aisles to rapturous applause.

One slight hitch… the vino was in such quantities that we never got to start the second half of the show but dear Lt.Whitfield has gone down into Army folk lore history,mine anyway!

Thursday, 24 August, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Whilst in Africa awaiting the move to Italy - we had lots of time to have squadron concerts and as I had no talents whatsoever - I was never called upon in the entertainment field.
We had two Yorkshiremen who revelled in these concerts and were constantly on stage with a Gert and Daisy type of song and dance routine. This was always received well by many visitors and were the recipients of many plaudits from our C.O. They were an odd couple as Briggs was about 4'10" and Thirkill was way over six feet high.
They failed to show for one concert and the whole squadron was concerned as a whole posse of REDHATS had taken them off to Phillipville for questioning. The charge - impersonating Police in visiting various brothels threatening to close them down unless they had some favours.
They were back in time to make the move to Italy, we never had another concert !

Thursday, 24 August, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

When I say that we never had another concert - I really mean one whih we had all by ourselves as we had Ensa looking after us in Italy.
There were three memorable affairs which still stand out to-day.
Just after we landed at Naples we were soon transferred to a camp at Casorio near Caserta and one of the first things was a Concert by a well known Italian Opera singer - this turned out to be Beniamino Gigli and we had a wonderful two hour concert listening to many Operatic arias and the Neapolitan range of many songs which were wellknown to our audience The piano was played by Gigli's daughter and I think her name was Gina, it was a wonderful evening.
The next occasion was a vist by two Britsh Champion Table tennis players both called Richard - one was Brooks and the other escapes me at this time. They gave us an unbelievable demonstration of their sport and thenchallenged all comers which raised the roof.

The last one was in Hospital at Ancona when Patricia Burke and her pianist Jimmy Brown came to entertain us. One of the chapshad just arrived with his two legs blown off with a mine and was ina bad way - there must have been 0ver 200 of us crowded into the ward but for the whole two hours Patricia Burke sat on this chaps bed singing directly to him.
The main songwhich sticksin my mind was "you'd be so nice to come home to'
It was a fantastic event!

Thursday, 24 August, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

I don't think I've ever lived. I must have left a sheltered life!

I do however remember the Joseph Cotton film, although I forget its title for the moment. I think that was the one where he was one of two suspects believed to be using his charms on rich widows, then killing them and running off with the money. They played 'The Merry Widow Waltz' throughout the film.

After it was proven to be 'other' suspect, his niece found out it was him after all, and he then died falling off a train. If I remember rightly, it then transpired he's been a sweet little lad who'd had a bang on the head that had altered his personality.

Perhaps I didn't have a sheltered childhood after all with that grizzly tale. Still, you all seem to have done well with the entertainment!

Thursday, 24 August, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

joe - you got the right movie as I think it was call a Shadow... of something - the denouement was in the newspaper cutting and Teresa Wright went all to pieces after she read it -
We were always well entertained in Italy - between battles that is - as I recall a time when we were sleeping in a bombed out building and being wakened by the Guards Band playing a stirring march - we couldn't figure this out as were were very close to the fighting and so looking out where the windows should have been - to find the local town band strolling along in some procession or other.Their tempo was absolutely Guards like but they were strolling along !!!
There was always music and song everywhere it Italy.

Friday, 25 August, 2006  
Blogger Peter G said...

Gentlemen, gentlemen,

You really must use the Internet, think of it as a vast encyclopedia.

You gave some good clues: Joseph Cotton, Teresa Wright, Shadow of something .... Click on those three links, then have a shot at this one. :)

Friday, 25 August, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Frank - as always - words of wisdom regarding the street concert parties etc as there was no money around in Scotland to venture into the various concert halls - how they managed to survive
is one of those mysteries.
At school we had a visit from the Scottish Symphony Orchestra every year and was a highlight of the times.
Your comment regarding the troops to-day having mini TV's and Ipods etc is also true.
There are great lamentations over here as we have now had 27 killed in Afghanistan - but with aclose study of the incidents it would appear that almost 50% of these deaths have been caused by traffic accidents - similar to those we have every week-end - it cannot be said that it is alcohol based - but now a few facts are showing up that MOST of the trucks in the Canadian sector are driven in the centre of the roads - sort of like "tearing along the dotted line" so therefore it is not too surprising that accidents are happening - particularly if everyone is listening to the latest rap cacophany.
I often wonder about the quality of driving instruction over here
as we could use a few BSM instructors.
Recently in Vancouver a Chinese woman was pulled over for making an illegal left turn - she handed the policeman a licence with a picture of a man inprinted - she then explained that it was "the family licence"
How do you fix that ???

Friday, 25 August, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

So there is still hope for 'Variety Entertainment' from the younger members of the Mee family! A few times near where I live they have have had wartime singing or dancing theme shows and they are popular with younger folk as well as their grandparents or great-grandparents. By 'younger' I mean anything from Under 16 to 30, not just the 40-somethings or 50-somethings! So, it would still go down well if it was given the chance.

My Great Aunt Sarah Jane Tyrer used to take in 'theatrical' lodgers. A lot of them entertained the Forces at other times. People like Tommy Cooper, Harry Secombe, Frankie Vaughan were big stars of stage and screen. So if you got to see these acts for free while in the Forces you were not doing too badly.

My Great Aunt and some other relatives got to know some of these theatricals really well. She gave me a cane that had originally belonged to a singer called Frankie Vaughan. He later went on to appear in a Hollywood film with the French enetrtainer Yves Montand and the American singer / actress Marilyn Monroe. I think he started singing in the synagogue choir, but really got started in the war years when he was evacuated to the Lancaster area. He must have stayed with my Great Aunt in the late 1940s when she was still in Preston. I'm sure I was told he entertained troops on some occasions.

Saturday, 26 August, 2006  

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