Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Carlisle NAAFI in WW2

The photographs on this Second World War postcard are of the NAAFI at Carlisle, Cumberland (now Cumbria). I have been told the Carlisle NAAFI was situated on Botchergate, at that time one of the main north – south thoroughfares through the city centres.

Although I cannot remember this personally, during the years I was a ballroom dancer – in the 1960s and 1970s - my dance teacher had a dance hall studio on Botchergate, Carlisle. So it is a street I remember reasonably well from that era. Looking at the photographs of the Carlisle NAAFI during WW2 there appears to have been an excellent Ballroom as well as a Games Room, Cafeteria, Lounge and a Tavern. It was evidently a good place for servicemen and women to pass a few short hours with friends.

As far as I can make out from these photographs there are Army Navy and Air Force personnel in the photographs. Interestingly, all the gentlemen leading their ladies around the dance floor in the Ballroom photograph appear to be in RAF uniform! I wonder if the ‘boys in blue’ were more of an attraction to the young ladies of that time….?

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Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
The boys in blue were actually more attractive to the young ladies of the day as they had a more plentiful supply of Brylcreem hairdressing for slicking down their quiffs - plus the fact that they always seemed to have much more time off than we squaddies and sailors.
Most NAAFI's had a space for dancing (sic)and the inevitable Saxaphone - Drums and Piano.
That great Scottish Dance band of Jimmy Shand who played all during the war was a three piece in the initial stages and the drummer was one Owney McCabe from our village - who couldn't afford drums but tapped out the beat with two old pennies on top of the piano lid !
Nobody cared as we were all in the same boat !

Monday, 26 February, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

The army did it right, get tanked up, then go in and floor the wimps and take over the girls.
That is a Naafi Club, different from the actual camp Naafi's a lot of the big towns near Garrisons had them and most of the big City's.
They were for the entertainment of all the forces in the area and often had sleeping accomodation for men taking a couple of days off.
I would have thought it had been a dance hall before the war and taken over by Naafi as the basis of a club hence the big floor.
Camp Naafi's had lino glued down and polished and the hall would also act as the Garrison Theatre.
The RAF wore collars and ties even in wartime, the army had to fasten up to the neck. This was relaxed for walking out sometime in 1948?? I think it was certainly not earlier.
When pulling a tank out of a ditch we would dig out the bank put down skid plates then grab an airman and rub his head on the plates to grease it with brylcream, they came in handy at times.

Monday, 26 February, 2007  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The YMCA seemed to be a popular place for recreation, socialising, games etc (so I have been told). Nice to know you had this friendly rivalry!

On a more serious note, I have read a number of accounts about RAF pilots, bomber crews and even a lot of the ground staff. As certain times (such as as the Battle of Britain or the build up to D-Day) they were under a great strain. The RAF deserved every moment of relaxation they could get.

The photos on the NAAFI postcard would bring happy memories to those who went there, whatever service they were in. There were a few air bases near Carlisle during WW2 and I imagine they made the most use of it. Carlisle was also the Depot for the Border Regiment and presumably they would utilise the NAAFI as well. Would that the photos could speak!

Of course I do remember the Jimmy Shand Dance band, although I didn't know the names of the other band members. It was a good time for live music (even with spoons!).

Monday, 26 February, 2007  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Funny how it all comes back - we had ties in the army around the end of '45 if I'm not mistaken as i had a photo of me at Milan wearing a tie - that was early '46.
The only reasonthat I recall the name of the drummer in the Shand band was that Owney McCabe lived in our village and was a hunch back and had to stand on a box to reach the top of the piano.
No question that the pilots in the RAF had a very stressful time when they went up and fought or bombed for a few hours and were entitiled to their eggs and bacon etc plus sheets and pillows...
but then so were the squaddies who ate - slept - and fought for sometimes - as we did once - for eighteen days with very little respite before having two days off ???
OR Ron's mob who sat at Cassino for weeks in appalling conditions without let up?
We felt fortunate to have a hot shower and change of underwear - now and again ! Clean socks ? - you washed them - and put them back on to dry as your spares were soaking wet as were your blankets !
Many of the RAF didn't know what it was all about.
However all was not doom and gloom as in naples we had the Palace where Nelson and Lady hamilton were wont to cavort turned into a Naafi club where we could attend to all our needs - baths - haircuts - meals etc and in Rome we had a magnificent department store of six mezzanine floors with the same facilities - and a magnificent chandilier which was lassood in a competition Commandos versus Paras who swung gracefully until breaking point and finally fell six floors with a Para still hanging on and his statement that this was probably his last jump proved to be true as he had broken his back !

Tuesday, 27 February, 2007  
Blogger Frank mee said...

Tom, my first memory of wearing a tie was in Cyprus in 1949, we had been issued with American collar attached shirts and Canadian green uniforms a big improvement on the usual stuff.
In England before I went abroad it was battle dress blouse buttoned to the top and then those two hooks at the throat or you did not even get past the gate guard.
As you well know winter dress for night guards in the Middle East was BD and it was no tie. Summer dress for night guards was long KD's with neck done up and sleeves buttoned at the wrist, this was protection against the mossies, the little blighters got everywhere.
Back to Naafi, notable by their absence apart from the garrisons. We had Church of Scotland, Salvation Army, WVS and one or two other private canteens. The Sally Army went where Naafi dare not tread and gratefull we were for that.
We did note the RAF seemed to spend most of their time in the Canal Lido's disporting themselves with the few women available. This may have been the reason I drove them off the road with my Recovery truck the odd time we saw them out there.
Happy days as they say.

Tuesday, 27 February, 2007  
Blogger Anoneumouse said...

The Naafi Club in Carlisle used be a large Nissan hut in Rickergate where the current Civic centre now stads

Monday, 18 April, 2016  

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