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Entertaining the Troops

by luckybruce

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Muriel Mason
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29 January 2004

This story by Muriel Mason.

I was born 4 10 1903 and lived in Sheffield.
We all have memories of past events and interesting happenings in our liftime, some of my more vivid memories and experiences were of India and Burma during World War 2 on ENSA(Entertainment National Service Association) when I went out to entertain the forces.
We were a unit of six - three girls and three boys. We were asked to go to Drury Lane, the HQ of ENSA for innoculations and vaxinations - nine all together. We also attended rehearsals.
We were kitted out with our wardrobes, soap, towels, cooking utensils, mosqueto nets and even toilet rolls as these, we were told, were not available in India. WE also had hurricane lamps and candles.
We wondered where on earth we were going!
We were going to the Far East!
I was a pianist and my late brother, the entertainer and compare. We also had a commedian, conjurer and two girl acrobats. We set sail on a troop ship in convoy.
After four weeks sea voyage we docked in Bombay and on arrival there I found my suitcase was missing! So there was I, in a strange country in tropical heat, standing on the dockside in just the clothes I stood up in! No toilet bag, towel, undies or night attire - not even a tooth brush.
I went straight to HQ in Bombay to report my loss and they told me not to worry, it would be sent on to me in due course. Well, two weeks elapsed and still nothing, so they gave me cash to buy the bare necessities.
We were in Bombay, a lovely place, for three weeks and went to the cinema at night to get cool and have an ice cream, then we were sent up to camps in Calcutta - a hotter place and not so nice.
After about four weeks there we were told we were going into Burma by plane. We had to make a forced landing on a paddy field near an American camp in Fenni - the boys rubbed their eyes when they saw us - they hadn't seen a white girl for years!
Things were rough - and the loos were nobody's business - just a hole in the ground and pieces of canvas to hide us - but the boys knew what we were doing.
We had to take Mecoprin tablets to avoid malaria and if you did not take them you were politely asked to do so by the MO. MOsquitoes were buzzing around you all the time and we were out in Burma for six weeks after which we were told to prepare for a short break in Darjeeling, the tea country, for a rest after which we returned to Bombay.
The unforeseen happened - my trunk had been returned to HQ in Bombay - much the worse for wear and of course things were missing. They advised me to leave the case and get another and after doing a bit of shopping get ready for home.
It was still very hot in Bombay but I well remember the weather gradualy getting colder and I stood on South Hampton dock with 3 coats on and still shivering.
We were out there at the same time as Vera Lynne now Dame Vera Lynne and when Armystice Day comes round I ways think of her singing "We'll meet again" with which I think I ought to finish this story.

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