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15 October 2014
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Entertaining the Troops in India and Burmaicon for Recommended story

by luckybruce

Contributed by 
luckybruce
People in story: 
Muriel Mason
Location of story: 
India
Article ID: 
A2033795
Contributed on: 
13 November 2003

This story is by Muriel Mason and reproduced here with her permission.

I was born on 4 October, 1903, and lived in Sheffield.

We all have memories of past events and interesting happenings in our lifetime; some of my more vivid memories and experiences were of India and Burma during World War Two as part of ENSA (Entertainment National Service Association) when I went out to entertain the forces.

I was part of a unit of six - three girls and three boys. My role was pianist and my late brother was the entertainer and compere. We also had a comedian, conjurer and two girl acrobats. We were asked to go to Drury Lane, the HQ of ENSA, for inoculations and vaccinations - nine all together. While we were there we attended rehearsals.

Before we left, we were kitted out with our wardrobes, soap, towels, cooking utensils, mosquito nets and even toilet rolls (as these, we were told, were not available in India). They also gave us hurricane lamps and candles. We wondered where on earth we were going! It turned out we were going to the Far East!

We set sail on a troopship in convoy. After a four-week sea voyage, we docked in Bombay and on arrival 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 toothbrush. 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.

My unit was 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.

After six weeks in Burma, we were told to prepare for a short break in Darjeeling, the tea country, for a rest. Then 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, to get ready for home. It was still very hot in Bombay but I well remember the weather gradually getting colder. I stood on South Hampton dock with three coats on and still shivering.

We were out there at the same time as Vera Lynne now Dame Vera Lynne, and when Armistice Day comes round I always think of her singing 'We'll meet again', with which I think I ought to finish this story.

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Message 1 - ENSA Connection

Posted on: 02 December 2005 by Barry J. Page

Hi luckybruce:

Great story and memories. My aunt was a dancer in ENSA during WW2. Her brother, my father, was in action on the Western Front. The following is a press release about his exploits and the connection, through his sister, with ENSA. Aunt Marion is still alive and well, living in Kingston-upon-Thames. My father is also alive and living in Potton, Bedfordshire. I hope you enjoy reading the account.

Sincerely,

Barry J. Page
Goderich, Ontario, Canada

From the local press in Hampshire.

"For ten days, men of the R.A.F. Regiment replacing crack infantrymen, went into action on both sides of the German frontier in a sector of the Second Army front line.

"The first squadron dropped five tons of bombs on enemy positions, and two volunteer snipers, Peter John Page, 174, West Street, Fareham, and L. Cartlidge, Stoke-on-Trent, wiped out seven of Hitler's front line fighters.

"Peter Page has been in the R.A.F. four years and he volunteered for the R.A.F. Regiment when it was formed. He has been "over there" since D-day as a dispatch rider. His wife says he was too modest to mention his escapade, saying only that he had been on a "job." He was an operator at Lee Towers and the Savoy, Fareham, before he joined up. His sister is Marion Crauford, the young Fareham dancer, now with E.N.S.A."

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Arts, Entertainment and Media Category
Burma Campaign 1942-1945 Category
Burma Category
India Category
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