- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Kitty Barrett
- Location of story:
- France, Holland, Germany
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 11 August 2005
I am joining People's War in order to contribute on behalf of Kitty Barrett, a member of ENSA and USO (United States Overseas) during the Second World War. Kitty travelled with the Don Rice Unit all over the UK and three weeks after D-Day was part of the first entertainment unit to land in France. I shall be interested to know of anyone who remembers being entertained by USO in France, Holland and Germany.
Kitty played 'stooge' or 'straight woman' to Don Rice, the comedian who set the theme of the show and often blended spontaneous acts by the soldiers into the show.
Some of the sights she encountered on her travels made it difficult to believe she could entertain the troops again that evening.
On 25th August 1944 with two American girls she rode into Paris on a French tank for the liberation. The cheering crowds offered bottles of Calvados to drink. Her mementoes include a booklet of photographs showing the French Resistance at work in Paris just prior to liberation. Although she tried to contact several families whom she had known in Paris before the war, people were still very wary and suspicious and said they didn't know them, so to this day she doesn't know what happened to her friends in Paris.
Kitty spoke fluent French and although wearing blue dress uniform was once almost arrested by the Americans as a spy!
From Paris the unit moved to Nancy, then into Germany and back into Holland, sometimes under fire. After leaving Paris rations were rather meagre, and she got used to bartering for fresh food with chocolate and cheese from Army rations.
Travelling north-east following the advance troops, she ended up at Ludwigslust where the Americans under General James Gavin met the Russians. An official Army photographer took a photo of the two Generals which she still has. The Russian general asked Kitty if there was anything she wanted and she asked if his men could dance the Cossack Dance. He ordered two young men to perform for her which they did with great enthusiasm to great applause from the crowd.
From there she went to Schwerin east of Hamburg where, not many miles away on Luneburg Heath, 'Monty' received the surrender of all German forces in north-west Germany, Holland and Denmark. From there she travelled west to Nijmegen on the border with Holland, and then on to Maastricht. Here she was billeted with a Dutch family called Samperman who gave her a large sketch of the liberation of Maastricht on 13th September 1944. It was signed by the artist, John Wymonds, and her copy is number 149 of just 250 produced. On the back they wrote: 'To Kitty, a small remembrance of your stay in Maastricht, the first town liberated in Holland. Family Samperman.' She has treasured that sketch ever since as a souvenir of those momentous days.
Kitty would be pleased to know of anyone who remembers these events.
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