World War One: Soldiers' near riot at Colwyn Bay theatre

Harry Reynolds's minstrel show in Colwyn Bay A more peaceful show for Harry Reynolds's minstrels in Colwyn Bay

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A north Wales theatre had to be put under armed military guard after soldiers threatened to riot in a seaside town, according to uncovered archives.

Military police had to stand guard outside a pavilion theatre in Colwyn Bay in 1915, after soldiers on leave threatened to smash it up.

They were angry that performers had not signed up to fight in the Great War.

The story was discovered during research into Theatr Colwyn's history.

Trouble began during the Whitsun weekend when impresario Harry Reynolds had his troupe of minstrels The Serenaders performing in a wooden pavilion on the promenade in Colwyn Bay.

Soldiers were on leave watching the show but started shouting at the performers "Why don't you join the Army?," "Come and serve your country" and "Try khaki on".

Reynolds stepped forward and tried to explain that his performers were not eligible for military service but the soldiers became so rowdy he had to close the show and refund the rest of the audience.

The soldiers then ran along the prom to Catlin's Pierrot's Pavilion and shouted at the performers there, this time throwing lumps of soil.

'Having fun'

Manager W.A. Pryce-Davies told the soldiers that his performers were also ineligible or had been turned down for service.

A rendition of God Save the King failed to calm things down and armed military police escorted Pryce-Davies to a police station for his own safety.

Reynolds was also manager of The Public Hall, now renamed Theatr Colwyn, and military police protected the building for two days after further threats were made.

A theatre spokeswoman said the story's discovery came as a complete surprise.

"It must have been extremely hard for soldiers to come from the front line to Colwyn Bay and see men, the same age as them, on stage in costumes, singing and dancing and having fun," she said.

Research has found that many of Reynolds' performers did in fact join up, while the theatre offered reduced ticket prices to the forces as well as showing newsreel footage from the front.

Theatre historian Roy Schofield has also found there were patriotic concerts and fund-raising events.

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