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Kate Wills
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Hi Kate

I have read with interest your comments about your research into WW1 music etc.

I have recently discovered that a relative of mine existed! AND, that he fought in WW1 -I know very little about him so far, but found one snippet which led me to wonder if he had been involved in Concert parties in WW1:

The reference comes from Michael Kilgariff's Grace beauty and Banjos:

http://freespace.virgin.net/m.killy/grace.htm

SPLINTERS (fl1918-37) This revue group was formed by soldiers serving in France in 1918. Originally k.a. The Splinters, they became Les Rouges et Les Noirs in 1919 but toured Britain until the late 1930s as Splinters, the personnel remaining exclusively male. Its World War II counterpart - SOLDIERS IN SKIRTS - never achieved the same éclat. Artistes who appeared in Splinters include SYDNEY HOWARD, Chris Shinfield (FORD & SHEEN), Reg Stone, Hal Jones, Harry Tracey, Dan Richards, Bina Leopold, Roy Byng, Gus Aubrey, Jimmy Slater, Vivian Taylor, and George Ellisa The Perfect Lady. In 1928 the show was touring as Super Splinters. Other all-male revues which toured in the post-World War II years largely featuring ex-servicemen were Forces Showboat, Forces in Petticoats, Boys Will Be Girls, Misleading Ladies, This Was The Army, and Tokyo Express. In 1929 a film version of Splinters starred Reg Stone, Nelson Keys, Hal Jones, Lew Lake, and SYDNEY HOWARD.

See THE CO-OPTIMISTS, THE FOL De ROLS, THE RAF GANG SHOWS, STARS IN BATTLEDRESS.

I am interested in Vivian Taylor, who signed up with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, although he was in fact Irish (went to work in Canada in 1913, signed up with CEF a year later).

Do you, or anyone else in this forum, have any idea where I could find some more information on the "Splinters"? I realise this is an imposition, but I wondered if you have come across this group at any point in your research.

Thanks! :thumbsup:

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Hi Kate

I was talking to an nice old gent today on the phone who I've helped out with research, he must have been in a chatty mood with it being 11/11 and all. Anyway, it turns out in looking up some records on ancestry this evening that his father was in the trenches, he joined up in 1917. He was a music student and apparently took his violin with him. His grandfather is listed on the 1901 census as being a Professor of Music, so must be a family thing. He says his dad told him that him and some other chaps were requested a few times to play for officers etc. I will try and dig some more up next week when I have been in touch with him again. Post WW1 he was the director of music at a theatre in Hull.

Regards

Matt

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Mike Hardin played an hour of folk songs, many with Great War connections. Check the BBC Radio 'play again'.

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Matt,

Many thanks. I look forward to hearing more.

Dear dea ex machina,

Welcome to the Forum. May I call you dea for short?

Unfortunately, Mr Kilgariff has got things t'other way round, as they say.

The First Army's concert party was called Les Rouge et Noirs after the unit's red and black sign (a black stripe sandwiched between two red stripes). The end of the war found them in the Valenciennes area, where the continued to perform after the Armistice in the Municipal Theatre. The cast were demobbed through the spring, and reformed as the Splinters troupe in England in My 1919, and began a remarkable career, which continued at least until the outbreak of WW2. They played at principal London theatres, such as the Queen's and the Savoy, and presented their show at seaside towns and must have been part of many a summer holiday night out. They seemed to have been a fixture at the Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe in the early 1930s.

In the mid-20s they downsized their show, and called their production 'Chips-up-to-Date', but still presented reminiscence variety shows of army sketches and songs with their all male ex-service cast. Their show billed as the one "in which every 'lady' is a gentleman' - which brings us to Vivian Taylor, the Lady of Many Parts, as his billing went at Felixstowe in 1931. Along with his fellow female impersonators, he would doff his wig at the end of each show to bow to the audience.

I'm interested that you say Vivian was with the Canadians. That makes sense, as he was not in the original wartime Rouge et Noirs line-up.

I am also in contact with relations of Reg Stone, an original member of Les Rouge et Noirs and Splinters. I will e-mail you off-forum with more details.

Best wishes

Kate

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.

I'm interested that you say Vivian was with the Canadians. That makes sense, as he was not in the original wartime Rouge et Noirs line-up.

I am also in contact with relations of Reg Stone, an original member of Les Rouge et Noirs and Splinters. I will e-mail you off-forum with more details.

I hope that the Vivian Taylor I am looking for is the same one - this was only a reference i had found for him, and it is an unusual name, so it could be that I am wrong.

The Vivian Taylor I am concerned with was actually Irish - he moved to Canada in 1913 and then signed up with the CEF immediately and was then associated with the Middlesex .

I have an address for him in England immediately post war, but it was a c/o address - so I am really not sure - but I would love more information about the Rouges et Noirs - just out of interest! Look forward to your email!

Thanks

dea

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi All,

Kate Wills kindly sent me some time ago copies of ols Nosrthampton newspapers dealing with "The Cobblers", the theatrical troupe of the 7th Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment.

She did so because she was aware of my interest in a soldier of the 7th Northants with a keen interest in theatricals.

Some days ago, I made a post on "The Cobblers" out from teh information sent to me by Kate Wills and other sources (including, of course, the personal reminiscences of my particular subject of interest):

http://rootingforlaughton.blogspot.com/200...urnai-1919.html

I sent the link to Kate and she asked me a few questions which I think might be of interest for this thread.

Kate: "What do you know of Charles's theatrical pursuits in Scarborough? I ask because Scarborough was home to some of the best seaside entertainers in the land, principally Catlin's Royal Pierrots, and I would be surprised if Charles did not know them."

Indeed, from his childhood on, the teatrical activities in Scarborough were followed with great interest by the young Laughton: he would even flee from home without parental permission in order to see a show (and be subsequently punished). As a kid he loved the pierrots at the beach, and according to his brother Tom: "(...) There was a treat in store an the north end of our passage across the spa. Here we could look down and enjoy Catlin's pierrots performing on their small canvas-covered stage set upon the sands immediatly below. Will Catlin, the leader of the troupe, was a hero to Charles; someone larger than life, flamboyant, full of infectious energy. The pierrots were dressd in voluminous white jackets and trousers, decorated with large black bobbles and wearing a white pointed felt hat adorned with a black bobble on the side. We could never see enough of them, especially Charles, who gave imitations of Will Catlin singing his favourite song – 'Here comes the galloping Major". It was probably Will Catlin who first infected Charles with the theatre bug"

So you see, Will Catlin was to blame for Laughton's theatrocal vocation ;D

(Note: I have also information about the London entertainments which Charles saw by 1916, while still under age and working at Claridges. Will post on it if you're interested)

As for the Aladdin script used at the Tournai performance, I wonder if The Cobblers used a standard one by a particular author or wrote a new story, but it is not unlikely that, as Leslie Henson, they incorporated references to army life to the basic script if they used a pre-existing play (see Private Leslie H. Norman's note here: http://www.huntscycles.co.uk/C%20L%203%20L...e%20Henson.htm)

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  • 2 weeks later...

What exactly was a Glee Society? (I have searched)

Part of a bio of a Birkenhead casualty:

2392 Rifleman Walter Sanders Baker

1/6th ( Territorial ) Bn. King's ( Liverpool ) Regiment

Walter Sanders Baker was an accomplished musician and violinist he enlisted into the 1/6th (Territorial) Bn King's (Liverpool) Regiment. ....Whilst, serving at the front, Rifleman Baker organised a Glee Society, of which he was the conductor. For doing so, his Colonel congratulated him.

His father, Walter Baker, a well known baritone singer of the time, sent his youngest son well known numbers regularly...... Rifleman Baker was badly wounded in action on 8th August, 1916, during the attack on

the village of Guillemont, in the battle of the Somme. He died of his wounds the same day. He is buried in Plot 2, Row

A, Grave 69, Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension, France

His elder brother, George Baker, a famous vocalist of London, and the provinces, joined up after his

brothers death.

Caryl

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More commonly known as glee clubs see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glee_club

Basically group of blokes singing and drinking :thumbsup: or drinking and singing!

Seriously, unaccompanied singing, usually of traditional songs. One can imagine how such an activity would improve morale, and remind the men of home. These days soldiers make cds to achieve a similar effect!

Ken

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I once attended a wake at Pudsey Glee Club. Bit of a contradiction really. The walls were adorned with musical award honours boards going back many years, and it would have had a thriving membership in the early 20th.Century.

Phil.

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Thanks for your replies Ken & Phil, very interesting. Yes, I can imagine such a club or society would be good for morale. You really do learn something new every day, first I'd heard of the term

Caryl

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Thanks for posting Rifleman Baker's details Caryl. I've added him to my database.

Funnily enough, I cam across another Baker this week, who was a member of the Abingdon Glee Society and sang a few songs at battalion concerts on the Western Front:

Major SYDNEY HAROLD BAKER

12th Entrenching Bn., late 1st Bn., Gloucestershire Regiment

who died age 37 on 23 March 1918

Served in the 9th Bn. in France and Salonika. M.A. Oxon, and Science Master at Loretto and Abingdon. Son of Agnes Anne Baker, of Sewelle Villa, 1, Goldney Rd., Clifton, Bristol, and the late James Baker, F.R.G.S. Remembered with honour POZIERES MEMORIAL

There is a thread containing a photo of a battalion glee club HERE = Sparkes, Welsh Field Ambulance, RAMC

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Having mentioned the database above, I'd better explain it further.

I already have a database of concert parties (a catch-all term that also includes drama groups, glee clubs, choirs and similar formations created on active service. I have now created a database of performers, the criteria being anyone in uniform who entertained their fellow servicemen, or assisted the war effort in this capacity, such as singing at charity concerts at home. The first 1023 are now entered, so I have a battalion’s worth (I suppose I could call them my own K1), and though it is probably not of much use to anyone at this stage, more will be added all the time, and I am happy to do lookups.

This first thousand are representative of the body as a whole, and include performers at concerts at home whilst in training, on troopships, on active service at the front (from impromptu mess sing-songs to organised shows), and concerts in hospitals and convalescent depots. It also includes nurses and members of the women’s services, and a few French nationals who took the stage at British organised events, and members of entertainment committees, backstage crew, scriptwriters, songwriters etc etc

Many Pals have already helped me enormously in my resarch, and I thankyou sincerely for your time and trouble. It is much appreciated. I hope the end result will be a boon to fellow researchers.

In the meantime, if you know, or come across anyone who entertained whilst in uniform, please let me know, and I will enter him or her onto the Performers Database.

Thank goodness for long winter nights!

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  • 1 month later...
Guest amandafindlay
Having mentioned the database above, I'd better explain it further.

I already have a database of concert parties (a catch-all term that also includes drama groups, glee clubs, choirs and similar formations created on active service. I have now created a database of performers, the criteria being anyone in uniform who entertained their fellow servicemen, or assisted the war effort in this capacity, such as singing at charity concerts at home. The first 1023 are now entered, so I have a battalion’s worth (I suppose I could call them my own K1), and though it is probably not of much use to anyone at this stage, more will be added all the time, and I am happy to do lookups.

This first thousand are representative of the body as a whole, and include performers at concerts at home whilst in training, on troopships, on active service at the front (from impromptu mess sing-songs to organised shows), and concerts in hospitals and convalescent depots. It also includes nurses and members of the women’s services, and a few French nationals who took the stage at British organised events, and members of entertainment committees, backstage crew, scriptwriters, songwriters etc etc

Many Pals have already helped me enormously in my resarch, and I thankyou sincerely for your time and trouble. It is much appreciated. I hope the end result will be a boon to fellow researchers.

In the meantime, if you know, or come across anyone who entertained whilst in uniform, please let me know, and I will enter him or her onto the Performers Database.

Thank goodness for long winter nights!

Hi Kate,

we exchanged emails last year about Harry Willoughby Sandham who was in France, then transferred to Macedonia (685th motor transport co. concert party). We are preparing for a memorial service in March and I just wondered if there was any more details on your database from anyone?? we want to make up a display about Harry with as much detail on his life and military service as possible...Fingers crossed.. thanks, Amanda

ps not sure if i told you we tracked down his grave in Stoke D'Abernon church...very moving to finally see it at last..

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Ooh er!! It's just turned February! Worrieth not, you are on my to do list. Can't promise screeds of info, but but fingers crossed!

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Kate

Are you aware of 'The Barn Owls', a concert party mentioned in 'Lancashire's Forgotten Heroes - 8th Service Battaion, East Lancashire Regt in the Great War' by Stephen Barker and Christopher Boardman (History Press, 2008)?

There are so many posts to this thread that I have not looked through them all.

I have the book on loan and can pass on the short details if wanted.

D

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Jack Trevan, who replaced my grandpa as a bugler 6/11/1914, was an excellent musician having given a number of concerts in the Ballarat area prior to enlisting. He wanted to be the bugler initially and tried a few ways of going about it, moving units etc. When Ted joined up as a bugler, mind you he was only 15, his experiences were not so clear. The story in my family was that Ted wanted to fight but talking to the great nephew of Jack Trevan it seems that Jack was clearly so much better anyway. It only took two days of Ted's attempts for the change to take place.

Unfortunately, Jack Trevan was KIA 28/5/1915 and from then on Ted became the bugler again - but he had learnt well anyway.

After the war Ted became a professional musician working as a percussionist in the Theatre and the silent movies. He also was an occasional percussionist for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and played in a number of dance bands around Melbourne.

Jonathan

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At least 2 black American singers served in France in 1918.

John "Big Nig" Bray, who recorded "Trench Blues" in 1934,

(Lyrics available on 3 pages at Trench Blues.

And "Kingfish" Bill Tomlin, who recorded "Army Blues".

5 blues songs about the Great war can be heard at-

Blues of the great war.

Thanks for this - it's an interesting diversion from the more traditional "soldier songs" viewpoint and equally is n area which has been little investigated. The podcast is fascinating, both the music and the narrative placing it in context.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Little snippet from The Liverpool Scottish 1900-1919 McGilchrist

"The Battalion had no concert party of its own but the 57th Divisional Concert Party , an exceptionally good one, included four members of the Liverpool Scottish, Grey, Firth, Gordon Browne, and Ralph Collis"

:whistle:

Caryl

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Yes Martin. I've read all of this astounding history now. I've had the book for a while now, just using it for reference purposes, until recently when I decided to read it cover to cover and I'm so glad that I did. Kate will already have had those names then

Caryl

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Caryl,

I have a note against The Dons of 57th Division which says "see 2/6th King's history". Were these chaps from 2/6th? I've added them to the database, which now stands at 1794. I'm making a priority of entering the divisional concert party performers names. Many thanks for these.

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