The Theatre

'At the beginning (summer 1941) there was nothing. After a while permission was given to convert one end of Barrack 3. Carpenters were found, and timber, and eventually it all took shape. The first priority was something to amuse. In some outside camps there was little other possibility than to find four hairy Australians, roll up trousers, stuff a few pairs of socks up your sweater, place left hand on hip, stretch right arm in air with wrist cocked and pout over the right shoulder and voila! Women!'
'Gradually the customers wanted much more, especially as carpenters, tailors, art directors and electricians were lining up for Stalag jobs instead of working on quarries. The Inner Circle obliged. Stand-up comedians with talent were in demand. Musicians appeared and demanded instruments. Ambitious “straight” actors looked on and by magic, scripts appeared for “serious” plays.'

(Ken O'Kennedy)

Theatre (134108 bytes) pickw3.jpg (50708 bytes)
View of the stage Auditorium, Summer 1944

The Players

The list of names below has been compiled from the Cast Lists of a number of productions.

Forename
Surname
Rank
Unit
POW
Comments
Arthur Albrow       Player
Eric Allen Sgt RASC 7677 Player, writer
Robert Allen Pte 2/3 Inf. Bn. 4633 Player
Norman Allman Dvr RE 1310 Trumpet, Costumes
Jock Arbuckle Cpl RASC 7600  
H.W. Arden Pte RASC 2315 Player
Doug Arthur Gnr RA 5567  
Charles Bainman       Posters
Leslie Banks       Player
C. Bantick Dvr Rasc 3368 Technician
Eddie Barrett       Player
Bennie Bennett       Dressing; Chorus routines
Charlie Bentick       Props
Arthur Bircham       Player
Charles Booth       Front of House
Maurice Boucher Sgt RAC 2869 Front of House
Tony Bowden       Player
Dave Bradford       Decoration
William (Twiggy) Branch L/Sgt RA 1564  
Lew Bray Spr RE 1617 Props; transf'd to Stal 357
Joe Brayen Gnr RA 5441 Orchestra
Geoff Brickwood Sgt RASC 5927 Props
R. Browne       Technician
Bill Bryant Dvr RASC    
George Buswell       Scripts
John H. Caple Bdr RA 5932 Player, producer
A.T. ('Carl') Carlisle Pte   393 Producer
? Carter       Player
Ernie Carroll       Player, Comic; One of 'The Two Ernies'
Stan Charles       Backstage
Edward Charnley Bdr RA 5275  
Len Charters       Player
Eddie Chatterley Spr RE 2009 Player
Harry Chesson Pte 2/48 Inf. Bn. 3973 Backstage
Ron Childs       Lighting
Jim Clifford Pte 2/4 Inf. Bn. 3915 Props
Fred Clifton        
Eric Coates Sgt     Writer
Joe Cocozza Dvr RASC 1361  
John Cotton       Player
Maurice Copus Sgmn R Sigs 1809 Player, pianist & director
Eric Curtis       Backstage
? Dalton       Player
D. Dennis       Player
M.A. Diserens L/Cpl RE 2183 Drums; transf'd to Stalag 383
Dudley Drake Sgmn 2NZEF 4620 Player
Clive Dunn       Player
Maurice Egan Spr RE 2184 Player
Charlie Fairman Sgmn R Sigs 379 Player
Eric Fearnside Cpl RE 5669 General Fearnside'
F. Findle       Player
'Snowy' Foster       Props
Cecil Arthur Franklin Pte H.Q. 17 Inf. Bde.   Player, writer
Bill Gamble       Orchestra
Harvey Garland Pte 2NZEF 4139 Player; 10911?
H. 'Pasty' Garlick L/Bdr RA 2443 Decoration
John Garvey RSM RE 2371 Orchestra
Danny George       Player
Stuart Gibbons       Player, Lighting
Lou Griffin Cpl RAVC 2048 Player
Cam Grinter Cpl 2NZEF 740 Player, Stage sets; also 924/GW
James Hacking Sgt RA 356 Trombone
John Hamilton CQMS RAC 822 Carnival Organiser; transf'd to Stalag 383
John Harding        
Roy (Tubby) Harpwood Tpr RAC 1102 Player, producer
Ted Haskell       Drums
S. Hawkins Sgt R Sigs 334 Producer; transf'd to Stalag 383
A. Homer       Player
Les Hudson        
Jack Isherwood L/Bdr RA 154 Player, Producer
Alf Jennings       Player
L. Jewell       Player
Joe Johnston       Front of House
Fred C. Kernick S/Sgt RE 5926 Technician, player
Alan King       Orchestra
Harry Kinley Gnr RA 5923  
Charles Krall Sgmn R Sigs 1812 Player
Martin S. Larkin L/Cpl RASC 3226 Player; also 10030/GW
Cecil Leach       Player
Bill Lee Pte RAC 4933 Stage Manager, Props
Sid Lewis        
Jack Lindsay Sgt RE 2585 Producer; transf'd to Stalag 383
Boyd Long       Lighting
Aidan 'Sandy' Lovett Cpl R Sigs 58 Player
Johnny Mann       Player
Dudley Marples S/Sgt RE 2796 Saxophone
Charlie Marquardt        
Les Mayes Sgt GG   Flute
L. 'Mo' McCartney L/Cpl H.Q. Div. AASC 3882 Player, writer
Vic McDonald   2NZEF   Orchestra
John McGeorge Dvr RASC   Scripts, Compere; Killed in Air raid, 18.12.44
Ernie R. McGrae Gnr RA 5220 'Ernie Mack', Singer, Comedian; One of 'The Two Ernies'
Tom 'Bubbles' McGuinness Dvr RASC 3159 Player
Eddie McShae Gnr RA 5255 Player
Johnny Merricks Bdr RA 5677 Lighting
Bill Merrill Dvr RASC 6576 House Manager
Max Miller       Player
Max Mouna Sgt RA 5281 Keyboards; died 12.9.44
Dick Nancarrow Cpl 2NZEF 4705 Player; MOC 296/L+233/L
Ken O'Kennedy Sgmn R Sigs 5033 Player
Peter Oliver       Props
Jack O'Reilly       Player
R. Parkes       Programme
Dick Pattinson       Player
George Pearce        
W.J. 'Muscles' Perkins       Player
Joe Phillips       Player
Reg Piper L/Cpl RE 2004 Player
Harry 'Polly' Poulton       Player
Alan Ring Spr RE 3204 Saxophone
John N. Russell       Player
John Rymer SQMS RAC 2264 Orchestra
Jim Salter Sgt 2/5 Inf. Bn. 3753 Player
Tim Saward       Seward?
Taffy Smith       Player
Lindo 'Fritz' Southworth Cpl RE 1073 Orchestra
Alec Spalter Dvr RASC 1212 Player
Jim Speake       Player
Bill Stacey        
W. Stone       Technician
Stan Summers Pte     Piano
Bill Thompson       Lighting
Bert Townsend       Front of House
W.T. Trinder Gnr RA 2418 Player
? Tugwood Cpl     Piano accordian
Bert Watkinson Spr RE 1429 Orchestra
Eric Williams       Backstage, player
Dick Williamson        
Ken Willmott L/Cpl RAC 5470 Orchestra
C.S.W. Wright Sgt R Sigs 2704 Producer; transf'd to Stalag 383
Jack Young        

Backstage

Wardrobe: Norman (Totty) Allman  At the beginning he could produce women’s dresses out of rolls of medical gauze. Later he controlled an immense wardrobe of clothes bought with cigarettes and marks.

Scenery: David Bradford  Designed sets, scenery, posters. After the war had his own advertising agency and art studio.

Lighting: John Merricks . A genius. Where did he get the stuff??

Music: Lindo “Fritz” Southworth, ex first viola,  BBC Symphony Orchestra. Ran the orchestra and everything else musical. In the two hundred mile forced march across Greece, he had discarded his blanket and greatcoat rather than leave his precious viola. When ordered to work in a quarry, he had refused even after the threat of a firing squad, rather than ruin his hands and therefore his career as a musician. 

Comedy and Variety: The Two Ernies,  “Mack” and Carroll.  From the start to the end never failed to come up with comedy acts and productions. From Liverpool, also responsible for hiding the radio in the wall of the Boiler Room.

Drama producer and director: Maurice Copus (later OBE)  Carried on this brilliance into post-war life.

Compere and Singer: Johnny McGeorge  Comedy writer and performer, sadly killed during the December 1944 raid. Clive Dunn (later of Dad’s Army) was with him only a few minutes before it happened, and later said that this was a terrible loss to post-war radio and TV. 

A certain young man came into the camp one day having been working on a farm. He did an act in one of the variety shows as a stand-up comedian which proved hilarious. He was Clive Dunn who went on to gain national fame as Corporal Jones in 'Dad's Army'. 

The Orchestra

The Stalag Orchestra was made up of the following players:

Lindo 'Fritz' Southworth; First Violin and Conductor (BBC Symphony Orchestra)
John Garvey: Second Violin
John Rymer: Saxophone (Band Sgt., Queen's Own 4th Hussars)
Dudley Marples: Saxophone
Les Mayes: Flute (Band of Grenadier Guards)
J. Brayen: First Trumpet (Wallsend United Colliery Band)
N. Allman: Second Trumpet
James Hacking: Trombone (Farnworth Old Band)
Stan Summers: Piano
Cpl Tugwood: Piano Accordion (Cinema Organist, New Victoria, London)
D. Diserens: Drums (Teddy Joyce's Band)

The band for the Theatre was The Hottentots, consisting of the following players:

Lindo 'Fritz' Southworth: Double Bass
Ken Wilmott: Saxophone
Alan Ring: Saxophone
Dudley Marples: Saxophone
Joe Bryan: Trumpet
Norman Allman: Trumpet
Ted Haskell: Drums
Bert Watkinson: Xylophone
Max Mouna: Keyboard

Some of the shows

Lilac Time
Someone at the Door
The Monkey's Paw
$1 Million Revue

Cinderella (January, 1942)
Three Dramas (Jan/Feb, 1942)
Wild Decembers (February, 1942)
Mississippi Show Boat (March, 1942)
Vermillion Vodka (April, 1942)
A Musical Pot Pourri (Apr/May, 1942)
Memories (May, 1942)
Spring Carnival (May 1942)
Three Plays (June, 1942)
Phoney Island (July, 1942)
Three One-Act Plays (August, 1942)
Merrie England (August, 1942)
Bits and Pieces (August, 1942)
Pierrots (September, 1942)

After this show, the theatre was closed so a new stage could be built and the auditorium enlarged.

Theatrical Hotel (October, 1942)
Three Dramas (October, 1942)
Topsy Turvy (November, 1942)
Soldiers Concert (November 11th, 1942)
 Escape (November, 1942)
Happy Days (December, 1942)
A Light Orchestral Concert (December 12th, 1942)
Jack and the Beanstalk (December, 1942)
Lucky Break
(January, 1943)
Music Hall (February, 1943)
The Wind and the Rain (February, 1943)
Big Shots in Hot Spots (March, 1943)
Saturday Revue (March, 1943)
All Change (April, 1943)
A Musical Concert (April, 1943)
Red Dandies (1943)
Pygmalion (1943)
Sunny Side Up (1943)
Arabian Nights (1943)
A Revue (1943)
The Late Christopher Bean (1943)
Flashbacks (1943)
Stalag Dramatic Festival (1943)
Alf's Button (1943)
Nigger Minstrels (1943)
Recital of Works for Violin and Pianoforte (1943)
The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1943)
A Series of One Act Plays (1943)
This and That (1943)
Come and Get It (1943)
Lights Up (November, 1943)
George and Margaret (1943)
A Christmas Party December, 1943)
Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp (December, 1943)
Hawaiian Paradise (April, 1944)
French without Tears (May, 1944)
Hitting High (June, 1944)
Roman Holiday (August, 1944)
Tons of Money (August 1944)
Let's Get Lost (September, 1944)
The Skin Game (October, 1944)
Glamorous Nights (December, 1944)

The End of the Theatre

'We had been trying for months to stage 'Glamorous Nights', without success. The German censor who dealt with all our plays didn't like Noel Coward's military-style music at all. According to him, the music was far too military and that some of it was too patriotic. Having transposed all Clive Dunn's music, Fritz (Southworth) and Ken Willmott had the doubtful privilege of altering all of the remaining music. However, this great musical went on at last, playing to packed houses all week. On the Saturday night, two chaps who shared a room behind the theatre had found an electric hot plate but, unfortunately, they left it on whilst they saw the show. It could never be proved but, halfway through the show, the whole place was a blazing inferno. The wooden structure was engulfed in flames and we were lucky to get everybody out. Our beloved theatre, including all the props and costumes, was lost. Some of the boys were in tears as they saw the results of all the work they had lovingly put in over so many years being destroyed in an hour.'

(Eric Fearnside)


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