The Prisoner of War No 37 Vol 4 May 1945

The Prisoner of War May ,194.5 These two shows produced atS talag X X A ,Sin- bad. the Sailor ,(Above) and The Wind and the Rain (Right) show the ingenious cos­tumes that can be produced in a prison camp. YOU have prob ably all had letters a t onetime o r another from your friends or relations who are P.o .W .s ,with the phrase, “We had a jolly good show last nigh t,”or "We had a dance last n ig ht,” with perhaps more details. What lies behind these phrases ?Way back in 1940 about two hun d red tired and rather dirty P.o.W .s arrived a Stat lag X X A ,in Thorn ,Poland. After finding som ew hereto sleep, some­ one came into the barrack sa yin hg,“T e are’s show on in su ch-an d-su ch a barrack in h a lf-a n -hour.” A show? What kind o f ash ow?Let's g o and have a look .Several hun d red men crowded into a sleeping barrack ,facing a “st age” made out o f table -tops. There they listened to a mouth -organ band with a drum m er. Oh, yes, there was a drummer complete with d ifleren t-sized jam tin sin place o f drums. Interspersed with mono­ logu thees, band played for a b o u tan h ou r, bringing memories and forgetful­ness to the weary au d ien ce. The iirst show was born ,and it was the same in every camp .The Germans were amazed a t the enthusiasm shown b they men to “dress u p ”and amuse them ­selves. Time passed Red Cross parcels began to arrive .With the main worry removed ,the shows became more elaborate. Money began to come into the camps from the men who were working .Per­ P 1 U V ATE D.IV .GARDNER ,liberated by the Russians ,from Sta lag X X Band now home again was pro mine n tin his cam pin helping to produce shoivs. I n this article he takes us— BEHIND THE SCENES 'mission was given to b u yin stru men Ats. violin was followed b y a piano ,then came accordion s,trumpets ,and sax o ­phones, through the Red Cross until a t last dance bands, quintets and even m ili- •tar y bands came almost to perfection .The idea o f a"sh w,”ino those days, was to have the band 011 the stage then it would come off for periods to let the concert party give short sketches or per­haps a monologue or song. The whole show was held together b y a compere. This type o f show was rather unwieldy and depended too much on the compere. Producers became mamore b itio u sand split in two directions. One con cen ­ tra ted 011 straight shows, such as “Journey's End ,”“Dover Road,” and“ r.D C litter- liouse," the other on musical come­ dies. The musical comedies were usually more pop ular, but were well b a l­anced b they drama. Many rnen fo u n din themselves talent to write these shows, usu ally “two and a half hours o f music and mirth ,”to quote posters. These shows b rough tout the amazing ingenuity o f th eave rage P.o.W .Take almost any show based 011 a c iv v y street film .The producer asks for a Chinese co stu me, a g ir l’s evening dress sand a ilo costumer’s amongst others. The Chinese costumes are made out o f dyed p jay mas with dyed Eastern decorations. S ailo rs' costumes— A ir Force trousers, a blue roll-n eck sweater with cardboard anchor stitched 011, and a paper hat com­pletes the dress. L a dies’ evening dress— a sheet cut and stitched to shape, decorations b coy loured paper stitched round hem sand neck o r 011 the skirt. There were a thou sand and tone“ cir k s”—wig sand m oustach es made from Red Cross string ,18 th -century dress, hoop skirts made with wire and crepe p a per, cardboard evening dress collars, paper ties, paper umbrellas, su ito f armour from empty tins straightened and “sewn” with wire, blouse from a shirt trimmed with crepe paper. These large shows were limited to large s,camp but even the smallest camps arranged some sort o f show .Perhaps they had a band— an accordion and a drum ,or a mouth-organ a n dag u ita rand they had their little “jam -session ”with every one singing o r learning to dance. Many will look back on those long years with memories o f their “first ap pea ran ce ”and the know ledge that th ej tried to, and did, break the monotony. A “turn ’'with the dance band Bat .A.B .20.
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