Bolton Remembers the War Logo
Barbara Smith - ENSA
Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund
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Barbara Smith
Barbara Kirkham



Barbara Smith née Kirkham

3 June 2005

Barbara was born in1923 in Blackpool. Her father was a wood machinist and her mother was a housewife. When the War started she was a ballet dancer at the Tower Ballet and also worked in the Tower Circus. In the winter she studied to be a dancing teacher at a school of dance.

When she left the circus she was part of a show that toured the country often appearing in places where there were air raids, as well as atArmy and Air Force bases. On one occasion she appeared at the Grand Theatre Bolton with Frank Randle in a show called Randle's Scandals.

Barbara passed an audition to join ENSA, the Entertainments National Services Association. She appeared with George Formby in London and travelled abroad as a singer and dancer, entertaining troops after D-Day in Europe, the Middle East, and India. In Yugoslavia her concert party was detained by Tito's partisans. After the War she was demobbed and taught dancing. She came to live in Bolton in 1952 and finished teaching dancing when she had a family. Her Wartime experiences working for ENSA are among her most treasured memories.

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Randle's Scandals at the Grand... mp3 sound clip - 228k Randle's Scandals at the Grand... mp3 sound clip - 228k

Entertaining the troops in Normandy... mp3 sound clip - 445kEntertaining the troops in Normandy... mp3 sound clip - 445k

Randle's Scandals at the Grand...

(I came) to the Grand Theatre with Frank Randle. ‘Randle's Scandals' it was called and I remember the Grand Theatre very well. It wasn't very nice backstage. It was always cold, and the tiles on the wall! You looked as if you were in a public lavatory all the time because, there were dreadful tiles on the walls (laughs). Frank Randle, he rather humiliated me one night in the theatre and I was very upset about it. We used to have to sit round, as if we were having a party and he came on, told his jokes which weren't very good really, and then he turned to me this night and he said ‘Why aren't you laughing at me, what's up with you?'. Well you don't do that, and show your colleagues up like that. I must have been having a quieter night than usual and it was... I didn't like that reaction from him at all, but we carried on.

Entertaining the troops in Normandy...

So we entertained all the troops round the south coast and D plus 31, I went over on a tank landing ship to Normandy. We wore flowers in our tin hats (laughs) to make it look a bit more cheerful for out lads and a big lorry took our stage, which had it's own generator and a small piano, mini piano, and all the sections to erect a stage. So when we got to France, a couple of the soldiers would erect the stage, and then we'd perform wherever we were required. I sometimes wondered if they took us too near the front, because, when the soldiers came out for a rest, I don't feel they wanted to be sitting down watching an ENSA show. They were so tired and weary, I think that they would rather have rested. But on the other hand, they were all well attended, the shows, and we seemed to cheer them up a bit.

One thing I'd like to mention about Normandy, we were with the 51st Highland Division quite a lot and the Colonel said to the people in the show, I'd like you to come to a certain field, tomorrow morning at a certain time, and we wondered what it was all about - he didn't tell us. So we got to this field and stood there and he came out and he said ‘This is my thanks to you, for lifting the morale of my soldiers.' It was a misty morning and out of the mist came the 51st Highland Division in their... playing the bagpipes and marching, counter-marching and he said ‘Again, thank you for all you've done'. It was really a thing I remember so much, the bagpipes playing in the mist in this field in Normandy. It's a thing that's stuck in my mind all these years.