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With the hardship caused by bombing and rationing; with families separated, sometimes for long periods of time, the government recognised the need to keep up the spirits of the British people; their morale. This was very important. If spirits were high, then people would not be prepared to give up the fight for victory. They would be ready to put up with the difficulties of wartime and all pull together to support the nation. With this in mind, £14 million was spent on the Entertainments National Service Association, known as ENSA.

ENSA was made up of singers, dancers, actors, actresses and comedians who spent their time giving live performances to both civilian and military audiences. They broadcast on BBC radio on 'The Forces Programme' and 'The Home Service'. Performances took place in factories and halls all over Britain and abroad. Entertainers would visit servicemen at the front lines and perform in the open air, or in tents, sometimes even whilst the bombs dropped around them.

Photo: Vera Lynn sings to entertain the workers at a factory during their lunch break
Vera Lynn sings to entertain the workers at a factory during their lunch break. IWM neg P552
Letter from a well-wisher Women were an important part of ENSA. For servicemen, far from home, the songs they sang reminded them of home and the loved ones they had left behind. Some songs were of hope for the future, of homecomings and reunions and others were rousing, morale boosting anti-Hitler songs. Everyone was encouraged to join in and sing along and it is very difficult to feel low whilst singing a rousing chorus.

For factory workers, working long hours in often boring jobs, the entertainment in the canteen made a welcome break. The best known singers of the time were Gracie Fields and Vera Lynn, who was known as 'the forces sweetheart'.

Wherever possible the cinemas continued to thrive. 'Gone With The Wind' was a very popular film in the war years, providing over three hours of escape into another world for the war weary public. Dances were also held in village or town halls and were very popular with American soldiers when they joined the war and came to Britain. There was also the theatre to go to, where comedy was very much in demand. For example, Noel Coward's play, 'Blithe Spirit' was a popular farce which ran from 1941 - 1946.

Sometimes the radio could prove to be of help in tracing missing servicemen. Forces broadcasts or prisoner of war interviews could sometimes tell a serveceman's family that he was safe and well when they were fearing the worst.

Image right shows a letter, addressed to Mrs Curtis, from a well-wisher when her husband was unaccounted for whilst serving abroad.

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