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John Taylor continues his look at life in the town during the years of the Second World War

Wartime Entertainment
St Matin's Hall

Sunday Citizen August 25, 2002

For the boosting of morale and generally taking their minds off the trauma of war, Bletchley residents had the often benefit of various entertainments in the town, held at such venues as the Social Centre, nowadays more locally known as St Martin's Hall.

As for the dance music, hotfoot from Leighton Buzzard, Fred Groom and his band were regularly engaged. For the more ambitious productions, artists might be sought of a national renown, Mantovani and Jack Payne and his orchestra, of BBC fame, to name but two.

As for troops in the town, apart from a few amorous adventures they also had special entertainments staged on Sunday evenings in the school hall of the Baptist Church and here a varied home-grown talent could exercise their contributions, to include Mr W Webster, delighting the squaddies with his Cockney sketches, and Peggy Sharpe, recounting a formidable selection of Lancashire monologues.

One well-meaning young lady, in aid of funds for those Bletchley men now held as POWs, even arranged for local soldiers to explore their own uncharted talent although it perhaps may be a little cruel to intimate that possibly some of these renditions might well have heightened the captives' appreciation of their present predicament.

Spicing things up, fresh from her recent cavortings in cabarets of the West End, at the Conservative Club Miss Dell presided over a very successful fancy dress dance while, as members of the National Academy of Dancing, Mr and Mrs Kirby - winners of several bronze and silver medals -staged a dance at the same venue, as part of their efforts to raise money for a Bletchley Dancing Academy.

By now, the organisation of local dances had largely polarised into a friendly rivalry between a gentleman who lived at 31 Osborne Street and a gentleman who lived at 10 Albert Street - except, that is, for one memorable occasion when toes, metaphorically speaking, were severely trodden on.

One of the parties had unwittingly booked a hall on the same night that the other had arranged a dance and, in the best traditions of human psyche, he was not best pleased.

In fact he marched straight round to the upstart's home intending to have rather sharp words, but unfortunately got rather carried away and smacked him in the eye.

Glasses askew, blood streaming from his nose, the object of his annoyance then retaliated with some vigorous face slapping, at which his assailant selected a choice piece of nearby fencing and whacked him over the head.

Unsubdued, the householder then ran inside, grabbed his wife's broomstick and proceeded to flail his antagonist until the broom handle broke.

In terms of entertainment value, no doubt these antics were well on a par with their more usual pursuits, but now saner forces had to prevail and one of the battling barmpots was hauled off for a spot of attitude correction at the local nick-and a consequent fine - while as passably a badge of courage, the other proudly sported a stitched eyebrow.

Oh yes, that to soothe the savage breast in these troubled times, Bletchley could indeed rest safely assured that for the organisation of dances and music, matters were surely in the most capable of hands!