Title: Entertainment for the Troops Collection.
Date range of collection: 1912-1991.
Collection number: Souvenirs 4.
Scope and content note: The collection contains a diverse range of items such as invitations to afternoon teas, dances, dinners, parties and receptions, maps and guides to cities, accommodation and transport, and details of tours and excursions. There is material produced specifically for the troops as well as items of a more general nature, and the collection spans the period from the First World War through to Vietnam.
Provenance: The collection has been acquired over many years, from many different sources and donors.
Extent - Space occupied: 2 boxes (0.4 metres)
Extent - Number of items: 250 items.
Location: Published and Digitised Collections, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Related collections: Concert and Theatre Programs, First World War, 1914-1918; Concert and Theatre Programs, Second World War, 1939-1945.
Processing history: Finding Aid updated and collection re-numbered and re-housed in 2004.
Publication rights: Contact Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.
Copyright: Contact Curator, Published & Digitised Collections.
Preferred citation: Entertainment for the troops, Australian War Memorial, Souvenirs 4.
- Variety shows
Entertaining the Troops
A key element in the success or failure of any military endeavour is the morale of the troops. During the First World War it was realised that an important factor in morale was having a wide range of recreations available for the soldier on rest (approximately three-fifths of a soldier's overseas service was spent in the rear of the lines). Faced with the grim reality of conflict, troops sought entertainment as a form of escape, in order to mentally survive and continue functioning effectively. The Second World War saw an even greater emphasis placed on recreation and entertainment as a result of this Great War experience.
Many of the entertainments available to service personnel were intended to remind the troops of home and its normal civilian pursuits, such as dances, parties, dinners, clubs and visits to other establishments providing familiar food and drinks. In this way troops made a connection with the home front and were reminded of what they were fighting for. Sightseeing was also a popular form of entertainment and provided service personnel with the opportunity to visit places that they may otherwise have never been to. These activities included tours of the Holy Land, sightseeing in cities such as London, Paris, Rome and Cairo, and admission to the cricket at Lords or to the State Apartments at Windsor Castle.
Like humans everywhere, troops did what they could to make their lives and environment endurable. As J.G. Fuller says, they had "learned from long experience that it was better to concentrate on pleasures than hardships, that the best way to render tolerable the worst conditions was to make a joke of them, that moments of escape ...should be exploited to the full."
Fuller, J. G. , Troop Morale and Popular Culture in the British and Dominion Armies 1914-1918 (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990).
Rickards, Maurice , The Encyclopedia of Ephemera (New York, Routledge, 2000).