Entertainment on the WW1 Home Front

Concerts for convalescent soldiers

By 1916, thousands of soldiers had begun to return to Britain for hospital treatment. Huge offensives, such as the Battle of the Somme from July to November 1916, caused enormous numbers of casualties on all sides. Over 200,000 British men were killed in the Battle of the Somme alone, including many from West Yorkshire.


In response, local communities worked hard to raise the morale of convalescent soldiers through entertainments and concerts. The public mood had changed from the excited patriotism of 1914-15 and as the casualty lists in the newspapers grew longer, people began to question the war.

‘Entertainment of Convalescent Soldiers’, 22 December 1916

On 22 December 1916, the City of Bradford Technical College decided to put on a special event for recovering soldiers. Instead of a light-hearted entertainment, this time they focused on the work of the college. Exhibitions were held showing off the latest industrial textile, chemical and engineering techniques. Soldiers could see ‘Fluorescent solutions in ultra-violet light’, then witness a ‘hydraulic plant in operation’, before taking tea at the School of Art. 

There were also musical performances and stirring popular songs played by the City Orchestral Band, with titles like ‘Old Comrades’, ‘Sons of the Brave’ and ‘Destiny’. The highlight of the evening was a ‘cinematograph’ screening of films on shell manufacture and aircraft flights, followed by ‘Mr Feather’, a ventriloquist giving his ‘740th entertainment to soldiers since the commencement of the war’. 

The evening ended with a ‘Demonstration of the properties of liquid air’ and the ‘effect of cold on common objects’.

Glossary:

Cinematograph – Early form of film screening with a camera and projector in one
Convalescent – Someone who is getting better after illness or injury
Morale – How confident or optimistic a group of people feel
Ventriloquist – Someone who can make a puppet seem to speak

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