When music hall stars joined the war effort

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2 January 2017 3:27PM

MUSIC Hall entertainers were faced with a choice during the First World War, to continue with their careers to support morale on the “home front” or to directly join the war effort.

Famous entertainer Vesta Tilley, appeared at the Palace Theatre, in Duke Street, Barrow, and at the Tivoli Theatre, in Forshaw Street

She presented a gramophone and records for the use of wounded soldiers at the town’s Cambridge Street military hospital - which was in a converted school.

The male impersonator had first appeared in Barrow during 1913 and was a nationally famous male impersonator.

A description in the Barrovian newspaper that year said: “She was in splendid form and gave four of her old favourites in a manner that delighted everyone.”

During the war years she would wear a British military uniform as part of the stage show and sing patriotic songs which would tend to lift the spirits and encourage military recruitment.

A different approach was taken by actress Zena Dare who gave up her stage career at the age of 29 to for nurse injured soldiers with the French Red Cross.

Dare, who starred in the first London production of My Fair Lady, followed her soldier husband Maurice Brett to France and worked as a volunteer for the American Hospital in Paris.

The mother-of-three was given the Cross of the French Society for the Aid of Wounded Military, as well as the British War and Victory medals. She also received the 1911 Coronation and 1938 Jubilee medals.

Her medals were sold by London auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb in December for £1,300.

She began her stage career in 1899, aged just 12 and died in London in 1975, aged 88.

In 1926, after 15 years away from the stage, she returned to the theatre and played a number of leading roles, staring alongside Noël Coward, Ivor Novello, and John Gielgud.

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