Photos that make you think.

Concerts put on under the most arduous conditions and especially the contribution of the female impersonators
1614784477934.png

The music stands and chairs at front were for the camp orchestra, led by the Band Master of the 2nd Cambridgeshires.

View attachment 554123

I read James Clavell's novel King Rat decades ago, Clavell had been a prisoner in Changi and thus many incidents described in the book were based on his own experiences.

The one incident that has stuck in my mind in the book (it wasn't in the film) , perhaps because it seems to reflect perfidious human nature, was the story of a female impersonator who was a celebrity in the camp but upon liberation of the camp, became a pariah, vilified and jeered at as a 'queer' and a 'nancy boy' by the very same prisoners who had lauded him and indeed, salivated over him during incarceration.


But in real life, there were a number of female impersonators appearing in concerts and plays in Changi and up on the Kwai. The concerts were well produced, no surprise really as there was a wealth of talent available, both on and off stage, actors writers, stage hands.

I use the term 'female impersonators' really as a catch-all expression because all the other names like 'drag artist', 'cross-dresser', transvestite, don't apply to every case and thus would be manifestly unfair.

There is little doubt that those who dressed up as women played a valuable, if not vital part in raising the morale of the captives in their grim circumstances. Their parts would range from panto dame types to playing female leads in plays. There were also drag acts in their own right.


Some like Arthur Butler and Bobby Spong had previous stage experience being established drag artists in Singapore before incarceration, others appeared only very reluctantly, having been ordered to against their inclinations, by senior officers. Sometimes this coercion would take the form of blackmail, "If you don't dress up as a woman, the show won't go on and you will disappoint all these POWs"

Others were simply happy to be involved, Lt Douglas Morris (R Berkshire Regt) is described as;
""One of Chungkai’s best impersonators—and, perhaps, its finest “actress.” His
performance in the title role in Leo Britt’s production of G. B. Shaw’s Major Barbara was widely praised. His attractiveness as a female impersonator is readily apparent from the Wonder Bar photographs.""
Perhaps understandably, Morris skips over this in his memoirs, simply stating that while at Chungking he took part in concert parties.

L/Bdr Arthur Butler , 122 (West Riding ) Regt RA was professionally known as Gloria d'Earie, plying his act in hotels on the island. Even before capitulation he was openly 'camp', his Gunners often responding to his orders with "Yes, Deary"
I do wonder if the effeminate Gunner 'Gloria' (Mervyn Hayes) of 'It Ain't Half Hot, Mum' was consciously or unconsciously named after Gloria d'Earie.

Pte Bobby Spong, 4 Ordnance Stores Coy. Royal Army Ordnance Corps was a also an entertainer in pre-war Singapore, He too, became a big star both off stage and in the concerts at Tamakan and Chugkai camps.
As a morale booster, he also visited patients in the hospital huts, places you'd think most healthy people would avoid if cholera was rampant.
Sadly Bobbie Spong didn't survive the war, his mucker was put on a draft to Japan and rather than be separated, he volunteered to accompany him and his ship was sunk of the Philippines coast with the loss of most of the prisoners on board.
Someone wrote of him;
""Though Spong had been forced to have his abundant brunette hair shaved off before departure, with “twenty frocks in his rucksacks,” he was obviously determined to take up his responsibilities as a female impersonator once again at his new destination. W. G. Riley believed Spong “deserved a decoration for his services as an entertainer and morale booster to so many of his fellow P.O.W.s. Alas, it is to my belief,” he wrote, “that he was denied this honour by losing his life in tragic circumstances.” ""
He is commemorated on the memorial to those with no known graves at Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

These guys did an enormous amount to lift the morale of FEPOWs and it's a pity that their contribution is not more widely known.

Sources and further reading in the links below;


Somebody Had to Put a Skirt on

And here's the complete version,- warning - at 600+ pages it's an exhaustive study but I suggest a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning more of this lesser known part of FEPOW life;

A Captive Audience
 
Concerts put on under the most arduous conditions and especially the contribution of the female impersonators
View attachment 554144
The music stands and chairs at front were for the camp orchestra, led by the Band Master of the 2nd Cambridgeshires.

View attachment 554123

I read James Clavell's novel King Rat decades ago, Clavell had been a prisoner in Changi and thus many incidents described in the book were based on his own experiences.

The one incident that has stuck in my mind in the book (it wasn't in the film) , perhaps because it seems to reflect perfidious human nature, was the story of a female impersonator who was a celebrity in the camp but upon liberation of the camp, became a pariah, vilified and jeered at as a 'queer' and a 'nancy boy' by the very same prisoners who had lauded him and indeed, salivated over him during incarceration.


But in real life, there were a number of female impersonators appearing in concerts and plays in Changi and up on the Kwai. The concerts were well produced, no surprise really as there was a wealth of talent available, both on and off stage, actors writers, stage hands.

I use the term 'female impersonators' really as a catch-all expression because all the other names like 'drag artist', 'cross-dresser', transvestite, don't apply to every case and thus would be manifestly unfair.

There is little doubt that those who dressed up as women played a valuable, if not vital part in raising the morale of the captives in their grim circumstances. Their parts would range from panto dame types to playing female leads in plays. There were also drag acts in their own right.

Some like Arthur Butler and Bobby Spong had previous stage experience being established drag artists in Singapore before incarceration, others appeared only very reluctantly, having been ordered to against their inclinations, by senior officers. Sometimes this coercion would take the form of blackmail, "If you don't dress up as a woman, the show won't go on and you will disappoint all these POWs"

Others were simply happy to be involved, Lt Douglas Morris (R Berkshire Regt) is described as;
""One of Chungkai’s best impersonators—and, perhaps, its finest “actress.” His
performance in the title role in Leo Britt’s production of G. B. Shaw’s Major Barbara was widely praised. His attractiveness as a female impersonator is readily apparent from the Wonder Bar photographs.""
Perhaps understandably, Morris skips over this in his memoirs, simply stating that while at Chungking he took part in concert parties.

L/Bdr Arthur Butler , 122 (West Riding ) Regt RA was professionally known as Gloria d'Earie, plying his act in hotels on the island. Even before capitulation he was openly 'camp', his Gunners often responding to his orders with "Yes, Deary"
I do wonder if the effeminate Gunner 'Gloria' (Mervyn Hayes) of 'It Ain't Half Hot, Mum' was consciously or unconsciously named after Gloria d'Earie.

Pte Bobby Spong, 4 Ordnance Stores Coy. Royal Army Ordnance Corps was a also an entertainer in pre-war Singapore, He too, became a big star both off stage and in the concerts at Tamakan and Chugkai camps.
As a morale booster, he also visited patients in the hospital huts, places you'd think most healthy people would avoid if cholera was rampant.
Sadly Bobbie Spong didn't survive the war, his mucker was put on a draft to Japan and rather than be separated, he volunteered to accompany him and his ship was sunk of the Philippines coast with the loss of most of the prisoners on board.
Someone wrote of him;
""Though Spong had been forced to have his abundant brunette hair shaved off before departure, with “twenty frocks in his rucksacks,” he was obviously determined to take up his responsibilities as a female impersonator once again at his new destination. W. G. Riley believed Spong “deserved a decoration for his services as an entertainer and morale booster to so many of his fellow P.O.W.s. Alas, it is to my belief,” he wrote, “that he was denied this honour by losing his life in tragic circumstances.” ""
He is commemorated on the memorial to those with no known graves at Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.

These guys did an enormous amount to lift the morale of FEPOWs and it's a pity that their contribution is not more widely known.

Sources and further reading in the links below;


Somebody Had to Put a Skirt on

And here's the complete version,- warning - at 600+ pages it's an exhaustive study but I suggest a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning more of this lesser known part of FEPOW life;

A Captive Audience
 

Joshua Slocum

LE
Book Reviewer
Gordon Parks 1912 -2006
Probably a name that you are not familiar with, unless you watched the Blaxploitation film Shaft , which he directed , and with his keen eye for detail and movement
and yet his career as a photographer really defined him
from poverty and insecurity to a true artist recording and defining life in America for Black people during that period of change,
each image has that special something, it asks more questions than it answers, for me the image of a young mother, elegantly dressed alongside her daughter, standing outside a large store, she captures and holds your focus for her stance and style, only then to allow your eye to relax, and to look up and see a reminder of the Jim Crow era

1615319091096.png


 
Surely that can't be the open non racist society that Harry & Meghan have moved too
The thought that should occupy your mind, is that it could really be an improvement on the UK in that respect.

Start with evidence from premiere league oickball, and work yet way up from there.
 
The thought that should occupy your mind, is that it could really be an improvement on the UK in that respect.

Start with evidence from premiere league oickball, and work yet way up from there.
The thoughts that occupy my mind is that all this wokeness and reference to racism in every walk of life is getting beyond me . Being a Scot I have been called many derogatory names in my life and I rose above the name calling and snide remarks about having hot running water in my house etc.
This is putting race relations in my opinion way back .
 
Being a Scot I have been called many derogatory names in my life and I rose above the name calling and snide remarks about having hot running water in my house etc.
Also being a Scot, I've experienced similar but am well aware that it pales into insignificance beside the treatment meted out to ethnic minorities over my lifetime.

Racism isn't just name-calling.
 
In accordance with the aim of this thread. This photo was taken some years back on Memorial Day in the USA. Made front page of a very respected newspaper.

What does it make you think? Grieving US Marine Vietnam vet perhaps? A simple yet personal and powerful image?

memorial-day-u-s-marine-veteran-new-york-usa-shutterstock-editorial-6519676a.jpg


Later transpires that this 'individual' had:

1. Never been to Vietnam.
2. Never been a US Marine.
3. Never served in the US military in any form at all.

Roni DeJoseph of Brooklyn.
 
In accordance with the aim of this thread. This photo was taken some years back on Memorial Day in the USA. Made front page of a very respected newspaper.

What does it make you think? Grieving US Marine Vietnam vet perhaps? A simple yet personal and powerful image?

View attachment 556027

Later transpires that this 'individual' had:

1. Never been to Vietnam.
2. Never been a US Marine.
3. Never served in the US military in any form at all.

Roni DeJoseph of Brooklyn.

Proper remembering...
 
In accordance with the aim of this thread. This photo was taken some years back on Memorial Day in the USA. Made front page of a very respected newspaper.

What does it make you think? Grieving US Marine Vietnam vet perhaps? A simple yet personal and powerful image?

View attachment 556027

Later transpires that this 'individual' had:

1. Never been to Vietnam.
2. Never been a US Marine.
3. Never served in the US military in any form at all.

Roni DeJoseph of Brooklyn.
It could well have been his brother or a close family member.
 
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