Saturday 6 February 2016

'The Gaities' Leslie Henson's Concert Party WW1

Leslie Henson (1891 – 1957) – British actor, comedian and film producer and director

Leslie Henson was born in Notting Hill, London in 1891.   Henson joined the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.  However, he was soon ordered to form a concert party – ‘The Gaities’ – to entertain the troops on the Western Front.   After the war, Henson published his account of his time on the Western Front in a book entitled   ‘My Concert Party at the Front – How the ‘Gaities’ cheered the troops’.

One person who attended, and was impressed by, one of those concert parties was a young Charles Laughton who joined the Army in WW1 and served on the Western Front in the 2/1st Battalion the Huntingdonshire Cyclists and later the 7th Battalion the Northamptonshire Regiment.

During WW2, following a successful tour of South Africa, Henson returned to Britain to form the Entertainments National Service Association, known as ENSA, with Basil Dean.  ENSA was sponsored by the British Government to entertain Allied troops the world over.