Royal Navy Concert Party Programme

A large part of military life is boredom, there are long periods when men are not fighting and are behind the lines. Whilst much of this is taken up in training and daily life, there can still be long periods of downtime. These inevitably lead to a drop in morale and efficiency and it was recognised that organised entertainment helped alleviate this. Tonight we have a programme for a concert party put on for soldiers and sailors on board the TSMV (HMS) Menestheus:SKMBT_C36415042010300_0001 - CopyMenestheus was a liner requisitioned form the Blue Funnel Line. She had been built in 1929 and displaced 7494 tons:largeShe was initially converted into an auxiliary minelayer before being converted into an amenities ship in 1943. Amongst the changes was a second dummy funnel, apparently used as a recreation room! She was then attached to the British Pacific Fleet and her facilities included a concert hall, cafeteria, library, reading and writing rooms, tailors and shops. In 1944 she was sent to Canada for further conversion and emerged in 1946 with a cinema and a brewery for producing beer. ‘Davey Jones Brewery’ had an output of 1,800 gallons of ‘English’ beer a day:

Distilled sea water was to be used for brewing purposes, and malt extract and hop concentrate would be shipped from the U.K. to bases in the Far East where the vessels would call. A 55-barrel capacity brewing copper was to be installed in the forward hold of the ships and heated by steam coils from the ships’ boilers. Six glass-lined fermenting vessels were also installed, and the capacity was an estimated 250 barrels per week. Only one beer was to be produced, a chilled and carbonate 1037 Mild Ale. Besides being sold in the ships’ bars, this was also be made available in 5 gallon stainless steel kegs

Over half a million pints of beer were sold to British sailors during her war service. The beer would no doubt have been very welcome to those visiting the ship for rest and recuperation, as would the concert parties arranged onboard. The programme shows the usual mix of songs, comedy, sketches and acts that are typical to the British concert party:SKMBT_C36415042010301_0001SKMBT_C36415042010300_0001In the field these sort of parties were often put on by the men themselves, on board Menestheus it was probably an ENSA revue company providing the entertainment. Her captain was Lt Commander George Brown, who had been a professional master brewer from Stoke on Trent before the war. The Menestheus was soon returned to the Blue Funnel line, but provided a break from the war for many thousands of men during her brief service in the Far East.

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