Anzac Coves

"In the evening I attended a Pierrot show which was most enjoyable, all the artists were professional, it was a treat to hear some music."
Stretcher-bearer Langford Colley-Priest 

“The Anzac Coves
Dispensers of joy and jollity
Fun and frivolity”

They were a respite from mud, fear and death. The Anzac Coves entertainment troupe performed with a lively sense of humour which satirised military life and the soldiers loved it. They set up their theatres in barns and sheds, just back from the trenches and their shows were always packed. They were so popular they toured Britain during 1918 and even performed at Buckingham Palace in front of the King, Queen and Princess Mary. 

‘Straight from the firing line’

All of the Coves had seen active service as soldiers. Some had been at Gallipoli, others at the Western Front. There were singers, comedians, female impersonators, a monologist who was James Brunton Gibb (who recited poems and monologues, singers, dancers and musicians. There was also burlesque.

Pierrots

They were a Pierrot troupe, a part of the musical hall tradition. Pierrots were originally a French entertainment that had spread across the channel to Britain. Pierrots would sing, dance, juggle and make jokes at seaside venues in Britain up until the 1950s. 

The Coves had 23 performers and an orchestra and performed for over 250,000 soldiers, writing much of their own material including their 1917 Christmas pantomime, Dick Whittington and his cat. They rehearsed their pantomime in the Ypres area with shells and bombs falling nearby.

The painted scenery and props were all built by the Coves themselves. The theatres they played in were usually large barns or sheds converted into a theatre with a stage, a cinema and electric lights, all carried and installed by the Coves.

Featured
Military parade, Macquarie Street, Sydney
A birthday treat(y) signals a short-lived period of world peace

Being an ardent pacifist I was delighted to discover that the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28 June – my birthday!  An examination of the souvenir programme, Victory Celebrations (Signing of Peace), revealed a route  that was to pass in front of the original Mitchell Library.  Further searching of the Library’s collections revealed this magnificent photo of the event.

world.war.I@sl.nsw.gov.au
Ph: +61 2 9273 1414
Fax: +61 2 9273 1255

State Library of NSW
Macquarie Street,
Sydney NSW 2000,
Australia

Media Enquiries
media.library@sl.nsw.gov.au