ENSA was established in 1939. ENSA (Entertainments National Service Association) was set up by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for the British military during World War Two. Many famous stars performed for ENSA including Arthur Askey, Gracie Fields, Vera Lynn, George Formby, Tommy Cooper and Joyce Grenfell. In 1945 Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson were made honorary lieutenants in the British Army and joined ENSA and embarked on a six-week tour of Europe performing from plays by William Shakespeare.
Though ENSA had famous men and women performing for it, the geographical extent of what ENSA tried to achieve meant that its skills were frequently spread very thin. ENSA was somewhat cruelly referred to as ‘Every Night Something Awful’.
ENSA paid those who performed for it £10 a week while those who worked in the chorus were paid £4 a week. By the standards of the time these were generous amounts of money.
The first ENSA concert was on September 10th 1939 in Surrey while the last ENSA performance was in India on August 18th 1946.