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Bringing history alive through an authentic 1940s character

Home Front Rose

The Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) was an organisation set up in 1939 by London theatre producers Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during World War II. Despite the rather unkind alternative name adopted by the services, there is no disputing that ENSA contributed hugely to the morale of the forces and, equally as importantly, the factory workers throughout the war.

 

Complete with authentic uniform and badges, Jane brings the bulldog spirit of the home nations through her ENSA character, Rose Halfpenny, aka Home Front Rose. Performing popular songs of the era, and from both sides of the pond, audiences can sing along, dance or just sit back and enjoy this one-woman show, full of humour and personality - and always with her trademark join-in finale, which is unmatched by any other 1940s act.

 

This complete stage show can be performed anywhere from a village hall to a large theatre, or outdoors at any 1940s event. Home Front Rose can also be booked by schools or groups for educational purposes, with her performance tailored to suit any type of audience.  

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Rose Halfpenny - ENSA entertainer

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Introducing...

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Next Home Front Posting: Colywn Bay 1940s Weekend

Location: Colwyn Bay           Date: 27-28th April 2019         Full Briefing: Here

Rose Halfpenny's Story

Born in 1890 in Oldham, Rose Halfpenny went on to further education to the age of sixteen. Her mother wanted her to become a secretary, whereas her father would have been happy for Rose to follow her dream of being on the stage, just as his own father had been - in music hall. From an early age, Rose had shown a great aptitude for singing and as part of her local church choir was often asked to sing solo.

 

Rose’s father was a cap maker, making headwear for the working class. He had his own workshop and shop front, where her mother also worked six days a week. On leaving school, Rose had started work in the family business, not quite giving up on her dream of treading the boards as full-time entertainer but realistic to know that such a profession wasn't, as she was often told (mainly by the distaff side of her family), one for "girls like her".

 

Rose's duties included doing the paperwork, plus a little needlework, which she quickly became very proficient at) and selling (which, by her own admission, she was hopeless at).

 

In 1914, shortly after the war had started, Rose's by now elderly parents shut up shop and moved to North Wales to live with Rose’s grandmother. Rose, though, felt it was better to serve the war effort and so got a job in the factory. She had expected them to make use of her sewing skills - but she instead found herself working in the office.  It was to be her place of work for the next quarter of a century, although Rose never once let go of her dream of seeing her name up in lights.

 

The mill was one which had supplied high end shops like Marks and Spencer, but when World War Two began, it was commissioned to make bandages.  When the other girls started a knitting circle to help with the war effort, Rose felt she could be more useful putting her entertaining skills to use.

 

One morning in late 1939, Rose spotted an advert in The Stage newspaper for a new venture by former actor now turned producer Basil Dean. Along with music hall star Leslie Henson, the pair were creating an organisation called the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), which would serve to entertain servicemen and factory workers, with the aim of boosting morale through entertainment.

 

Now aged 49, Rose Halfpenny decided it was either now or never - and that evening sat down to write a letter, which she addressed to Mr Basil Dean Esq, at the address in the advert. Five days later, Rose nervously opened the letter with the London postmark, and shrieked with delight on seeing the invitation to audition the week after next.

 

Rose Halfpenny never went to work in a factory ever again.