Edward Balne (b. 1895) Habits, Culture & Belief – Writing Lives

Edward Balne (b. 1895) Habits, Culture & Belief

‘Drinking in pubs, playing in brass bands, singing in choral societies, betting ‘on the dogs’, pigeon fancying, all were instances of popular cultural practices that could be understood as being inscribed with class meanings’

Quote from Andy Croll, ‘Popular Leisure and Sport’, reference below.

Edward Balne does not make specific reference to these particular activities in his memoir – the only band he mentions with regularity is the army band he played in as a trumpeter. But he does make reference to the theatre and music halls while comparing them to his ‘evening radio programmes’ [p168] – making the point that radio is much superior to going out into the busy world. ‘No boring dressing up, no travelling to the place of entertainment, no feeding ones [his spelling] face with restaurant food on a busy night’ etc.

But during his time with the army, at about the age of 18 Balne took part in a couple of plays while in Karachi;

The Regiment put on two shows during our year’s service at this Station. Two of the officers – captain Bromley and Lieutenant Talbot – were the producers and organisers. The Bandsmen were the principal performers. But there were also a few talented performers among the soldiers.

The shows were: ‘Sinbad the Sailor’ and ‘Alladin.’

In ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, I was a Chorus ‘girl’ and a member of a team of ‘ten little nigger boys’. In Alladin I was a Chinese member of the Chorus. Each show lasted one week and to packed houses. They were a complete success – financially and otherwise. A Captain Willis, later at Gallipoli to be awarded a V.C. for gallentry, was also one of the organisers. ‘Alladin’ finished its week’s run not long before the first world war began.

The Gallipoli Campaign was a World War One campaign that took place between April 25th 1915 – 9th January 1916.

Captain Richard Raymond Willis, later Major, recipient of the Victoria Cross for gallentry. Organiser of ‘Alladin’ and ‘SInbad the Sailor’. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to Wikipedia, as part of an amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula for ease of access to Russia, then part of the Allies, Captain Richard Willis and others sustained heavy fire from hidden machine guns when landing on W Beach at Cape Helles. Despite this he managed to cut through wires surrounding the beach and was able to get the survivors through. After battling through terrific opposition their position was maintained.

I completely understand this has little to do with the habits and culture of the working class, but Captain Willis’ story is an incredible. And it can be argued that at the time the army was Edward Balne’s culture. It provided entertainment, social life and a sense of purpose, and this was in part due to men like Captain Richard Raymond Willis.

More information can be found here:

More information about Captain Willis can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Raymond_Willis

 – This is a link to Stanley Holloway’s rendition of the humourous poem ‘The Lion and Albert,’ written by Marriott Edgar and first recorded in 1930

Bailey, Peter. Leisure and Class in Victorian England: Rational Recreation and the Content for Control, 1830-1885 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1980)

Andy Croll, ‘Popular Leisure and Sport’ in Chris Williams (ed) A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), (p. 402)

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