Dear Chocolate Soldier
The cast of DEAR CHOCOLATE SOLDIER in front of the Armistice Tree at S Hugh's College Oxford on 6th April. From left to right : Michael Murray, our sound engineer, Kenneth Michaels, actor and director, Kate Glover, actor and writer, Simon Brandon, lead actor who plays Edwin Hassall and our pianist Frederick Appleby.
6th April 2019 13.30 - 17.00
St Hugh's College, Oxford OX2 6LE
9th November - school booking agreed (London)
6th - 10th November at 8.00
also at 4.00 on 10th November
at OSO COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE in Barnes
49 Station Road
11 November at 9.30 - ARMISTICE CENTENARY PERFORMANCE
The Hen & Chickens Theatre
109 St. Paul's Road
Islington, London N1 2NA
22nd October - school performance for Westwood School (Leek)
31st May at 7.30
at the FOXLOWE ARTS CENTRE, LEEK
1st June at 7.30
at The CAA Concert Artistes' Association in the West End
20 Bedford St
London WC2E 9HP
London EC3R 5BJ
The founder of Toc H was a man called the Revd. Tubby Clayton who was Vicar of All Hallows for 40 years . He also opened Talbot House to soldiers of all ranks who needed respite from the trenches.
Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1SN
Keith Balderson, who is the father in law of Simon Brandon, our lead actor in DEAR CHOCOLATE SOLDIER, very kindly filmed the entire recent performance of the play at St Hugh's College, Oxford.
He has done a beautiful editing job of excerpts from Act One.
St Hugh's College Oxford - 6 April 2019
The day was a great success. it was a sell out performance. Audience members were invited to contemplate the tree and then go to the Morden Hall for the performance. Afterwards, cast and audience enjoyed a delicious tea in the Common Room.
The plaque on the right was actually put up near the tree on the afternoon of our performance
Westwood School in Leek (school performance October 2018)
The Picture below was taken at our school performance in Leek on 22 October 2018. We performed the docudrama for 200 Year 9s who thoroughly enjoyed watching the play which has a significant amount of audience participation. It was a great experience. In the centre of the photograph (click on the image to see a larger version) are Richard Hassall and his first cousin Hilary - great nephew and great niece of Edwin Hassall. To the left is Richard Benefer, a local historian who has co-authored a book on Edwin Hassall and his times.
Article in Leek Life
To read the whole article click on the image below
(scroll to page 41)
A few weeks prior to the opening of the show DEAR CHOCOLATE SOLDIER
on 31st May 2018 at Leek:
Kate had the enormous privilege of meeting Richard Hassall, great nephew of Edwin Hassall (the Chocolate Soldier). Photograph was taken in the cafe of the Foxlowe Arts Centre where the show is to be performed.
Featured on Western Front Association website (click on image above)
John Steward kindly left us some information about the work of the Western Front Association, and details about a number of lectures organised by the Middlesex Branch including "The Last Battle - Endgame on the Western Front," by Peter Hart, on 11th December. Historia Theatre Company is a member of the Western Front Association which exists to perpetuate the memory, courage and comradeship of all those who fought on all sides and who served their countries during World War One.
(Chris Forster's grandfather)
Kenneth was in the trenches of the Great War in his 20s. On the left is a picture of him.
Visit to Compiègne (France) - image gallery on the right
Some cast and crew members of Dear Chocolate Soldier have visited the Armistice memorial at Compiègne. The railway carriage is a replica of the one used for the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, ending the First World War. The original carriage was used again in June 1940 for the signing of the French surrender to Germany. It was later exhibited in Berlin, and then taken to Crawinkel in Thuringia, Germany in 1945, where it was destroyed by SS troops and the remains buried. The site and memorials were restored by German POW labour, after the war.
(click on gallery images to see larger version with more info)
Dear Chocolate Soldier goes Down Under
Exciting News - read more about Dominic
WW1 postcards and documents
The postcards on the left were discovered by our Social Media Manager Martyn amongst some family documents this summer. They offer an interesting (and humorous) glimpse into the lives of recruits to the army at that time. He believes that they belonged to his Great Uncle, Charles Martin, from Chatham in Kent, who joined up in 1914 and served in the West Kent Regiment. He was subsequently taken prisoner by the Germans, serving out the rest of the war in a prisoner of war camp in Germany.
(click on postcard images to see larger version)
Brocton Camp was an army camp constructed in 1914. You can read more about the camp and its inhabitants.
WW1 postcards & giftbox (provided by Martyn)
Embroidered postcards sent by Corporal Henry James Clark (Great-Uncle) to his sister Laura Mary Bishop (grandmother) and Roy Clark Bishop (father) - Christmas 1916. Henry was killed on 1 Aug 1917, aged 27. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres. The Princess Mary's gift box is believed to have belonged to my grandfather, Robert Bishop, who served in the army from 1898 to 1917 and was badly injured in the retreat from Mons in 1915.
WW1 photo (on right, provided by Martyn)
Great Grandfather William George Clark, pictured with his two sons Henry James Clark (1889-1917) and Ernest Edward Clark (killed on 20th Sept 1918 at Arras). William's son-in-law (Grandfather) Robert Bishop is top-left. — with Henry James Clark (1889-1917), Robert Bishop (1882-1946), William George Clark (1856-1936), Gilbert John Buckett (1880-1963) and Ernest Edward Clark (1891-1918).
WW1 images and memorabilia (provided by John Wirth)
A while back we asked you to let us know of your own personal connections with, and memorabilia relating to, WW1. The performances of DEAR CHOCOLATE SOLDIER have prompted John Wirth to contact Historia Theatre and he has kindly sent us some images and personal memorabilia. (image on left and all images in linked document below were provided by John Wirth)
SONG: IT’S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY
It is June 1916. In Whiterock, a small village in Cornwall, a 6 year old girl, Joan Burbridge, watches as her father wraps up a packet of chocolate for the brave soldiers at the front. A thought strikes her: ‘How will the soldier know the chocolate is from me?’ Her father obligingly writes on the packet: ‘From Little Joan, Whiterock, Wadebridge, Cornwall.’ Six weeks letter, a green field envelope arrives, addressed to Little Joan. It is from Bombardier Edwin Hassall, still in the midst of the fighting at the Battle of the Somme. In the first of ten letters, he describes how he happened to see the chocolate packet in a trench which they had just taken from the Germans. He was touched that the soldiers were being remembered by the children of England and so decided to write. He signs himself E.Hassall, Bombardier, 49 Siege Battery G.A., B.E.F.
A few weeks later, Joan’s father writes back and asks Joan is she has a message for him. Joan doesn’t hesitate. ‘Tell him I’ll marry him when I grow up!’ Hassall is evidently delighted and sends back an ‘engagement ring’, made out of a piece of German time fuse.
SONG: SOLDIER SOLDIER WON'T YOU MARRY ME
He also describes how he walked out of work one fine morning from a small firm in Leek Staffordshire, and enlisted on the spot.
POEM: THE VOLUNTEER by Herbert Asquith
We hear a little about the arduous job that the artillery have at the battle of the Somme. There is a short scene between Emma Hassall, Edwin's sister and the genial Doctor Sowerby. Emma is worried about a letter Edwin wrote to another brother. She thinks he may not be coping. Sowerby reassures her.
SONG: PACK UP YOUR TROUBLES (hummed)
In the next letter, Hassall tells the Burbridges a little more about the battle of the Somme. We hear about it from the German side too
POEM: GANG ZUM SCHÜTZENGRABEN by Ernst Toller
Hassall is now in England, invalided out due to a severe case of dysentery. He hardly had the strength to pull his socks up, let alone handle a gun. Yet he could not believe his luck when he was told he was on the Blighty list.
SONG: TAKE ME BACK TO DEAR OLD BLIGHTY (the melody only is played softly under the words of the actor)
By November 1916, Hassall has news. He has become engaged - really - to a young lady. He assures Joan that he will continue to keep in touch with his ‘Little Mascot’, and sends her a Regimental brooch.
SONG: MY LUVE IS LIKE A RED RED ROSE
We witness a conversation between Hassall and a friend in which Hassall reveals he has been offered a job In Leeds. The first half of the show closes with a rendering of WHEN THIS ROTTEN WAR IS OVER (new lyrics sung to the tune of What a friend we have in Jesus)
It is 1917 and it’s all change with the Russian Revolution, the Americans entering the war and a change in leadership - Lloyd George as the new Prime Minister and Foch as the new French Commander in Chief. Hassall tells Joan that they have been busy ‘chastising the naughty Germans’. In fact, this is the Battle of Arras which started well (along with the Canadian success at Vimy Ridge), but then petered out with horrific casualties. Hassall makes light of the terribly muddy conditions, jokingly telling Joan how he fell face first into the mud, and how the soldiers asked if he was trying to swim the Channel!
POEM: IN MEMORIAM by Edward Thomas (who died at the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917)
SONG: GOODBYE DOLLY GRAY
A new attack is now planned towards the village of Passchendaele. Significantly addressing his letter to Joan’s father, Mr Burbridge, Hassall admits that the conditions are far worse than at the Somme. He says they are experiencing ‘a very, very rough time indeed.’ He clearly thinks of Joan as a Mascot: he has christened the battery’s big gun ‘Joan’s gun’. It needed some repairs for a few days and while his battery was out of action due to this, ‘Fritz’ launched an attack killing several. Although he escaped death, one of his friends was killed.
POEM: THE SOLDIER by Rupert Brooke
Passchendaele drags on throughout the year and the horrors are told by two actors.
POEM: BREAK OF DAY IN THE TRENCHES by Isaac Rosenberg
Somehow Hassall manages to remain stoical and even humorous. He tells Mr Burbridge a couple of anecdotes about Busty the cook who made the tastiest of meat rissoles and was taken off to Blighty because he was wounded. We witness an exchange between Hassall and a soldier who was so anxious to get a ‘nice soft Blighty one’ that he really believed he had been hit by German bullets when it was actually only a bit of soft earth.
SONG: KEEP THE HOME FIRES BURNING
Conditions at home come to the fore in an early morning scene between Emma Hassall and Dr Sowerby as they queue for rations. A letter from Hassall, briefly on leave, has a touching little story about how, to his great distress, he left the two photos of Joan in a trench in the heat of battle; happily he recovered them when they retook that trench from the Germans…
As 1918 dawns, a huge attack is planned by first the Germans under their new commander Ludendorff and then by the allies. Actors describe the ferocity of the German offensive. Morale among the British was at an all time low. But the allies’ riposte, beginning in August and lasting until the end of October finally turned the tide. Hassall and his battery were involved heavily in all this shelling. Ludendorff realises that the only way out was to negotiate for an Armistice. The poet Wilfred Owen was killed near the Oise on 4th November.
POEM: ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH by Wilfred Owen
The armistice is signed. Hassall, in a letter of 3rd December 1918, comments on the uncanny quiet among soldiers after the signing. His anger about the role of the Kaiser is palpable: he suggests that the right thing for the Kaiser and his ‘pinnacle skulled son’ to do would be to commit suicide after all the damage they have been responsible for.
In a scene between Emma and Dr Sowerby, punctuated by quite angry asides from Hassall, we see something of the post Armistice atmosphere. Hassall wants to know what he will get for over four long years of service on the Front (while some people didn’t sign up until 1917). However, Emma and Sowerby believe that with a new job to go to plus his impending marriage, things look bright for Hassall, who ends this letter with a paean of praise – and thanks – to Little Joan for having been a mascot throughout so many conflicts.
The play comes to a shocking end with the news, in a letter from Emma, that Hassall is dead, after an excruciatingly painful eight month illness.
We hear the Last Post, followed by SILENCE, and then a gun salute. All the actors sing ‘O God our Help in Ages Past’