Entertainment was a very important part of camp life and many ways were found to boost morale. There was a gym on site which was big enough to be used as a dance hall twice a week (very popular by all accounts with Bedford folk) and a cinema showing nightly programmes. Sport was also encouraged and regular boxing matches were arranged between the RAF and other Armed Forces. There is a reference in Mr Thurston's notes of a talented entertainment troupe formed called 'The Balloonatics' which put on regular shows for the camp - we have proof of this from the newspaper article and photograph shown below from the Bedford Record in August 1941.
The newspaper article (right) describes the weekly talent contests held on the camp during the war years.
Left shows young Walter William Bygraves who volunteered to join the RAF arriving at Cardington in 1940.
Whilst on the station it is said Aircraftman 2nd Class Bygraves performed an impersonation of Max Miller on stage leading to the nickname Max which he used ever since.
Perhaps he won one of the weekly talent shows? We will never know.
A young Max Bygraves in RAF uniform.
Photograph shown is part of Bedford & Luton Archive Services Box 1872 - photography courtesy of John Day (Ampthill Images)
Revues were a regular feature of wartime forces entertainment. This photograph shows one such revue held at RAF Cardington in June 1944. I have a sneaking suspicion that the dresses will have been made with parachute silk!
Is your granny in this photograph? If you recognise anyone here please get in touch it would be lovely to hear their story. These ladies may have been local workers on the station or WAAFS sent to the camp for barrage balloon training.
A newspaper advert announcing an RAF Concert party.
The RAF Cardington troupe "The Balloonatics" performing to raise money for the Lord Mayors Air Raid Distress Fund.
IF YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO WORKED ON THE CAMP DURING THESE TIMES PLEASE GET IN TOUCH AND SHARE YOUR MEMORIES WITH US. THANK YOU