Tommy Handley was a veteran comedian but he made his name for his radio show ITMA (It’s That Man Again) which played a major part in maintaining morale. Much of the humour relied on topical events and may now, as a result, seem unfunny but the show had millions in stitches with catchphrases like TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now) and characters like charlady Mrs. Mopp (Can I Do You Now, Sir?) and Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap (I Don’t Mind If I Do) who was always angling for a free drink.
George Formby OBE was the most popular and highest paid entertainer in the British Isles and was thought to be earning more than £100,000 a year when the Second World War broke out. He made eleven films between 1939 and 1945 and performed before over three million troops. He was one of the first entertainers to perform in Normandy after the invasion, having been personally invited there by General Montgomery. His catchphrase was Turned Out Nice Again!
A veteran of the Great War and 1930s television, Arthur Askey CBE shot to national fame from 1938 when he starred in the first regular radio series, Band Waggon, aided by Richard “Stinker” Murdoch. During the Second World War, “Big-Hearted” Arthur starred in eight comedy films. His humour relied on the playfulness of the characters he portrayed and his witty improvisation. He was master of the catchphrase, including I thank you, Before your very eyes and Hello playmates!
Gracie Fields DBE was an actress, singer, comedienne and star of the music hall and cinema. She rose to fame in a series of 1930s films and, despite a period of illness, made five more between 1939 and 1945. She travelled to France to entertain the allied troops in the midst of air-raids, performing in war-torn areas and on the backs of open lorries. She travelled to the South Pacific and New Guinea and was the first artist to perform behind enemy lines in Berlin.
Vera Lynn DBE was the most popular singer of the Second World War. She had a warm, welcoming personality that reminded those serving abroad of the families they had left behind and was known as the Forces’ Sweetheart. In 1941, she had her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, which sent messages to those on active service. She made three films but was best known for singing songs including We’ll Meet Again and The White Cliffs of Dover.
Tommy Trinder CBE began his career in 1921 and, by the start of the Second World War, had become one of Britain’s favourite entertainers. His shows brought welcome relief in the darkest days of the war but he also made seven films, both comedy and serious, as well as several shorts for the Ministry of Information. He had his own catchphrase You Lucky People and was a particular favourite with the Royal family. He was given his own TV series, Trinder Box, in 1959.