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The Entertainments National Service Association , or ENSA was an organisation set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during World War II. ENSA operated as part of the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes. It was superseded by Combined Services Entertainment (CSE) which now operates as part of the Services Sound and Vision Corporation (SSVC).


Many well-known stars have performed in ENSA, including Gracie Fields, George Formby, Wilfred Brambell, Joyce Grenfell and Rebecca Cantwell.

During 1945 actors Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson were created honorary army Lieutenants in ENSA. They performed Shakespeare's plays for the troops in a six week tour of Europe.

In Popular Culture

Despite many extremely talented entertainers and movie stars, past and future, working for ENSA, the organisation was necessarily spread thin over the vast area it had to cover. Thus many entertainments were substandard, and the popular translation of the acronym ENSA was "Every Night Something Awful"

Chaos Supersedes ENSA, a mini-series (1980), was written and directed by Patrick Garland for Thames Television.

The television sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum concerned the misadventures of a group of soldiers providing entertainment for an army barracks in Indiamarker. These were known as the Concert Party and were not ENSA members per se.

ENSA also featured in another television sitcom, Goodnight Sweetheart, in the episode How I Won The War.

The only known ENSA theatre to have survived in its original condition is the Garrison Theatre at Hurst Castle in the New Forest National Park. Created by servicemen in 1939, the proscenium arch still bears the badge and grenades of the Royal Artillery, and the curtains still hang from an old galvanised gas pipe. Shows are presented from time to time by the Friends of Hurst Castle.

In the "Are You Being Served?" episode entitled "Camping In", Mr. Grainger told a story of being a member of ENSA.

In the popular BBC sitcom Dads Army episode Museum Piece ENSA are revealed to be using the rifles Captain Mainwaring so desperately seeks.

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