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WAR CIRCUS: HENRY A.A. WHITELEY

Henry Allen Alexander Whiteley

Henry A.A. was a member of the Whiteley family of acrobats, and head of his won troupe.

The Narrative here is extracted from his memoire: Memories of circus & variety etc. as I knew it. The Society for Theatre Research. 1944 Ref: (W HAA)

 

c. AUG 1914

HENRY A.A. WHITELEY.

While my wife Leonora remained in London awaiting a serious operation. I got news of the war. I was playing at the Ashington Pavillion, in Northumberland. The Henry Whiteley Four includes myself, my sister Madalina, as stand in for Leonora, and my sons Harry & Ben. Also on the bill were The Hindustan troupe, and Stanley Waltons 6 lovely girls club jugglers. Etc. We continued to tour: Minners Hall Cine Variety, Buffalo Palace Cine Variety, Empire Cine Variety, another place in Durham West Stanley. The railways have a different feeling already. It used to be that at Newcastle Railway Station on a Sunday practically all the barrows contained professional luggage all been weighed and excess paid. No dodging. Also Sunderland, West Hartelpool, Middlesbrough, Darlington, very hot on excess. Then we played Theatre Royal, Victoria Theatre, Albert Hall. Etc. I managed to be in London during my wife’s operation. After coming out she was able to pay us a visit at Amity Hall Poole and Jubilee Hall Weymouth. She was able to join me and then take her place in the act at the end of August.

 

c. AUG 1915

 ZEPPELIN HAILS ANOTHER WHITELEY.

For family reasons my wife, Leonora, had to leave us and so we once again became the Henry Whiteley Trio: myself and sons, Harry and Ben. Then on August 13thLeonora gave birth to another son Raymond. The baby was brought in to this world at 8 Wynne Road, while a German Zeppelin raided the next street down, Brixton High Street. It is a dangerous world. She will join us again as soon as she can – and we will be once more the Whiteley Four.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: W HAA

 

c. NOV 1917

   Since our son Harry left us in Grimsby to join the Army, Leonora and I have continued to perform as the Henry Whiteley Four since with 2 of my younger sons, Ben age 16 and Harold 14. They are very quick learners and in a very short time Ben caught up joining the act and was tumbling, doing head to head and acrobatics well. According to our view girls in tumbling is more effective. With our daughters are not yet old enough to perform, and I am not prepared to get licenses for them to do so, we presented Ben and Harold as girls, with their natural long hair curled each night. We were on the road doing well, when they both rebelled.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: W HAA

c. MAY 1918

Since the age for Military Service has been raised, and I am 46, I have registered and have passed the Medical B11. So I had to find some work of National Importance, or I would be called up. I applied for some a the labour exchange Camberwell Green, and then found myself doing foundry work, carrying pails of molten lead, for which I feel very unsuited. I have had to arrange for Leonora, Ben and Harold to perform without me as the Henry Whitley Trio.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: W HAA

 

c. AUG 1918

I have applied for deferment and Mr. Bevan, my solicitor, a man well known in the profession, put my appeal in. Before my hearing I had to step in to replace my son Ben, who had broken a finger while so I had to step in for the Mile End Empire booking for the Henry Whiteley Trio with Leonora and Harold. My appeal was heard in early August and I got 3 months exemption, until the 10th November. And by notifying two weeks before then I can ask for a further deferment. So we will be the Henry Whitley Four once more.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: W HAA

10 NOV 1918

Ten days ago I applied for a further deferment from military service, to take affect from the today and my solicitor Mr. Bevan has received his fee, as it turns out I have paid him for for nothing, as tomorrow will be the beginning of the Armistice.

Narrative extracted from Bibliog. Ref: W HAA

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