In the central area of 5RAR’s lines amongst ‘the rubber’, was a special place set aside to screen movies in the open air. The projector was donated from Australia. Seating was set up mainly on rough benches (‘chairs-millionaires’ were brought along by those ‘wallahs’ who had them). Behind the seating area was a small corrugated iron shed for the projector and its operator and another shed of similar size (named ‘Café de Wheels’) housed a stove/barbecue. It was operated by a volunteer to cook and sell eggs ‘n’ bacon toasted sandwiches ('sangers'). The movie screen and sheds were built by troops from Pioneer Platoon. A new movie was flown from Australia perhaps twice a week. The audience consisted of all ranks who were not on patrol or night duties. NB. Magnify the photo below to see the ‘Mayfair Theatre’ sign above the projection box. [NB. 1st stanza ‘mic’ is read as ‘mike’].
♪♪ Well … It’s Saturday night and it’s 8 o’ clock, I know where I’m gonna go-o …
I’m gonna head on up to where, they put on the picture show …
There’s technicolour and cinemascope, all the best out of ... Holl-y-wood …
And there’s ‘sangers' from ‘Café de Wheels’ ... Which makes it all seem twice as good! ♪♪
- (modified) from the song Saturday Night at the Movies, by The Drifters, 1963.
Projection Box (check the name) and seating - 5RAR HQ - 1967 (Author's collection) Snack Bar
Concerts were staged throughout the year,
With bands, a comic and a dancer or two;
Lucky Starr, Col Joye, Little Pattie on ‘mic’,
Each singing those songs that we knew.
For around our lines there was little else,
Entertainment had limits in war;
Only books, ‘The Boozer’ or card games,
A radio’s music but nothing much more.
Yet, near 5RAR’s centre, a clearing,
After ‘Stand-Down’ announced at last light,
A crowd of young Diggers sat staring,
Excited but reasonably quiet.
An audience mainly from rifle platoons,
Also ‘wallahs’ from BHQ;
Each sitting on rough wooden benches,
Or ‘chairs-millionaires’ for a lucky few.
Up on screen came to life all our heroes,
Glenn Ford, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne;
Randolph Scott beat the draws of all ‘Baddies’,
On jungle vines swung Tarzan and Jane.
Now and again rolled maybe an extra,
A reel of cartoons proved popular too;
When we’d have a good laugh with ol’ Donald,
Maybe Mickey or Mr. Magoo.
Surrounded by ‘walls’ of that ‘rubber’,
With a ceiling clear sky through the trees;
Whilst the floor ’twas a red dirty carpet,
Of mud or dust, with a sprinkling of leaves.
‘Café de Wheels’ served well as our ‘tuck-shop’,
A mere iron shed with a Bar-B-Q;
A juicy ‘snag’ on some bread with mustard,
‘Twas washed down with a ‘goffer’ or brew.
Egg ‘n’ bacon ‘sangers’, just one dollar,
And with a beer snuck in, maybe two,
We’d light up a Marlboro or Salem,
Relaxing with odd mates whom we knew.
A Bell & Howell hummed in the background,
Set-up ’twas crude, but enjoyed just the same;
For this was our open-air theatre,
And ‘The Mayfair’ on a sign, was its name.