EMOTIONAL: Pam Rowell and Tina Hartley remember their time entertaining soldiers – some badly injured. An exhibition about war entertainers is on at the Bangalow museum until the end of May.
EMOTIONAL: Pam Rowell and Tina Hartley remember their time entertaining soldiers – some badly injured. An exhibition about war entertainers is on at the Bangalow museum until the end of May. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Bangalow exhibition honours performers who sung for soldiers

TINA Hartley and Pamela Rowell were two of the women who brought a touch of home to the thousands of soldiers serving in the Vietnam and Korean wars.

Dozens of black and white photographs are on display at the Bangalow Historical Museum for its new exhibition - a tribute to wartime entertainers.

Tina Hartley, stage name Tina Angelique, put her hand up in October 1969 to go and perform for Australian and Commonwealth soldiers in Vietnam.

"At 22 you don't know where you're going," she said. "It's an adventure, that's all you know.

"You don't understand what war is."

During her 10-day tour, Ms Hartley and her troupe put on three acts daily, transported to each site by helicopter or Caribou plane.

"We were forewarned, 'You're about to land. You've got 30 seconds to run from the back of the Caribou to the armed guards,' because the Viet Cong were watching us," she said.

A stage would be rigged up in a field with anywhere from 200 to 60,000 soldiers in the audience.

When Pamela Rowell, known on stage as Pamela Jopson, left with the Australian entertainment unit for Korea in 1953, fighting had ceased and only the aftermath remained.

Landing in Hong Kong was a great shock for the 22-year-old, who had never been outside of Australia.

Ms Rowell spent three months touring Korea, entertaining troops and visiting hospitals.

"It was just like MASH," she said. "It was very dry, very arid and we travelled everywhere in jeeps.

"Some of them wouldn't have seen a girl in a pretty dress for a whole year. You felt that you had brought a bit of joy and you brought something of home."

For Ms Hartley and Ms Rowell, hospital visits were a large part of their tours.

"Singing to the boys in the hospitals was pretty emotional because they looked younger than you did," Ms Rowell said.

"That was difficult," Ms Hartley said. "We were young and unprepared.

"A lot of the guys have their limbs missing and a lot of them were psychologically blown away.

"I think when we came home we changed a bit."

The exhibition will be on display until the end of May.


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