Connie Hobbs was a young Australian actress working in London when World War II broke out. As a member of J C Williamson's theatre productions, she had gone to England to further her stage career.
"Unfortunately I didn't get out in time when war was declared," Connie said. So she continued to work in England and in 1942 she married an English actor, Jack Murray. Together they joined the Entertainment National Service Association (ENSA), spending the next three years touring through many war zones, entertaining the troops.
"We went off in a convoy of 22 ships to entertain the troops which included lots of Australians," Connie recalls. "We travelled 47,841 miles through many countries and danger areas, leaving France one week before Dunkirk. We were lucky."
They travelled more than 20,000km through India and carried out tours of Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Lybia, Tripoli and Iraq.
One of their most exciting experiences was a trip to Razmac, the farthest outpost on the North-West Frontier of India. They went up in a heavily armed convoy with tanks leading and armoured cars behind, and a guard of Sikhs.
"These precautions were necessary because we were the first white women to visit the outpost and it was uncertain how the native tribes would react," Connie said. "Although the trip was uneventful, 12 shots were fired on the roof while we were giving a show there."
She discovered that the officer in charge of the mess at Razmac, Brigadier J. Mervyn Hobbs from Perth, was her cousin and this was the first time they had met. The company was piped into the fort, and a shield was hung in the mess to celebrate the first visit by white women.
When they first joined ENSA, Mr and Mrs Murray toured England then France, returning a week before the Dunkirk evacuation.
Their next assignment, in the beginning of 1942, was West Africa, where they spent six months, afterwards flying from Lagos to Khartoum over the Belgian Congo, which was then still enemy territory. Arriving in Cairo, the whole company's luggage was lost and did not catch up with them for six months.
"The show was completely re-dressed in Cairo," Mrs Murray recalled. "There were no rationing problems there, but when we left a street dress cost £25 and a pair of nylon stockings £5."
The company went on several "secret missions" giving concerts in the desert outside Alexandria for the 8th Army just before it landed in Sicily. The return journey, after giving shows in Tripoli, provided plenty of excitement. Their car broke down and they had to travel by night through old battlefields that were still mined. Wreckage of German tanks and planes littered the side of the road, which was only cleared of mines for a certain distance on each side - so a wrong turning could have been disastrous.
"The risk was increased because the Arabs often moved the diversion posts marking the mined areas," Mr Murray said.
Arriving at Marble Arch early in the morning, they found that an Australian, Squadron Leader Stan Harry, was in charge of the RAF station there. He provided them with a much-needed breakfast of bacon and eggs, and tea.
Mr and Mrs Murray said many Australians had been among their audiences, and one concert they remembered particularly was given for an all-Australian Sunderland squadron stationed at Plymouth. The Murrays were carried into the mess when they discovered Connie was an Australian.
Connie returned to Australia in 1945 with her husband and continued in the entertainment industry.
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