I’ve just been browsing the Internet, trying to find out more about ‘Geraldo’ the bandleader from the 1940s. I began searching because I want to write an article about him for a music magazine. He arrived in my consciousness because of my father’s letters home during World War 2. Dad was travelling on a troopship, heading off for his first taste of war in 1943. He wrote about seeing Geraldo and his band on board. I found a photograph of him (above). One of the things I love about looking around like this is the way coincidences tend to trip over themselves. One of the other links under ‘Geraldo’ led me to the BBCs Peoples War website, and I found someone else who had written about life on board a troopship, and seeing Geraldo on board.
Dad’s letters are a little short on detail so finding Bob Cotton’s journal entries has opened my eyes to a more detailed view. I have put two and two together and hopefully come up with four, Bob writes about watching a movie starring Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, so does my father. Bob also writes about Geraldo and his band being on the ship, as does my father, Bob dates his journal entries from 14 October 1943, while Dad doesn’t date these letters but the previous one’s where he mentioned leaving the training camp were written during October of that same year.
Dad writes ‘We have a recreation room here with a cinema and they have a good film on this week. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are in it.’ In his next letter he goes on to say ‘ Last night I managed to see one of Geraldo’s concerts. He played all request numbers, and it was one of the best shows I have seen. He had all his band there including Dorothy Carless, Len Camber, Doreen Villiers and Johnny Lockwood. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen his band, and it is a very good one.’
Bob writes ‘In the evening I visited the recreation room where three films were showing. The place was packed out and very stuffy. The films were ‘Water Bugs’, ‘Community Singing’ and Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby in ‘Holiday Inn’. I spent a pleasant evening but comfort was out of the question.’ Five days later he wrote ‘the night before (Tuesday) I went to a concert. They were all amateurs; RAF, Navy, Army and some WRNS. Some sang, some told jokes, others played instruments and were judged by many high ranking officers and civies including Geraldo. Johnny Lockwood, Geraldo’s comedian was compere. He was awfully funny. On Wednesday night, I think it was, a Concert was broadcast over the speakers to the decks and was given by Geraldo and his Band. Some fellows, who were fortunate enough to draw tickets, went to the show.’
So it would appear Dad was one of the lucky one’s who drew a ticket for the show!
Next time I shall write more about the life on board a troopship, comparing Bob and Gordon’s writings. Neither of them seemed to have any idea where they were heading.
If you would like to read more of Bob’s story, you can find it here:
R.J. Cotton, WW2 People’s War
‘WW2 People’s War is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by
members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at