Meet the Navy was a Royal Canadian Navy (R.C.N.) musical theatre production created during World War II. Its purpose was to provide entertainment for service members on active duty, as well as to boost recruitment, and to positively maintain and enhance the general public’s perception of the Navy. Cast and crew were recruited both from within existing R.C.N. personnel and by seeking outside civilian talent that could then be persuaded to enlist with the Navy.
The September 1943 Toronto premier showcased a cast of nearly eighty performers (including over thirty Wrens), a large orchestra and support crew. Following a highly successful year spent touring Canada, the show headed overseas in October of 1944. Working under the British Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA), the initial performances throughout Britian and Scotland were followed by tours through France, Holland, Belgium, and (post VE-Day) Germany.
The popular reception in Britian was so positive that late in the war a plan was made to create a British feature film from the stage show. Featuring a mix of original and new performers, the movie Meet the Navy premiered in 1946 but met with less success than the original.
Following the end of the war the scale of the production wound down, responding both to a decrease in audience interest and to the loss of cast and crew through demobilization back to civilian life. Their last stage performance took place in Germany in September of 1945, with most of the remaining show personnel returning to Canada the following January.
The printed theatre programme for “Meet the Navy” provides information about the performance, performers, and production staff. Interspersed throughout is artwork highlighting key cast members and photographs of naval ships.
Laurel Halladay’s master's thesis 'Ladies and Gentlemen, Soldiers and Artists:' Canadian Military Entertainers, 1939-46 is a helpful resource for those interested in learning more about the production of Meet the Navy and the history of Canadian military entertainment units in WWII. Hosted by University of Calgary.