A SMALL – and unusual – piece of wartime history has been handed over to the Imperial War Museum.
Walter Huntley, who served as a sergeant with the Royal Artillery as a Territorial in World War II, has donated his ventriloquist’s dummy, Gunner Jimmy Turner.
It is the end of an era for the pair, who were posted to the official British Army entertainment unit.
They performed to packed wartime audiences of troops and civilians in church halls, military bases, local cinemas and theatres – and even in the depths of the London Underground to crowds sheltering from the blitz.
Seven decades after “Wally and Jimmy” first trod the boards, they gave their final performance at the museum in London, where Jimmy has taken up permanent residence, as a lasting reminder of how entertainment became a vital part of the war effort.
Mr Huntley, who lives in Wirral, said before he gave Jimmy to the musum: “I will miss Jimmy.
“It will be a poignant moment when I hand him over to the safe-keeping of the museum. But I have to take the realistic view that I am about to enter my 90th year – and he could hardly have a better home.”
After the war, Mr Huntley returned to his career in journalism and joined the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo as a reporter, eventually becoming associate editor of both newspapers.
His interest in ventriloquism started as a schoolboy when his father took him to a show at the Floral Pavilion, in New Brighton.
It was the tall walking figure he dubbed Jimmy Turner, bought at the famous old London store of Gamages for £12 10 shillings, which became his co-star throughout the war.
They were eventually posted to the British Army official entertainment unit Stars In Battledress, which starred such rising talent as Spike Milligan and Terry Thomas.
The full story of their adventures is told in Mr Huntley’s new book, Dummy Bullets, which has been published by the Wirral News’ parent company Trinity Mirror.
Walter will be signing books at Linghams Booksellers, West Kirby, tomorrow, Thursday, at 1pm. Dummy Bullets is available for £6.99 from 0845 143 0001 or call www.merseyshop.com.