Dorothy Heard Story
D-Day During the war the French Consul had an office at the Empire Theatre. He was Captain Col Banard & his wife was a famous French actress, we knew her as Madame Delysia. The manager of the Empire was Mr Earnest Leperd well known in shipping circles, also he was the landlord of the Red Lion Hotel, Totton. The roof of the Empire as set out as a bridge of a ship with a wheel house complete with steering wheel and all around the railings life buoys from all the pre war liners. The projection room was below this & at the start of the war a square hole was cut into the concrete floor & wooden steps led down to the disused balcony bar as an emergency escape. In the year leading up to D-Day we had people from the war ministry with films to show after the theatre was cleared. The films were of "Pluto" pipe line under the ocean to carry fuel across to France, Flail tanks to clear land mines, landing craft filled with rocket launchers and other new war weapons. On Sunday mornings we had armed guards throughout the theatre while shipping crew and military officers were briefed about D-Day. Just before D-Day the streets of Southampton was packed with tanks, tracks & thousands of American Troops. Things like chimney pots were around he streets and set off as smoke screens thicker than any fog. I left school at 14 years, 1942 and started as a rewind boy at the Empire theatre in Southampton in England. It was the biggest theatre south of London its capacity was 2000 people. It had the stalls, the circle & a balcony and standing boxes each side of the seats. We had two German Emeniman II Projectors & Leis Jean Lenses. The throw from projector to screen was 144ft, western Electric sound system powered by Banks of batteries in a separate room. One sat always on charge. The theatre was on a tram route which ran on D.C so we had an alternator room to supply a.c current. Are lamps supplied the light. We had to get a permit to buy amileoirate & acetone acid to make our own film cement. We kept going through all the air raids and didn't miss a show. The theatre is now owned by Southampton Council & first was called Gaumont Theatre and renamed the "Mayflower Theatre" and puts on all the big shows such as "Phantom of the Opera", Saigon etc...