RMB Memories Pt.II (mostly Burford 1946-48)
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George Rumming and 'yours truly' in Malta. George was in the 3rd Commando Brigade Band.
Once a Band Boy was judged to be musically competent and had reached the age of 18 (or 17-1/2 if deemed worthy of 'early advancement') he emerged from his chrysalis to become a butterfly - in the shape of an adult R.M. Musician. All at once you left your 'mates' in 'B' Company and moved into the adult section of the camp ('A' Company) It was quite a sudden transition. I made the jump when 17-1/2 and remember feeling very out of place for a few days. One automatic result of this 'growing up' (musically speaking) was to be placed in the 'Staff Band'. I joined them in the middle of a rehearsal of 'Moto Perpetua' which - as I am sure all bandsmen will recall - has a segment with a tricky and difficult run in it. I had never seen it before but wasn't worried as I was sitting beside the other Euphonium player who was an experienced 'three-badger'. Then he was called away. Consternation! Sure enough I made a hopeless mess of it and my face was very red!

The Staff Band was more or less what you would expect from its name. It was the band used for all the routine ceremonial occasions around the camp and also, and much more importantly from my point of view, was the band that was paid for its services whenever performing at an outside venue. There were many of these and one that comes readily to mind was the Greyhound Derby at London's White City Stadium. The fee received was divided according to a formula. A large percentage went into the 'Band Fund', the conductor took a substantial share, and the musicians according to whether they were soloists, first or second instrumentalists etc. As second Euphonium I was right at the bottom of the pecking order, but any extra cash was manna from heaven.

Once a Band Boy became a Musician, (unless there was some compelling reason why not) he immediately went onto the 'drafting roster' for allocation to a ship's band or shore station anywhere in the world. At that time, (1947) the post-war economic cut-backs were creating drastic reductions in all the services and the Royal Navy was being 'fined down' to a mere shadow of its former glory. The very latest battleship HMS Vanguard, was now in commission. Its keel had been laid down during the war but wasn't completed before hostilities ended. It had a very short life, which included (taking the King and Queen to South Africa for a Royal Tour in 1947) was then used in increasingly less important tasks and in 1960 reverted to the scrap metal it had started out as. The same thing happened to most of the stalwart ships that had endured and survived the fighting. And whilst the uncertainties that followed the turmoil of the war meant that 'the presence' of the Royal Navy - the 'send a gunboat' principle that had worked so well since Victorian times - was felt to be still needed, it now had to be accomplished on a shoestring budget. What pre-war had been done by a few battleships, a battle-cruiser, a squadron or two of cruisers and one, two or three flotillas or two of destroyers, now had to be achieved with a very few heavy cruisers a light fleet aircraft carrier, a few tattered light cruisers, a few destroyers and perhaps a submarine depot ship and its flock, thrown in to add bulk. However those 'powers that be' still knew a thing or two. An impressive (and hopefully loud) band would impress the 'natives' anywhere and make up for any number of missing battleships. So, initially at any rate, the policy of staffing almost any warship of size and all shore establishments with RM bands continued. One cynic amongst our number once remarked that as each successive warship was towed off to the breaking yards, the Admiralty organised an even bigger massed band to play 'Rule Britannia' multi-fortissimo!

After a few months, my 'draft chit' arrived and I was assigned to the band of HMS Euryalus, a light cruiser, which was itself earmarked to join the First Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean, based at Malta! Lots of interesting experiences out there. But that's for another time. . . stay tuned for 'Memories Episode III' in due course.

Don Flounders. Ex-RMBX2175

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