our thoughts are naturally drawn on the 22nd September and rightly so
to our eleven colleagues that were so cruelly taken from us in 1989,
we must always remember with affection, Colin Hughes who died so needlessly
on this very same date in 2012.
Colin Hughes was born on 20th April 1967 in Barton, located on the west
side of Manchester, he attended St Mary’s Primary, before progressing
to Irlam High School.
He joined the Royal Marines Band Service on 30th April 1984 as an oboe
player. He was one of only three members of 2/84 troop, but only two
of them managed to pass out of training, the other one being Musician
Colin excelled in the training wing, under the guidance of Professor
of Oboe Mr John Williams, winning the Houghton Trophy for best woodwind
player of the year. He was then awarded the bronze medal in the Cassel
Prize playing ‘Carnival of Venice’, before successfully
completing training at the School of Music in 1987. Musician Hughes
upon being awarded his M3 status, was rewarded with his first draft
as a trained rank to the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Fleet,
based at RAF Northolt in London.
Colin and Kay had been childhood sweethearts since they met at Irlam
High School and on 23rd July 1988, they became Man & Wife at Monton
Church in Eccles. Colin’s Best Man was Richard Fice. The newlyweds
didn’t spend a great deal of time together following their wedding,
as Colin was selected for the fortnight long trip in October to Gibraltar.
Following a brief return to the UK, Colin flew out with Fleet Band to
the USA for three months in support of the visit by HMS Illustrious
to Charleston and Fort Lauderdale. The Band also took part in the US
Marine Corps birthday celebrations in North and South Carolina and further
gigs in Washington.
Colin was really starting to clock up the air miles now and was part
of the band that flew to Bermuda and back in a comfortable Hercules
in 1989, to support the visit of HMS York.
Colin and Kay were united in grief along with the entire Band Service
family, when just over a year later on 22nd September 1989, the dreadful
atrocity at the Royal Marines School of Music took place. Amongst the
11 fatalities that day was best man Richard Fice. Colin was one of the
six pallbearers at his funeral at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff.
Colin remained at Northolt until 1990, when drafty sent him to the relatively
quieter life at the Royal Marines Band Britannia Royal Naval College.
Col & Kay settled in nicely in the surroundings of the very colourful
Rock Park and they were overjoyed in 1992 by the arrival of baby daughter
In 1991 amongst all the Colours, Divisions and security duties at BRNC,
was a visit to Sevastopol in the Ukraine, the home of the Black Sea
Fleet. From there it was off to Constanta in Romania on board HMS Fearless
and onwards to Bucharest. A year later Colin was selected for the band
that made the lengthy trip to the Falklands, to commemorate the tenth
anniversary of the War.
Colin was promoted to Band Corporal in spring 1992 and his ability as
a musician was demonstrated shortly after in the Dartmouth Band recording
‘Anything Goes’, when he performed the magical oboe feature
‘The Watermill’ by Ronald Binge.
Colin’s stay at Dartmouth came to an end in January 1993, when
he returned to Fleet Band... but his stay at Northolt didn’t last
too long, as just over a year later in March 1994, the Commander in
Chief Fleet Band was disbanded, and he departed for the Royal Marines
School of Music Staff Band. He was only at Deal for a few months, where
they resided on the equally colourful Freemens Way. During that short
period, he managed to squeeze in a five-week tour of Canada with Staff
Band, performing at the Halifax Nova Scotia international Tattoo, then
flying on to Calgary, Vancouver and finally Victoria.
In August 1994, Colin was on the move again, back to BRNC, his stay
this time at Dartmouth was, compared to his other drafts a lengthy eight
Shortly after the move back to Devon in 1995, Col and Kay were blessed
with a second daughter Madeleine Kay. Then a year later in 1996 promotion
to BSgt. Dartmouth Band at the time were afforded more foreign trips
than any other time in the Bands history, Colin was involved in many:
Cyprus, Portland Oregon in August 1996, where they played at a Memorial
for the Chosin Few. He also had the pleasure of a second visit to the
Falklands, Norway and the USA trip to Washington & San Diego in
2000, to take part in the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War. His
final trip with BRNC Band was to Naples in 2001.
Colin was the oboist in the 2001 BRNC recording of Trafalgar, he also
received his Long Service Good Conduct Medal whilst at Dartmouth.
Colin was promoted to BdCSgt in the summer of 2002, when he exchanged
Devon for Hertfordshire where he was appointed Volunteer Band Instructor
at the Joint Support Unit Northwood, taking over the role from his good
friend Brian O’Kane. Col spent around a year in the VBI role and
handed over the baton to Gary Standeven, before the Hughes family travelled
down the M3 to Portsmouth in 2003, a draft for Colin to the Royal Band
and for Kay, employment at their local Boots store in Emsworth.
Apart from a week or two helping out Scotland Band while their Band
was away in the Gulf, this was to be Colin’s final draft in the
Royal Marines Band Service, with a nice little trip to Dubai in 2005...
we’ll just call it his leaving routine. BCSgt Colin Hughes was
discharged in 2007, having completed 24 years exemplary service.
Big plans were swinging into place for Colin, Kay and their girls. Soon
after leaving the RMBS, on 17th May and following quite a lengthy application
process, the Hughes family emigrated to Australia. They moved to the
Caringbah area of Sydney to begin a new life, while at the same time
Colin began a new military career with the Sydney Band of the Royal
Australian Navy. During his time with the RAN Band, he performed at
engagements in China, Samoa and at the Brunei International Tattoo in
2011. He really was a well-travelled man...
Not only was he an outstanding oboist, bass drummer and cymbal holder,
he also learned to play the side drum for parades and Beat Retreats.
Colin received the Australian Defence Medal in 2011 in recognition of
four years service.
Leading Seaman Musician Colin Hughes while away with the band during
Navy week, was tragically and needlessly killed in Cairns Australia
on 22nd September 2012 aged 45, as a result of an unqualified driver
who had taken a cocktail of drink and drugs.
Unimaginable that both Colin and Richard were taken from us on the same
day twenty three years apart, both in such tragic circumstances. Colin’s
funeral service was held at the Garden Island Naval Base, Sydney, on
Friday 5th October, followed by a tot or two at The Caringbah Inn.
Friends and colleagues from his many years spent at BRNC gathered that
same evening at the ANZAC Club in Dartmouth to toast a very good friend.
A memorial service for Colin was also held on 21st October at St John's
Church, Irlam, Manchester.
Colin had a unique sense of humour, a unique laugh, you could always
tell it was Colin laughing even if you couldn’t see him, he was
always cracking jokes. He was a wonderful musician and family man. He
loved the taste of a nice beer or wine and had a passion for making
home brew, most of which should have been labelled as dangerous goods!
Colin has been and will continually be missed.... especially by Kay,
Megan and Maddy. The 22nd September will always be a day of remembrance
for the eleven, and for Colin Hughes.