My Life in the Royal Marines Band Service - Circa 1947-1968
by Michael G. Hutton
I was lucky enough to gain the award as outstanding boy in that group which gave me lots of confidence for the next stage in my career. I was to be a member of the band to be sent to Malta to become band of the Commander in Chief Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. The band would form for training in November of that year, just after my 18th birthday.
1952. After considerable practice and training the band by mid February was ready to leave and in March 24 of us flew from RAF Northolt to Malta to join HMS Glasgow. We were to become the C in Cs Band Mediterranean Fleet, the C in C being Lord Louis Mountbatten. It's impossible after all these years to remember all our exploits and movements but I will try to recall a few.
When we embarked on the Glasgow we were without many of our instruments, having flown out to Malta in a 'Dakota' there was only room for our kit and small instruments, so the heavy brass, percussion, string basses and 'cello were sent by sea to arrive a couple of weeks later. Unfortunately the instrument crate packed correctly at the RMSM arrived in Malta the wrong way up and one of the double basses was damaged and my 'cello was flattened into hundreds of pieces! No hard cases in those days, and it was an instrument that had been presented to me by Jimmy Pottle for a performing prize at the RMSM the previous year. What a start to a two and a half year commission - however, we managed to borrow instruments for the few weeks until replacements arrived. (Incidentally I did manage to get the original 'cello repaired and had it back in a couple of months.) On HMS Glasgow we had to live in the Gun - Room flat area which is where the midshipmen had their quarters. There were 120 Royal Marines on board so there was no room for the band on the marines mess deck, although we were able to borrow half a table at TOT time for those who were old enough to draw their tot of course. All of those under age ie; under 20 just hung around for sippers!!! The Band Officer Lt Ernie Ough had a cabin and the Bandmaster also had a small cabin where all our music and small instruments were kept and most of the administration for the band was done. The rest of us shared lockers and a space not much bigger than a couple of snooker tables. I'm not sure how we managed during those difficult times having to perform daily at many different functions and wear many different uniforms for each gig.
the 50s most bands on HM ships were 18 strong, but being the C in Cs
we were augmented to 24 including the luxury of an Oboe, Cpl Tubby Griffiths,
a Bassoon, my mate Denis Ovenden and two French Horns in John Stone
and Jonny Corner. The Bandmaster was Crash Petters (his nick name comes
from being a star on the Cymbals!!!) and the Band Officer already mentioned.
Finding anywhere on a Cruiser to practice and rehearse was very difficult.
Mountbatten arrived on the scene in May we were kept busy with engagements
all over the Med especially in Greece where he was of course particularly
pally with the Royal family and I think we went there so many times
that I even had a regular girl friend in Piraeus! That's the port for
Athens. There were many diplomatic visits to France and Italy that were
necessary at that time not long after the war and one included a trip
to Yugoslavia and Brioni which was President Tito's HQ and Private Island.
Some of our cruises were on HMS Surprise which was Lord Louis' sort
of Royal Yacht, but there was only room for about 7 or 8 of us - just
enough to play for entering and leaving harbour, colours, a small orchestra
for dinners and cocktail parties etc; Piano, Bass and Drums for dance
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