McNulty, a long-standing friend of mine, and also of the Band Service
died on the 14th July this year. He joined the Corps in Chatham as a
boy Bugler, turned over to the ranks, became a PTI and was eventually
commissioned. He was a Captain RM on retirement after which he became
Personnel Manager for Decca. His son, Andrew, has forwarded to me a
copy of the eulogy read at his funeral that I believe deserves wider
recognition particularly as he was initially a Bugler. I shall forward
the written eulogy separately for you do do with as you will. I hope
that, having read it, you too will feel that our broader brotherhood
would be interested in Jack McNulty and what an admirable and interesting
life he had led. This may lead you to consider for historic reasons
its inclusion within your admirable site.
ever, Graham. (Hoskins)
for Jack McNulty
I would like to say something about my father’s life and share
some personal impressions and reminiscences.
However, first I would like to thank you for coming to his funeral.
That so many have made the effort may be a measure of the regard in
which he was held. We are privileged to have a bugler from RM Collingwood
Band; I think my father would be tickled that it is a lady bugler. I
know he would be very honoured that there is also a representative here
from the CGRM.
I would say that my father’s life was supported by three pillars:
first, the Corps. Never can the adage once a Royal Marine, always a
Royal Marine, have been so apt. Second, his relationship with my mother,
Pat, whom he adored. When she died in 2005 he was completely bereft
and I think it created a hole that he never quite managed to fill. Third,
his Catholic faith. He did not wear his faith on his sleeve but it was
important to him.
He was a sportsman, a performer and a raconteur. Conversely, he was
also a very private man, and could perhaps be described as secretive.
If he did not want to talk about something, nothing would induce him
He loved the RM Band and always looked forward to the Memorial Concert
on Walmer Green. I used to accompany him to watch the RM beat retreat
on Horseguards Parade; on our first visit in 2006 they performed a stirring
arrangement of the theme to the film Gladiator that stuck in my mind.
It occurred to me that Dad was a bit of a gladiator himself in his own
quiet way. He was certainly very determined when he set his mind to
His early life is shrouded in mystery. My father’s parents had
emigrated from Ireland. He was born in 1925 in Paddington, the youngest
of five surviving siblings with two elder brothers and two elder sisters;
a younger brother died at an early age. We do know that his elder brothers
were raised in an orphanage before emigrating to Canada and the United
States. This may indicate that his upbringing was not straightforward,
but he always refused to talk about it.
He attended the London Oratory school and won a schools’ essay
competition for which his prize was a ticket to the Royal Tournament.
It was there that he encountered the Royal Marines and by his own account
was enthralled, deciding there and then he wanted to join.
The war began when he was 14. He must have been very keen to do his
bit because at 14 he signed up to join the Royal Marines Band Service
as a boy bugler when he reached 16; this was the only way to enlist
for active service at such a young age. In the meantime, he was evacuated
from London to stay with his uncle, Alured Ozanne, who was a vicar in
Bassingbourn and Chaplain to the nearby RAF air base. His uncle had
had an extraordinary life, militarily and clerically. He had served
in the Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) from 1900 to 1904 and during
WW1 had served in the Royal Fusiliers, the Royal Garrison Artillery
and the RFC Kite Balloon Section. He had been a Catholic priest until,
according to my father, a blazing row with his bishop over the use of
a bugler in Church at a remembrance service led him to becoming an Anglican
priest, finally becoming Venerable Arch-deacon of the Seychelles. My
father spoke of Alured often and I think he was a major influence and
may have influenced his decision to join the Marines.
My father reported to the Royal Marines Chatham Division in 1941 and
trained in bugle, drum and fife. Most of his batch were the same age
as my father except the even younger who had lied about their age. The
oldest in his barrack room, whom he also spoke about quite often, was
the legendary Mick or ‘sticks’ Dodds, by my father’s
account a supreme practical joker who eventually commanded the SBS and
rose to be a highly decorated Lt-Colonel.
Both his elder brothers had returned from abroad and joined the British
Army; one served as a Chindit in the 14th Army in Burma and suffered
badly. Dad attended weekly Burma star commemorations in Deal castle,
in memory of his brother, up until the time he was taken ill.
After six months training Dad was assigned to service at sea as a ship’s
bugler. In 1943, as soon as he was old enough, he transferred from the
Band and returned to England to train as a Royal Marine including naval
gunnery. Many of the gun crews on Royal Navy ships were Royal Marines.
Dad served at sea for most of the war: on an armed merchant cruiser,
the Alaunia, which was a converted Cunard liner; on the light cruiser
HMS Dido, with service in the Mediterranean including escorting Malta
convoys, the defence of Malta, sinking German supply vessels, evacuating
allied troops from Crete and bombarding German positions in North Africa;
on the colony class light cruiser HMS Mauritius including action in
the Atlantic, North Sea, Iceland, Norway, convoys to Russian Murmansk
and France: on D-day Mauritius bombarded the German defences at Sword
beach. He had various roles: ship’s bugler, anti-aircraft gunner,
4 inch gun crew (which explains his lack of eyebrows lost in gun flash).
He was lucky; none of his ships were sunk. The most surprising aspect
of his sea service was that he was seasick the whole time, chronically
seasick. He told me he lived on dry bread and water and had to go everywhere
with a brown paper bag. Imagine the iron-willed determination he must
have needed and you start to see why he would come to make a good Commando.
His sea legs did not improve. Many years later when I was about 12,
my parents bought me a little sailing dinghy. One day we brought it
down to Deal and he and I went out fishing, I had my old bamboo rod
and he was rowing; it was a beautiful day and the sea was like a mirror.
When we came back to the beach he was ill on the pebbles! One consequence
of his seasickness was that he was starving when back on dry land. When
his ship was in port, while the rest of the crew hurried off to the
bars and fleshpots, he went in search of the biggest meal he could find,
before sleeping it off in a cinema.
All the sailors and marines, other than officers, slept in hammocks
slung wherever they could. Because of his seasickness my father always
slung his hammock above deck if possible, even in the Arctic; he used
to say he was as snug as a bug in a rug in his blankets looking up at
the stars. This was surprising as he suffered from Raynaud’s condition,
a vascular problem which caused his fingers to turn completely white
in the cold from lack of circulation. This may be why he loved sunshine
and heat so much, unlike my mother who could not bear ‘the heat
and the flies’ as she put it. A few weeks ago in his nursing home
he still enjoyed being wheeled out into the warmth of the sunny garden
and basking in the sun.
In 1945 my parents had the good fortune to meet each other at a dance
in Kensington Town Hall while my father was on leave; both my parents
were very good ballroom dancers. My mother had been engaged to an Australian
spitfire pilot who had been killed some months earlier and she had only
just come out of mourning; this was the first dance she had attended
so it was very fine timing. My father was due to join a ship sailing
for the war in the Pacific but just before the ship sailed was ordered
to Deal for a NCO course. More courses followed and they managed to
see more of each other than many courting couples during the war.
My mother at the time was working in the Admiralty Citadel for Lieutenant
Commander Neville Shute Norway of Military Intelligence, subsequently
finding fame as the author Neville Shute. Her father, a first world
war veteran of the AIF (Australian Imperial Force) who had served at
Gallipoli and the Western Front, encouraged my father to apply for promotion
to sergeant and was very supportive. He was a civil servant with an
office in Admiralty Arch, one of whose duties, coincidentally, was buying
all the musical instruments for the Royal Marines Band Service.
My parents were married in 1948 in Osterley, London and soon afterwards
moved to Deal where my father was stationed.
His climb to a more senior rank was not altogether smooth. Dad told
me that when he was a Corporal, his section had once done very well
on an exercise and as a reward he took them to the pub for a drink.
However, in those days fraternisation was strictly forbidden, they were
seen and he was reduced to the ranks.
By the time my father was selected for officer training, having re-gained
his stripes on the way, he and his fellow NCO prospective officers all
had extensive combat experience. Coincidentally, my father was again
in Mick Dodd’s cohort and the practical jokes legion. According
to my father, a signal used to precede them before they arrived for
a course warning the station to expect trouble. I received a very kind
letter this week from a former CGRM saying he had made the potentially
difficult transition to Commissioned rank with ease thanks to his intelligence,
practicality, personality and a great sense of humour.
Dad qualified as a physical training instructor or PTI in 1946 and in
between other tours abroad subsequently coached fencing and athletics
at the Royal Naval College Greenwich, was in charge of Royal Navy training
of PTI’s in Portsmouth, ran the PT school at the Depot Deal and
was in charge of all physical training and sports at CTC Lympstone.
He seemed to excel at a variety of sports including athletics, diving,
modern pentathlon, and fencing. His crooked nose he put down to a combination
of boxing and rugby. He was the Kent triple jump record holder, the
Kent pole vault champion, the Navy triple jump champion, the Royal Marines
springboard and high board champion, the Middle East Services high board
champion and the Royal Navy fencing champion. One of my early memories
(I must have been three or four) is of sipping beer out of a fencing
trophy cup that was bigger than I was that my father had won at the
He had hoped to be in the Great Britain team for the 1948 London Olympics
but did not quite make the selection. One of the reasons he was determined
to live until at least 2012 was to see the next London Olympics.
He did further sea service after WWII: when he was first Commissioned
in 1952 he served on the aircraft carrier HMS Indefatigable.
In 1954 he joined 40 Commando and was stationed in Malta with my mother,
her only overseas posting with him, where my elder sister Sally spent
two years. He recounted playing hockey against Prince Phillip who was
stationed there with Princess Elisabeth. In between his physical training
postings in England he saw action with, I believe, 40 Commando, 41 Commando,
42 Commando and 45 Commando at Suez, in Cyprus fighting Eoka, in East
Africa during the Mau- Mau rebellion and the mutiny of the Kings African
Rifles in Tanganyika and in Aden where he was involved in fierce fighting
in the Radfan mountains. I was born while he was in Cyprus and my sister
Helen was born 15 months later.
Soon after his tour in Cyprus he developed polio and spent a year at
Headley Court, fortunately making a good recovery.
While we were starting to clear out his bungalow we found a cache of
letters from my mother to my father in Aden. They were very affectionate
and loving, recounting the minutiae of home life, with the occasional
exhortation “do mind out for the bullets, dear”. It was
exactly what she would say, though we children were blissfully ignorant
at the time. Military casualties were much more prevalent then and every
service wife had to cope with the worry.
He never spoke much about combat but he told me a tale of Suez only
a few months ago. His Commando detachment had gained all their objectives
after the amphibious landing and had reached the stretch of water that
led to the canal. His armoured support was a column of French Foreign
Legion tanks. When the unexpected radio command came through to withdraw,
the French tank commander, keen to press on, said “let’s
pretend we didn’t get the message”. The Royal Marines did
not ignore the order, of course.
He was away a great deal when I was small; a common thread of most service
families. I remember one day the doorbell rang and I answered it. There
stood my father, in uniform, looking very tall and very brown, with
a big box that turned out to be a cricket set for me! I remember how
good it felt to have him home, particularly as I was completely outnumbered
in a house with four females.
On Saturday mornings when he was running the PT school in Deal my father
would take me, and my sisters if they were keen, to the gym and while
he was in his office we would be let loose on our own. Imagine the heaven
for an eight year old boy scampering up wall bars and ropes, bouncing
on trampolines, leaping over pommel horses. Another of the week’s
highlights was always swimming on Sunday afternoons at the RM swimming
baths, the site of which is now the Cedars GP centre.
The Royal Marines tercentenary was in 1964 and I remember being very
excited to be given special permission to go out of school to watch
the parade through Deal that my father was marching in.
Dad had always enjoyed the music hall and enjoyed treading the boards
himself. I believe he was the director of the first sergeant’s
mess pantomime at Deal, which became a tradition that survives today.
He said he had been involved in concert parties since he was stuck in
Durban in 1942 trying to catch up with his first ship in the Med. A
second letter I received this week recounted how, while 40 Commando
PT and sports officer, he was the leading light of the concerts staged
to entertain the Marines in Cyprus. The last theatrical performance
we saw him in was in 2014 with the Really Promising Company when he
was a mere 89. On Dad came as a 1960’s rocker in leather jacket
and crash helmet, it was a scream, in a later scene performing a solo
singing number. My wife was somewhat taken aback by a racy ditty he
sang on his 90th birthday. He had sung with a barbershop quartet and
choir when we lived in Ewell and he sang with the Deal Handelian choir
for decades, his last concert being only a few months ago; some of the
Handelians are singing today.
After he retired from the Royal Marines in 1968 we moved to Ewell and
he worked as a personnel manager for Decca Radio and Television and
Decca Navigator. He eventually retired in 1990 and my parents moved
full-time to Kingsdown. He became a keen member of the RMA and worked
for the CAB for some years.
Both my parents were enthusiastic members of the GCIA and travelled
to Malta for many years to take part in the annual Malta and ANZAC remembrance
services, my father’s last visit being in 2018. ANZAC services
take place there as Malta had been a Gallipoli casualty clearing station
and many of the dead from Gallipoli were buried there, and my father
used to proudly wear my grandfather’s medals.
He supported many charities and seemed to give his time freely to others.
Even in his nineties he used to tell me he was off to visit ‘the
old folk’. He was very reluctant to give up driving despite our
misgivings and in March this year at 94 he even acquired a new driving
licence. Every new dent in the bodywork he insisted was because ‘someone
drove into it in Sainsbury’s car-park’ but he was driving
right up till going into hospital, determined to be independent.
He took great pride in his children’s achievements and later enjoyed
going to the beach with his grandchildren and playing games with them
as they grew up, taking pride in their achievements, in turn. In his
final years his two great-granddaughters always brought a smile.
My father lived a very full life, for a remarkable duration. When the
time came I think he was ready to go but he was still making quips in
his nursing home. To quote Tennyson: ‘the old order changeth,
yielding place to new and God fulfils himself in many ways’. The
sadness of his death has been tempered by one granddaughter, my niece
Teresa, announcing she was pregnant the same week-end he died and a
second granddaughter, my daughter Stella, due to be married by Loch
Lomond on Monday. He is free of the ailments he was only very latterly
seriously afflicted by and finally reunited with his beloved wife, Pat.
I can imagine his looking down on us, delighted to see his family and
so many friends and thoroughly approving of the proceedings.