Not the best way to start a career
by Jim Hadley
Receiving the Kings shilling and a days pay I was put on a train for Scarborough, arriving late at night and finding myself one of many joining up that day. We marched from the station to the Clifton hotel on the North Bay seafront. It being a bitterly cold evening, dived into the toilets on arrival. There we met our first uniformed musician by the name of Jerry Critchell, a three (good conduct) badged pensioner, recalled for the duration of WW2, he was performing what we came to know as a " Kit Muster", which consisted of being violently sick and then recovering his false teeth from the urinal.
On the 11th we were kitted out at the Norbrek Hotel and on the 12th each member of 88 squad was marched into the Director of Music's office to be welcomed into the RMB service by Major Pragnell.
Next we were issued with our musical instruments, also at the Norbrek Hotel and here I came unstuck. Having left the training school with a glowing report as a good performer on the Eb bombardon my instruction having come from a former RMB Bandmaster. So I received a Bb tenor trombone, despite making my protests was told to"Oppit".
During the second week we were sent to the I o M where the junior wing was at Onchan Head, a former holiday camp. Our training started when C/Sgt Pook took control of the squad with the first task being to stamp our kit by using a "type" and black paint.
Probably a couple of weeks had passed when one of the PTI's told me that a telegram had arrived to say that my dad had returned from the War (not that I ever saw that telegram). On being asked when I had last seen my Dad, they were surprised when I said the summer of 1938.
The PTI's went into a huddle and then went to see Captain Keen who would not grant me leave because I had not even done the first elements of music exam. Knowing that I was a training ship lad, they asked me if I could do the paper and of course my response was yes. So I was given a weeks compassionate leave.
On returning to the I o M, the trombone instructor made it quite plain that there was no room for clever B's in the band service. On a Friday morning I was sent for double bass training, this meant standing in the Dining Hall and the other three trombonists at the other end of the line.
The double bass instructor would walk past a couple of times and I was never once called to order for not playing as I had made up my mind that if they didn't want me to play the bombardon there was no way I was going to play the string bass. So I spent Friday mornings holding a bass with one hand and a bow in the other, not producing any sound whatsoever. Friday afternoon was individual instruction by the trombone instructor or rather self defence session because he had perfect pitch and whenever he decided that the pitch was not precise enough I received a good old kicking.
Before long the cry went up that the last one to join took the G trombone, also, so I was lumbered with the G trombone, no instruction on it or a "Tutor" to practice it on. You're the clever B sort it out, so I did. That did not help matters, you will now understand why I said earlier that I had got off to a bad start.