William Shillitto was born in West Ham, Essex on Wednesday 19th October
1927 to parents Joseph and Elizabeth. West Ham at the time was a local
government district in the extreme south west of Essex until 1965. He
was however raised in nearby Brentwood where his father was an Off Licence
year old Walter joined the Royal Marines Band Service in June 1943,
as a student he was awarded the Ernest Read Prize for conducting at
the Royal Academy of Music London.
Walter was married to Constance Robertson in late 1949 in the district
His early career path led him to serve in the bands at HMS Royal Arthur
and HMS Vengeance before promotion to BCpl and a posing to the Band
of the Commander in Chief Far East Fleet based at HMS Terror in Singapore,
where he served between 1952-54. He returned from the Far East thereafter
and a draft to the Royal Marines School of Music Staff Band. For his
exceptional musical ability, he was awarded the silver medal from the
Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1958.
was appointed Bandmaster at the Britannia Royal Naval College in 1961,
before his Commissioning as Officer later in the year.
He then took command of the Royal Marines Bands Commander in Chief Portsmouth
based at Whale Island and the Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet
based at HMS St Angelo in Malta, until the establishment closed in December
He then secured the position of Drafting Officer until September 1970
when he became Director of Music of the Plymouth Band.. based at the
Infantry Training Centre at Lympstone. The band returned to Stonehouse
in 1972 following a four-year stay at ITC and later renamed Commando
During his time at the helm, the much-travelled boss returned with his
new Band to Malta at least five times, Norway and to Berlin for the
British Berlin Tattoo, the first Royal Marines Band to visit the city
since the end of World War II. The Band also undertook four extremely
dangerous trips to Northern Ireland, in addition to many engagements
in England and Wales.
Wally was accountable for at least six recordings by Commando Forces
Band under the DECCA label.. usually recording one every year: By Land
and Sea’ in 1972, ‘Around the Globe’ a year later,
‘The Royal Marines Play Pops & Classics’ from 1974.
He also presided over the recordings ‘Focus on the Royal Marines’,
‘The Best of British’ in 1975 and ‘Marines on the
March’ in 1977. Although not a prolific composer.. Wally's pen
bore the mark of quality and originality which can be heard in the piece
'Trumpetino'. Captain Shillitto was tasked with the role of Senior Director
of Music for the 1975 Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
final tour with Commando Forces Band was the 1976 USA Bicentennial tour
entitled ‘The British are Coming’. The sixty strong Stonehouse
Band joined forces with the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, together
they completed sixty-three performances in ten weeks. He presided over
Trooping the Colour on March 16th 1977 as 41 Commando withdrew from
St Andrews in Malta and was afforded the role of Director of Music for
the Silver Jubilee Military Pageant at Wembley Stadium in 1977. The
annual cricket match between Commando Forces and Britannia Royal Naval
College Bands was enjoyed for many years and was named the Shillitto
He should have retired from the Corps after more than thirty-four years'
service but was offered a two year extension to help our friends down
under and become Director of Music in the Royal Australian Naval East
Area Band, based in Sydney.
William Shillitto settled in Blairgowrie in Perthshire with his partner
Ursula, he sadly passed away aged 86 on 31st January 2014. His private
funeral service at his own request was held on 6th February, his ashes
were later scattered off West Sands St Andrews.