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Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Vivian Dunn KCVO OBE FRSA (24 Dec 1908 - 3 April 1995) was the Director of Music, Portsmouth Division, Royal Marines1931-53 and Principal Director of Music, Royal Marines, from 1953 to 1968. He was the first military musician to be knighted.

Francis Vivian Dunn was born in Jabalpur, India. Vivian’s father, William James Dunn, was bandmaster of the Second Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps and later director of music of the Royal Horse Guards. He studied piano with his mother, Beatrice Maud, and choral studies at Winchester. In 1923 he studied at the Hochschule für Musik Köln and two years later he attended the Royal Academy of Music. He studied conducting with Henry Wood and composition with Walton O’Donnell. As a violinist, he performed in the Queen’s Hall Promenade Orchestra under Henry Wood, and in 1930 was a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra under several famous conductors.

Dunn was released from his contract with the BBC and on September 3, 1931 at age 22 commissioned as a lieutenant in the Royal Marines to be director of music for Portsmouth Division of the Corps. This post included directing the Royal Marines Band on the Royal Yacht. He took part in the royal tour of South America in 1947 aboard HMS Vanguard and in a Royal Marines band tour of the U.S. and Canada in 1949.

His promotion to lieutenant-colonel and principal director of music, Royal Marines, came in 1953. Vivian and the Royal Marines Band then accompanied Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on the SS Gothic for the post-coronation Commonwealth Tour. Upon completing the tour, the Queen appointed Dunn CVO, and in 1960 appointed him OBE.

In 1955, Dunn was asked by Euan Lloyd of Warwick Films to compose the theme music for The Cockleshell Heroes (which was otherwise scored by John Addison).

Upon retiring from his military career in December 1968, Dunn became a guest conductor with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. He also recorded with the Light Music Society Orchestra. In 1969, he received an EMI Golden Disc for sales of over one million Royal Marines Band records. In that year he was also elected as an honorary member of the American Bandmasters Association. In 1987 he received the Sudler Medal of the Order of Merit from the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

In 1988, after serving as the Senior Warden, Dunn became the first military musician installed as the Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians.

Dunn composed and arranged over sixty pieces of music. Several are marches, many with Royal Marines connections. These include The Globe and Laurel (1935, rev. 1945), The Captain General (1949), Cockleshell Heroes (1955) and Mountbatten March (1972). He arranged numerous others including The Preobrajensky March attributed to Donajowsky (later to become the official slow march of the Royal Marines) and A Life on the Ocean Wave (the official quick march of the Royal Marines).

Dunn married Margery Halliday in 1938. They had one son (Patrick) and two daughters (Leonie and Rosemary). Vivian Dunn died from lung cancer in Haywards Heath, Sussex on April 3, 1995. Marjery, Lady Dunn, died on June 26, 1998.

The Martial Music of Sir Vivian Dunn. The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth, Captain J.R. Perkins. Clovelly CL CD10394, recorded 1994.


- Oakley, Derek. Fiddler on the March: A Biography of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Vivian Dunn. London: Royal Marines Historical Society, 2000.

- Rehrig, William H. The Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music. Waterville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1991 & 1996.

- Richards, Jeffrey. Imperialism and Music: Britain 1876-1953. Manchester University Press, 2001.

- Trendell, John. “Obituary: Lt-Col Sir Vivian Dunn”, The Independent, April 18, 1995.


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