THE REUNION OF THE BAND OF HER MAJESTY'S ROYAL MARINES
October 9/10 - 2021
I received a phone call from Dickie asking me if I would write a report on this year’s reunion as to date only a few brief comments have been made, thinking how I would compose my thoughts I decided to do it as a personal reflection of the weekend rather than a blow by blow account.
Firstly, why do I go to the reunion? I joined the band service as a 14 year old in 1966, and although I only served for 11 years it was probably the period in my life that shaped my future. I was taught flute and Tenor sax by two wonderful tutors in Professor Harry Eden and Bandmaster David Wells and on completion of training was posted to Portsmouth Group Band where I was fortunate to sit alongside John Hillier and serve on the Royal Yacht.
I left the band service for personal reasons but I was determined to keep in touch with the many friends I had made, that meant going to concerts when able and attending the band service reunion, since 1978 to date I believe I have only missed 5 reunions including the cancelled one last year and hopefully health withstanding I will continue to go every year until unable physically to go.
My weekend: As usual I travelled from Preston to Portsmouth by train arriving mid-afternoon on the Friday, quickly booked into my room at the new Premier Inn by Victory gate and then made my way to the Maritime Club to meet up with Mick Hickman and Tony Oliver to start the weekend off. After a few libations we had a tea break before making our usual visit to the RMA at Eastney were we were joined by Alan Rutter, his daughter and her husband, for a catch up, join in the quiz (I believe we came 4th) and then back to the Maritime club for last orders.
On the Saturday morning I did a quick five and a half mile walk along the seafront and around Southsea then after a quick lunch it was back to the maritime club for the afternoon, we were joined by Roger Hollingsworth and Alan Webb, sadly there were not as many as normal but under the circumstances I suppose it was to be expected.
A brief interval before we made our way to HMS Nelson for the evening event, getting in the gate wasn’t too bad, I found out a few weeks before the reunion that my passport had expired so I had to look for another photo id, as I still have my old pink driving licence, that was no good so they accepted my bus pass, being old does have its benefits.
After a couple of drinks it was into the gymnasium for the Beat Retreat, the assembled crowd were then treated to an excellent display by the School of Music with additional support from some of the instructors, the marching and musicianship were both first rate, well done.
On completion of the display the PDM informed the gathering of the format of the new Alford Schools of Military Music, The Royal Marines School of Music and the Army School of Music, and although they will share the same practice venue they will remain two separate schools, I hope that I have got that right, I am sure someone will comment if not.
He also talked about the decision to stop dual instrument training focussing on what the band service is best known for, concert bands and marching bands; he said there was still a commitment for orchestral music but not as it has been in the past.
Following the display it was back to the chief’s mess to get to know some of the young musicians who have just entertained us. It was nice to see Jem Tugwood and family following his health scare, it was also nice to see Barry Pettitt, it was especially nice to see Dan Button who has completed his officer training and will be taking up his first posting I believe in April next year, his dad Mike who I served with and was lost to us a such a young age would have been so proud. My apologies for those I have missed out.
Now the first contentious item of the weekend; I have seen some comments re the buffet including, “was £25 for a ticket well spent” I thought the buffet was excellent and so did those I was sitting with, the cost of the buffet is just one aspect of the cost of the weekend, I did some fact checking and found that we have to pay for the use of the mess and the bar staff, there were only 61 tickets sold this year so hopefully it did not run at a loss, let’s hope the numbers will increase next year.
The weekend is in two distinctly separate parts, the reunion evening and the Remembrance service in Portsmouth Cathedral, this was the 2nd major change of the weekend, a concert band rather than an orchestra, was it a good change, I definitely though so, the power of the Band in such a beautiful venue was superb, the choice of music was just right and it is always nice to hear music that you have never heard before.
However for those of us sat close to the band we felt a little cheated when the PDM recited FOR THE FALLEN by Lawrence Binyon and the names of those fallen were read out as the band played Nimrod, and it doesn’t matter how soft they could play, it still meant we could not hear what was said. I mentioned this to the PDM later in the day and I believe that this will not happen again.
As always the playing of the Last Post and the Dedication Fanfare were superb.
Following the service it was onto the RMA for a couple of hours before we went to watch the second half of the annual Rugby match against Deal, you can tell it is a friendly match as when we arrived one of the band team was just wiping the blood off his face and going out to change his bloodied shirt, the Band service managed a good win 30-10.
After the rugby it back to the Maritime club for a few hours before going for something to eat then back to the club to finish what had been a great weekend off.
My next trip is to Deal with my wife Joan in January for the Sergeants Mess Pantomime, this is the first time we have attended and are looking forward to it, then it will be a weekend in London in March for the Mountbatten, sadly I will not be able to attend the Band concert in Deal in July as we will be celebrating our Golden Wedding that weekend.
As a postscript I want to say why in my opinion the Band Service weekend is so important, when you read comments in the guestbook over the years and look at all the comments in the many Facebook sections relating to the band service you see posts that relate to the death of one of our musical family, people say I was talking to him a few months ago, always meant to go and see him etc. I looked at the In Memory on this site; since the last reunion in 2019 and up until the 2021 reunion 43 ex members of the Band Service have crossed over into our spiritual massed band, and that is the number we know about, the reunion gives all of us the opportunity to say I met with him at the last reunion and we had a great catch up, glad I went.