Name list to come
The 2008 RM Band Reunion
by Dave Seed
Please forward any of your own collection from the weekend.

David SeedHow soon a year passes from one reunion to another, not sure if it is a good thing as with each passing year we all get that little older and sadly our retired ranks diminish. However, I am sure that those that have passed over to our great massed bands would not want us to mourn our loss but to celebrate their lives in the only way we know how, an abundance of amusing stories, fond memories of times gone past, oh and yes I nearly forgot, copious amounts of alcohol.

I had heard rumours that the numbers this year had increased considerably from those of previous years (100th anniversary excluded) and how pleasing to see that the rumours were not exaggerated, not sure of the exact turnout but it did make getting to the bar difficult.

The evening started off well with the usual "tot" and then after a quick drink at the bar it was into the drill shed (*) for the Beat Retreat, once again the band were outstanding, they seem to get better as each year goes by, just to highlight how good these musicians really are the PDM informed the gathering that some of those on parade had only been in the service for just over a year.

This is the 80th anniversary of the dedication of the silver fanfare trumpets and after the Beat Retreat the PDM was pleased to introduce 8 members of the band service who were present at their dedication.

Sadly the Band service has had two deaths in service over the past year, Major John Kelly and B/Cpl Andy Thompson; the PDM told the gathering of the brave fight both put up before succumbing to their respective illnesses, one forgets that we can also lose serving friends other than in conflict, our thoughts go with their families as with all those families whose loved ones have also passed over the bar in the past year.

This was Chris Davies' last reunion as PDM and he told the audience that it had been a trying time over the past few years with the armed forces review body trying to reduce the band service in numbers, he told us that when he took over as PDM he had 347 serving musicians, (I think that was the number he gave us) to stave off cuts the band service has seen a deployment in Cyprus, and at the time of the reunion the band service had a complement in Afghanistan, they would be there until January and then would be replaced with a second group of musicians, he told us that this was the only way forward and that we needed to make ourselves indispensable and value for money, it was with pride that he told us that when he leaves the service the number of serving musicians would be the same as when he started the job; well done Chris you have all our thanks and best wishes for the future.

After the show it was all hands to the pumps (do they still serve beer by hand) and to start the long evening of mixed memories, both funny and sad stories, a glass raised to absent friends and meet up with friends that you have not seen for many years, it would be unfair to name those who I saw after many years absence for fear of disappointing the ones I missed out, however, I cannot write this without naming two special absent friends, Sid Sheard, who is always the life and soul of the party, and Tony Oliver, Sid hope the operation went well and Tony, who in their right mind organises a holiday at the same time as the reunion!

Not sure at what time the last people left the bar I believe I managed 1 am knowing it would be a long day on Sunday.

Once again there was a good gathering at the Cathedral for the remembrance service, a nice programme of Vaughan Williams preceded the service and as always the orchestra was well received by the congregation, the dedication fanfare was a little more poignant being the 80th anniversary and was played with great aplomb. There are times, when in a piece of music an individual musician shines, (additional to the wonderful violin solo from Andy McKinnon) I have never heard the Toccata from Vaughan Williams 8th Symphony before and was mesmerised by the musician playing the Tubular Bells (I believe his name was Dave Prentice) never before have I seen this instrument played with such gusto (and it was obvious by his smile with a lot of fun) at first I thought it was just me but after speaking with a number of people after the service they all felt the same.

Following the service a small gathering in the Sally Port were in attendance when Paddy Semple made a presentation to Chris Davies of a painting of the massed bands on Horse Guards Parade. It was then off to the usual watering holes prior to the rugby match to be played between the Band Service and Deal Wanderers.

This was a re-introduction of an annual game played in memory of those that lost their lives in the Deal bombing, a number of whom played for Deal, after a hard fought game played in a sporting and friendly manner the Band Service came out on top, Deal however have promised a much harder fight next year.

After the game; and as always a number of both retired and serving members retired to Wetherspoons, to complete the weekend festivities and more importantly look to next year.

I can't finish without saying thank you and well done to Bandmaster Ashley Williams, in organising his first reunion, he has continued the high standard set by Tommy Lawton over the past few years

I hope those who attended the reunion for the first time, and those who came back after a number of years absence had a great time and that we will see them again next year.

* My warm thanks for a piece so well written and with no editing necessary. An amusing anecdote if I may. Of course Dave must have been thinking of the Deal days with the drill shed and I know we all loved it. Now demolished. I'm sure we can recall so many instances and ..............ahhhhhhhh just recall on rainy days how we would parade inside. How could one have any affection for those days? Yet, if you care to just sit and think, in silence, of those days, it is easy to recall the atmosphere. Benches surrounding the interior. The size of the structure for a young boy entrant was intimidating enough. Well, Dave meant the gymnasium at Nelson but we can forgive him the affectation toward a previous era. Humbly.

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Dickie Valentine.

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