In Memoriam
RMB/X 529 Band Sergeant Clement Charlie Dibley

Charlie was born in the tiny village of Westbourne just inside the Sussex border with Hampshire, not far from Havant, on 30 September 1918. Ten years later his mother died, and he was separated from his brother and they were brought up by separate relatives.

In 1933 aged 14½ he applied to join the Royal Navy and was "guided" into the Royal Naval School of Music, where he was attested at Eastney Barracks and on a train the next day for Deal, where he commenced his service as a Clarinet & Violin on 1 February 1933.

After 3½ years training, where he loved the excellent sports facilities, he was ready for sea and embarked with a band in the 8-inch County class cruiser Devonshire under Bandmaster Harvey.

This commission was in the Mediterranean Fleet, normally a quiet peace-time sojourn; however just at this time- 1936- the Spanish civil war broke out, and while Great Britain was not directly involved, units of the fleet were at times employed in operating blockades, and in assisting British nationals and refugees caught up in the fighting, which led at one time to Devonshire getting bombed in Barcelona.

Back in Malta, Charlie continued to take a full part in most sports, especially swimming, water-polo and soccer.
Just as the commission ended after the usual 2½ years away in May 1939, the imminent war decided Drafting to transfer the entire ship`s company to a same-class cruiser Norfolk for the Home Fleet, where Charlie was to spend the next 3½ years.

This at least gave him shore opportunities and leave in England and it was on such a spell of leave that he met Joyce at her 21st birthday party in 1942 and they were married in October of that year.
These early war years were gruelling times, with the band watch-on watch-off in the TS deep down below, the ship being on convoy escort duties, interspersed with other critical incidents such as the chase and sinking, together with other Home Fleet ships, of Bismarck.

Promotion to Temporary Band Corporal in May 1941 was confirmed, in March 1942.
Long months on Russian convoy duties through the Arctic, then another Fleet action, this time against against Scharnhorst which led to more damage requiring Norfolk`s refit.

In 1943 Chas had a much needed spell ashore when he was a musical instructor at the Junior Wing at Howstrake Camp, Isle of Man until February 1945 when he joined Belfast for the Far East Fleet. After hostilities finally ceased against Japan in August 45, like most other ships they were employed for some months in repatriating PoWs who had suffered so terribly from the bestial treatment by their Japanese captors.
In October 1946 the band transferred on station to HMS Bermuda, another cruiser where on 1 March 1947 Charlie found himself promoted to Bandmaster 2nd Class.

Returning in June 1947 to RNSM, by now at Burford, he was drafted as a Volunteer Band Instructor to HMS Ariel at Worthy Down, Hants. It was during this spell that the rank of BMr 2 was discontinued and all holding the rank converted to the new rank of Band Sergeant; naturally all such holders feeling a distinct loss of standing and prestige.

Charlie`s time was rapidly approaching for either re-engagement for pension or discharge, and it was in common with many of his generation that they probably felt that the fact that they had survived, where many of their pre-war former Band Boy colleagues were in a watery grave, meant they ought to put their wives and families first, and take up "civvy street". So Charlie`s last months were spent in RNSM before he was finally drafted in late 1948 to RM Barracks Chatham for discharge.

In civil life Charlie settled in North Street, Deal with Joyce where they raised a son and daughter, Bob & Angela, and Chas was employed as manager of the Deal Council`s Astor Hall in Stanhope Road. For relaxation he played in an orchestra at Folkestone; he also did gigs on Alto sax in the Lido dance band from Sandwich, where this present writer shared many a Jimmy Lally number.

In the late 1950s he was employed at Pfizers, the pharmaceutical firm at Sandwich where he worked until retirement in 1975. He was also a very dedicated freemason, being initiated into Globe & Laurel Lodge No 4657 Deal, progressing to Worshipful Master and later a very respected Director of Ceremonies of the Lodge. He enjoyed over 50 years in the fraternity.

His earlier sporting exploits had, with the years, become more sedate and he took up bowls and gained county honours for Kent.

Charlie had a long, eventful and full life that he would have been the first to say had been thoroughly interesting. He lived to the age of 93 and always remembered his years in the Band Service with great pride and affection.

Terry Freestone

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