Vanguard and beyond...........

Graham Hoskins

I watched the Vanguard video with interest yesterday but it will come as no surprise to you that I was not able to recognise anyone. My first draft was to have been to Vanguard but it was changed at the last minute to HMS SHEFFIELD, the ‘shiny Sheff’. I was fortunate really because this meant I was with some exceptional people. Jefferson was the B/M and in the band were Ray Woodfield, Dougie Drake, Ron Champion, et al. Superb musicians they showed example by studying rather than sleeping in the afternoons and from that I learned to do likewise.

I only ever did courses for Band Cpl and Band Sgt. All other educational requirements for my career I did alone at home often using ‘Pop’ Talling and Ken Mettyear as my tutors for theory and aural. You will not find me on any Bandmasters Class pictures. I qualified privately for the LRAM which gave me possibility of promotion in due course.

Actually there is a interesting story from this time. In the late 1950s FVD had decided that it would be a good idea to give some youngsters with possible potential an opportunity to be given a year in which to study for their LRAM Diploma. I was one of the first three young Band Corporals selected. The other two were Terry Williams (bassoon) and Martin Blogg (cornet/violin). We were told to position ourselves in part of the theory rooms next to the room in which the Bandmasters Class of senior Band Sergeants were ensconced for their year of organised and intense study. As you can imagine, we three upstarts in the next room were highly unpopular for any success we gained would likely interfere with their promotions to the rank of Bandmaster - an LRAM being recognised as a superior qualification. We three received no instruction throughout the year although Ernie Stride kindly cast an eye over any harmony papers we individually produced. At the end of the twelve month’s of isolated endeavour FVD, out of the blue, told us that we three would have to sit the Examination for Bandmaster together with the Class in the next room. Subjects for LRAM & B/M differ and remember we had not had the benefit of any tutorials. The result was that Terry Williams and I failed the B/M’s exam whilst Martin Blogg passed. He was a recognised academic and swiftly left the Corps to obtain a Doctorate at Cambridge University where he remains welcomed as a ‘Visiting Scholar’ to this day. In those times only one chance to sit the exam was permitted and there were no retakes. Although promoted to Band Sergeant I was drafted, tail twixt legs, to HMS HERMES my hoped for career seemingly in ruins.

Three months into the commission the Bandmaster was dismissed the Ship for reasons I won’t go into and the Captain, W D O’Brien, insisted that I took the Bandmaster’s place rather than a replacement B/M being sent to the ship. I carried the Acting rank for the rest of the commission and upon this good fortune my eventual extended career was based. Captain O’Brien went on to become Admiral of the Fleet Sir William O’Brien and in later years when I was PDM our paths often crossed again in a professional capacity. Hey ho!

With warm regards. Graham.

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