My Life in the Royal Marines Band Service - Circa 1947-1968

by Michael G. Hutton

Most of the band returned to the UK after two years or more and we all went our separate ways, some of them I've never seen since. Having passed the promotion courses in Malta I was promoted to full Corporal and drafted into the Staff Band of the School of Music in Deal where I met for the first time Lt Col Vivian Dunn who had become the principal Director of Music RM. Little did I realize at that time that 10 years hence I would end up as Bandmaster of that premier band in the Royal Marines.

February 1954 - Deal parade every morning in the freezing cold at 7.30 am when valves and Trombone slides would freeze up and woodwind players fingers would be frozen to the keys was very different to the warm sunlit days in Malta!

The Staff Band duties were many and varied over the next three and a half years and during that time I was involved in more musical activities in and around Kent as well as my RM duties in barracks. There had been a momentous change at the School of Music in the couple of years that I had been away which culminated in the arrival of Col Vivian Dunn in Deal. He had been the Musical Director of the Royal Yacht Band based in Portsmouth for many years (a position that his father had purchased for him in the late 30s) and that band along with the Plymouth and Chatham Divisional Bands had been run by private subscriptions and were not part of the RMSM even though they wore a similar uniform.

That all changed in 1953/4 when all RM Bands became part of the Royal Marines School of Music at Deal with Col Dunn as it's Principal Director of Music. It meant that we were all administered from the Depot in Deal and anyone within the school and including the three divisional bands could be sent to any band throughout the world.

Our duties in the Staff Band covered a vast range of activities including the Depot parades every day for recruits training. There were over five hundred of them under instruction most of the time as the Depot was where they joined up and received their initial training. There were church parades most Sundays - Band on the march then Orchestra in church. Then once a month the whole parade would march down the strand, on to the sea front, turn left by the Regent Cinema and back through the main street along the strand again and in through South Barracks gates. I can tell you that was quite a hike! The only one that could beat that was Winton Churchill's Funeral when we marched and played for three hours.

Since I had been away in Malta the boys wing had moved their accommodation into a new building in North Barracks which was shared with the RM recruits, also a brand new dining hall complex which catered for all, leaving East Barracks just for training and teaching boy musicians. This was all opened by the Queen Mother in the early 50s.

Orchestral concerts were held every week in our own concert hall run by the PDM for his benefit and so that promotion classes would get experience conducting the orchestra. These were very popular with the staff and by the local community who would fight for tickets! Recordings at EMI studios in Maida Vale London and broadcasts on the BBC for 'Listen to the Band,' 'Marching and Waltzing' and 'Friday Night is Music Night' were very frequent. I also remember in those couple of years performing at two Royal Tournaments and two Edinburgh Tattoo's. We also embarked on a two week tour of Canada performing concerts in Toronto, Montreal, London Ontario and Vancouver.

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