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

by Michael G. Hutton

During our year or so away most of the Band were writing to parents, wives or girl friends so the mail was a very important part of daily life when you are so far from home. (No mobile phones or emails in those days!) There was a very good postal system for all HM Forces serving around the world and always mail waiting for us at whatever destination we were due. Rhoda and I were writing to each other two or three times a week, there was always plenty of news to write about and I was kept informed of wedding plans being organized way back in Dover.

Next stop a whirlwind tour of costal India with visitations by many local dignitaries involving the Band at every port. You have to realise that it was only ten years since India had become independent after 200 years of being ruled by and part of the British Empire. So our visits were very important to the UK government who were trying to keep on good terms with the Indian and Pakistan rulers. Also helping their defence forces by selling arms and warships and assisting in the training of their servicemen especially the Navy. That was one of the reasons why there were so many Naval exercises during that year.

First port of call was Madras…I remember it with affection as my only claim to fame on the cricket field. Whilst in Madras (now called Chennac) I played for the Royal Navy eleven against the Indian Navy in a two day match making a score of 91 not out in a score of 320 for 6 declared. Then took 4 wickets in their first innings and 2 in their second, giving us a victory by an innings and 40 odd runs. I wish I'd kept the scorecard!!!! This was one of four matches we played in India. The others were in Vizagapatam, Calcutta and finally a club match in Bombay against a European side of Brit's working in India.

When in Calcutta after many Band engagements we were given a tour of the historical sites including the infamous 'Black Hole' (you can check your own history books for information on Clive of India etc;) We were also invited to spend a day on an Indian Navy Training Ship for young officers which included climbing to the top of the main mast which was a bit frightening and having to eat the hottest curry I'd ever had.

Unlike my first two and half years in Malta where most of the single guys had a girl in every port on our travels around the Med - this part of the world was very different. We were all advised not to get involved with the locals as venereal diseases were rife on the Indian continent which was always a problem when abroad. In fact the Band/Sgt was sent home when we returned to Aden as he was one of the unlucky ones, but it did lead to me being promoted to acting Sergeant. After India it was back to Trincomalee for big Naval exercises with all the local Navy's and more sport including cricket, hockey and water polo. The Band hockey team played against the Pakistan Navy side and we did manage to score 1 goal to their 14! They were mostly the Olympic side at the time.

After 'Jet' exercises and a farewell parade in Trincomalee we set sail for the East African coast via a very small South Indian Ocean island called Rodrigues (not on map, a British protectorate where there was a very important wireless station) and we crossed the equator en route to Africa. Stops at Mauritius and the Seychelles where snorkeling was very popular, then on to Dar-es-Salaam and Zanzibar before our final African port of Mombassa.

Our tour of these countries was diplomatic in that we were showing the flag with visits to Heads of State, Sultans and Presidents to help keep good relations between them and the UK. The area formally known as the East Indies Station would now become the responsibility of the joint Navy's of India.


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