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

by Michael G. Hutton

Two other trips that year were of note. We visited Hong-Kong just after the feature film 'Love is a Many Splendoured Thing' had been made with William Holden and Jennifer Jones. Hong Kong was still a British Colony, full of Europeans mostly from the UK as well as the local Chinese. We took in all the local popular sights including the 'Suzy Wong' bar that was featured in the aforementioned film.

We managed to get some cricket and hockey played during our stay, mostly hockey against some of the RAF and Army teams in the area. The Terror Band had arrived in Hong Kong on another ship so we got together for musical activities and again I did a bit of guest Drum Majoring for displays on the Albion, at the Governors residence and at the main cricket ground.

I also met up with Rhoda's eldest brother Billy, his wife Fanny and daughter Rita. They entertained and showed me around the mainland Kowloon side for a couple of days and it must have been the only time in my life that I drank Gin, as both Billy and Fanny were very keen on the stuff. Billy at that time was the Colonel of the REME stationed in Hong-Kong and he showed me round his regimental camp which was very close to the communist Chinese border. I had a drive in one of his regiments tanks and managed to knock down a wall that was part of a toilet block - driving a tank is no easy task- your right hand and left foot control the left tracks; left hand and right foot the right tracks!!! It's a bit like tapping your head and rubbing your tummy, anyway it was great fun.

On from HK to the Phillipines including Manila and more important the American base at Subic Bay where we were played into the harbour by the local Fire-Brigade Band conducted by a six foot four American ex Marine musician who after we had met invited me to conduct at a concert a week later. The band performed their whole repertoire without music (apart from at rehearsal of course) so as I was to conduct the Overture 'Poet & Peasant' and a selection from 'West Side Story' I had to do the same!

I managed to get some golf in while at Subic Bay as the yanks had of course built their own golf course close to the Naval Base. My first encounter on the golf course was with the ships team against the US Officers club and my first opponent, a Captain in the US Marine Corps casually asked me on the first tee what was my handicap? I told him "about 14" he replied "well I usually shoot about a 64!" I thought to myself I'm in for a thrashing here! Then he added with a smile " on the first couple of holes" !!! We had a great game and I think the final score was all square.

All the Americans we came across during our time in the far east were friendly, very hospitable and genuine. I was to meet up again with many of them in the future when Bandmaster of the Staff Band in Deal on our tours of the USA.

After the Philippines it was back to Singapore - then more naval exercises. We set sail for the UK in mid November calling at Trincomalee and Columbo in Ceylon on route, more flying exercises etc; but I did manage to get the band together occasionally for some practice and concerts in the hanger for the ships company. Short stops in Mombassa, Aden and Gibraltar and a very stormy crossing of the Bay of Biscay brought us back into Portsmouth on 17th December 1960. My days as a volunteer band instructor were over!

It was great to be home for Christmas and Rhoda and I spent a couple of weeks together at 24 Odo Road Dover over the festivities period with all the Hockings in and out of the house most of the time.

Early in the new year it was back to duty at the RMSM in Deal where we moved into a married quarter number 10 Freemans Way - some newly built houses and flats specially for the Royal Marines Depot. After my year away I was particularly excited to have been selected for the 1961 Bandmasters Promotion Class. This meant a whole year of study in Deal without the worry of being moved on or drafted to another ship or shore establishment. There were eleven of us in the class and our year would be taken up with intense theory, harmony, composition, arranging, history and musical interpretation courses and final examinations. Also conducting at the winter and summer concerts established by Vivian Dunn held throughout the year either in the concert hall or on the bandstand specially built in South Barracks for summer events or the bandstand on Deal sea-front. I was the youngest in the class at 27 but all the other guys were known to me and were only 2 or 3 years older.

Previous | Home | Next
Richard Valentine -1996 - 2010 © - All rights reserved