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

by Michael G. Hutton

In July I was informed that I would have my first job as Bandmaster of a ships band to be formed in August and join HMS ? In September. The reason for the question mark was - the admiralty were not sure which HM Ship it would be as during that period there were many cut-backs in Naval spending and the ship we were due to join may be moth-balled!

The band was duly formed on 1st August and we went into training and rehearsals with a completion date set for 1st September. I was informed during band training that the sea going ship would be no more! My band would be joining HMS Thunderer - the Royal Naval Engineering College in Manadon Plymouth on 21st September. Great news - we were not going to sea - but would establish a new post in the west country where they had never had a RM band before. All the band were very excited at the prospect of going to Plymouth particularly the married men, including myself, as it meant all wives and families would be together. Rhoda was quite pleased as well because by September she was just six months pregnant! We were expecting our first child in December.

I went to Plymouth for a few days to meet the Captain, executive officer and Lt Peter Whelan who was to be the band officer and assist me in all internal matters regarding the new arrivals. They were all very helpful and keen to have the band there. The Captain was quite excited because whenever the band performed in the area it would be by kind permission of Captain Ridley RN. That was the protocol.

I also visited the other bands in Plymouth at that time - Captain Leo Arnold had the divisional band at Stonehouse Barracks, Lt Ray Woodfield in HMS Drake and Bandmaster Bob Ellis was at HMS Raleigh so there were many RM Bands in the area I could call on for assistance if need be. The college at Manadon was of course just for engineering officers and there were over 300 guys there who were being trained to run the Royal Navy's ships.

I had to organize the band accommodation, music and instrument storage, practice space and my office of course which was quite a daunting task at a new establishment, but I had lots of help from Peter Whelan and the college staff and it was all sorted by the time I returned to Deal. I had also been told back at the RMSM that this post would probably be only a temporary appointment as the limited amount of work within the college didn't really warrant a RM band. I was however quite determined to make it a permanent post. The Band performed well on our passing out parade plus concerts both as orchestra, military band and dance band in the Globe Theatre. I sent Sgt Fred Stagg and Cpl Johnson ahead to Plymouth to make sure all was prepared for our arrival and the new HMS Thunderer RM Band joined our new establishment on 21st September 1963.

While in Plymouth on my reconnaissance trip I had organized rented accommodation for Rhoda and myself quite close to the College. It was in Hartley Vale just behind the 'Golden Hind' pub which was to become the band's local. Most of the married quarters were in that area or in Mutley Plane just a couple of miles further into Plymouth. One of the band however decided to live near Oakhampton which happened to be a few miles in the opposite direction - that was the Euph & 'Cello player Bob Chumley who has remained a good friend for many years and who now helps to organize our reunions in Australia.

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