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

by Michael G. Hutton

As mentioned earlier - our duties at the RNEC were few to start with - consisting of Colours every morning (that's the raising of the national flag at 8am daily) church parades once or twice a month, passing out parades for the officers once a term (similar to the RN College at Dartmouth) and playing for dinners and dances in the 'Great Hall'. Dinner nights with guests, wives or girl friends were infrequent at first, but after some prompting from me to the 1st Lt I managed to get them increased to at least one a week. The Great Hall was an amazing building that could seat the whole college and guests which may be up to 500 plus! There was a minstrels gallery where we would play during dinner and after my drink at the Captains table I would return to the band and perform the after dinner entertainment featuring many of the band in solo items.

This was something I developed over the first two months and encouraged the band members to come up with any ideas as well to add to our repertoire. One particular favourite was the 'Bassoon Song' which I had borrowed from a colleague back in Deal… Zoonie Howarth was my Bassoon player, just fresh from the boys wing and very shy! So I had to teach him this witty act which after lots of practice he mastered and brought the house down with every performance. It went something like this…

'I'm very fond of music and I think it's simply grand, to listen to the instruments of a full orchestral band, the cornet and the piccolo to me are quite a boon, but the instrument I love the most is the good old deep Bassoon…. When it goes. .pom-pom-pom. Sweet and low.. pom-pom-pommmmmm. Oh isn't it lovely pom-pom-pom. And so on. There were four verses and over time we added more to suit whatever occasion we were playing for. Zoonie became quite a hit!

I also used these occasions to advertise via visiting guests from other service establishments what the band could do and this led to my band being hired by the other services RAF and Army. This of course pleased the Captain of the RNEC, kept us quite busy and would mean that the band might become a permanent fixture in Plymouth. In fact the very hour Simon was born in Freedom Fields Hospital Plymouth 3/1/64 I was conducting the band in the Citadel which was part of the Army Barracks on Plymouth Hoe. By Christmas 63 we had a good reputation at the college and the band went from strength to strength. Also combining with the other RM Bands in Plymouth at concerts and social functions in the locality.

Christmas 1963 was the most eventful of our married life so far! Simon was due on Boxing day but as it was Rhoda's first baby she had to spend time in hospital due to some complications. He was very late arriving so she was there for a couple of weeks until the 8th January.

The Band was back at work on the 2nd, but during the Christmas leave period two of the band Ken Kelley and Bill Simpson helped me move house from Hartley Vale to a nice bungalow in Saltash. It was a lovely spot just off the main A 30 and quite high up on a hill side so we had a fantastic view of the Tamar valley from the front of the bungalow. As you know Simon arrived on the 3rd January and although I was not present at the birth (due to band gig!) I was on the scene soon after. The maternity nurse brought him from the bedside to show me and he did look a bit of a mess after Rhoda had had a tough time during the birth plus some marks on his head due to forceps being used. I said to the nurse that he looked in a bit of a mess and she replied 'Do you want me to swap him for an ugly one?'

We moved into our new residence on the 8th January - it was the first time Rhoda had seen the bungalow and for the next year or so it was to be our home. I had a Ford Consul quite a big car at that time, but I had also bought a small scooter for travelling to and from work as it was cheaper to use than the car due to the new Tamar bridge tolls.

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