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

by Michael G. Hutton

Our first six months with Simon were quite traumatic. He was unable to keep any food or milk down and was continually throwing up and both of us must have got through a couple of dressing gowns before he eventually settled down. One evening in Feb/March when it was particularly cold we had put Simon to bed (his room was at the front of the bungalow) and because it was freezing we put a paraffin heater on in his room - fortunately I looked in on him after about half an hour and found the whole room full of smoke and some of the wallpaper smoldering! A few more minutes and the place could have been alight! It didn't seem to have any effect on Simon, he was well wrapped up, still fast asleep and obviously it had not troubled him at all. It was one of those very old heaters where you have to adjust the flame to a blue colour! Which I'm sure I did, but when I entered the room the flame was bright yellow. We never used it again. I had to clean and re-decorate so it was a few weeks before he was back in his own bedroom.

We did however get to see a lot of Cornwall at weekends when I was free by just getting in the car and travelling around the county visiting as many places as possible. One of our favourites was Tintagel so we went there on numerous occasions even though I had uttered the dreaded words in the souvenir shop that 'King Arthur' was never in Cornwall! We even repeated the trip one weekend when Terry Freestone (a buddy from the Bandmasters class of 61) who at the time was Bandmaster on HMS Lion visiting Plymouth, came to stay for a few days.

I also played hockey for Saltash and on away matches Rhoda and Simon came to support the team even sometimes as far as Penzance. I was also picked to play for the county side on a couple of occasions in Bodmin against Devon and Somerset. Eileen, Alf and the boys Raymond, David and Stephen came from Pinner to visit one weekend when I was playing in Newquay so we had lots of support for the match and a real family gathering.

Meanwhile back at the RNEC engagements were coming in thick and fast and the band was getting a good name in the area and over that first full year I think we established a firm footing and my hopes were that the RM Band would become a permanent fixture at the college. There were many comings and goings with members of the band being drafted to and fro for promotion courses or moved to other RM Bands. There were two marriages and two or three other babies born that year and amongst the band we had a really good family atmosphere as pictures show.

The band became regular performers at many clubs and societies in the locality including Yacht Clubs in Fowey, Looe, Falmouth and Exmouth where we would play for formal occasions on the bandstand or dinner - dances with a big-band or small combo. I took on the job of Musical Director to a couple of Operatic Societies one in Saltash the other in St Budeaux across the Tamar where they were performing 'Pirates of Penzance' and 'Perchance to Dream' respectively plus conducting a local choral group in Newton-Abbott in a production of 'Faure's Requiem' and just before Christmas 'The Messiah'.

One trip worth a mention was when I took the band to Scotland to perform at Faslane Navy Days as both RM Bands in that region were engaged in London at the Royal Tournament. We travelled by coach (no motorways in those days!) with an organized overnight stop-over at Fullwood Barracks near Preston in Lancashire the home of the Army in that area. On our arrival at about 9pm the duty officer didn't know anything about us - and as I had previously spent many hours on the phone and various letters between them and us! I was rather concerned at their lack of knowledge of our arrival. Eventually someone did find the quarters that had been allocated for our use and when I discovered that it was not fit for pigs to live in I told the duty officer, having checked with my Commanding Officer by phone back at the RNEC that we would not accept their accommodation but would stay in a local hotel and send them the bill! So off we went to Blackpool - found a decent hotel - stayed the night then continued the journey to Scotland the following morning. The Navy days went well and on our return to Plymouth, this time no stop-over, I had to explain in more detail to the Captain at RNEC exactly what had happened. He in turn wrote to the CO of the Army Barracks fully backing my decision.

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