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

by Michael G. Hutton

I was the Musical Director again that year which would be my last in the pit as the following panto featured me as 'Long John Silver' in Treasure Island my one and only venture on the stage. It was remembered by many of the cast as the time that Simon at the ripe old age of four stood up in the circle on my first entrance, when as the villain of the show everybody booed, and shouted in his loudest voice….'don't you boo! That's my dad!'

The panto's were quite famous throughout the country and was always sold out well in advance of the first night. We frequently had celebrities from show business in London who came to the 'Globe Theatre' to enjoy our shows. Tommy Steele, Terry Thomas, Kenneth More, Roger Moore and Hattie Jaques were regular visitors to name just a few, but there were many others including writers and producers who wanted to take 'Treasure Island' the 67 pantomime to London. That of course was never possible as all of us in the cast and orchestra had our normal day duties to perform throughout the three week run.

Rhoda and I had worked hard on the bungalow and it was really looking nice so we had visits from family and friends as well as our social life in the Sergeants Mess. The year was very busy as I was Vivian Dunn's right hand man so to speak and found myself doing most of the rehearsals for orchestral and bandstand jobs. We had a short tour to the USA and Canada again, the Royal Tournament at Earls Court, White City and Edinburgh Tattoo's, two or three LPs at EMI studios, more BBC engagements and frequent band and orchestral concerts in Deal, Margate, Folkestone, Hastings, Brighton and Bexhill.

Because we were so busy there was not much free time in my job as I always seemed to be required by the boss to be doing more than my fair share for the band service. I didn't complain as in the near future was expecting a promotion to officer status. However there was one more examination to take, that being a current affairs exam in the early part of 1968. The subject being 'Vietnam'.

During the early part of that year we had an American Marine Officer staying in the barracks recuperating after being wounded in Vietnam. He and I spent many hours together discussing the war situation there and composing an essay that I would know by heart ready to write on my exam day in June. The education officer in the school part of the barracks was also a great help in assisting me to take that final test.

We're now well into 1968 and life at home is great - Simon is growing up and about to start school at the local primary just at the end of Church Street. Unfortunately the year will bring great disappointment to me and our family!

Once again life in the barracks was never dull and the band was just as busy as ever which meant I was up to my neck in everything. It was also to be Colonel Vivian Dunn's last year as he was due to retire after over forty years service in the Royal Marines and fifteen as Principal Director of Music. How's that for holding up promotion! I duly took the final current affairs exam in May and would be looking forward to the results due sometime in July.

My two great friends Ben Finney and Terry Freestone were promoted to Officer rank earlier in the year as they were a couple of years senior to me so needed to have their promotion before the age limit for non commissioned to commissioned officers. July arrived and I was sent for by the Commanding Officer and told that I had failed the exam and therefore would not be able to further my career as an Officer even though I was qualified as a Director of Music.

It was a devastating blow. Vivian Dunn, the Education Officer and all the School of Music Officers couldn't believe it, as it had been expected that I would join Ben and Terry by the end of the year with my commission.

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