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

by Michael G. Hutton

Bill had been teaching at the school since he retired from the Royal Marines in the mid 50s and was the Bandmaster to the school band of about 70 boys. This visit was spent with Bill showing me round the school and explaining what my job would entail - mostly teaching all the Brass and helping him to run the band and look after the Wind, Brass and Percussion in the school orchestra. I didn't see or meet any other members of staff or boys as it was during the holidays so made arrangements to visit again in September to have an interview with the Headmaster and Musical Director.

So after that visit Rhoda and I discussed what we were going to do! I could stay in the Royal Marines for another four years and maybe get a five year extension as a Bandmaster, but there was no possibility of any further promotion - but if I left in 68 to take the CH job I would forfeit any pension that I would be entitled to when I was 40. The head office of CH in London had informed me that they would match my present salary and there would be pension rights in the teaching profession and that my two degrees LRAM & ARCM would be accepted as teaching qualifications along with my experience in the band service.

So it was decided that if I was offered the job on my return visit we would accept and start a new career teaching music in leafy Sussex! My interview was firstly with the Headmaster George Seaman who was absolutely charming and very keen for me to come to the school to help Bill who had come in 1954 as assistant to Alf Stagg also from the RM Band Service. George obviously wanted to keep the RM Bandmaster tradition going at CH suggesting that when Bill retired the Bandmaster job would be mine. He offered me the post of assistant with a week to decide. Next I met Malcolm McKelvey the Director of Music who as head of department was responsible for all music in the school. Malcolm and I got on very well - he thought Bill had done a great job over the years, but it was quite obvious that at times they didn't see eye to eye! He was however very interested in my career and intimated that he would be very happy to have Rhoda, Simon & me with a baby on the way at the school.

Back home we decided that the change from the RM to school teaching without having to go to teachers training college, plus the offer of the same salary, pension and free accommodation was too good to refuse, so I wrote to the Headmaster and accepted the post.

Back in Deal I applied for my discharge from the Royal Marines. Rhoda was a couple of months pregnant so we had plenty to organize regarding her health with the baby due the following April and whether to rent out or sell our lovely bungalow in Church Street. Most of my colleagues in the band service thought I was doing the right thing, because at that time in the late 60s many people leaving the services were struggling in the civilian employment market.

The Staff Band in Deal gave me a great send off party in the old concert hall plus a gift of an engraved cigarette box as a parting gift. (Not quite sure what happened to it?) I left the Royal Marines on the 1st November 1968 and we moved to Christ's Hospital during the schools half term. I had had a fantastic time in the Royal Marines Band Service cut short unfortunately, but I did go on to have a wonderful career in music as a teacher, conductor and performer.

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