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

by Michael G. Hutton

Hockey was the main sport for me at that time. I suppose it's similar to cricket in many ways and in the not too distant future I would captain the RM Corps team. With all the ceremonial and official concerts over the last big event of the year was the boy's pantomime in which I was persuaded to take part as one of the leading ladies! I don't remember any more than that.

Just a few things I've not mentioned about that first year in the Royal Marines. We got paid! On joining the pay was 14 shillings a fort-night or one shilling a day and we all had to sign to serve for twelve years to start from the age of 18 when we would have completed our training. For me it was my second time at earning money as I had had a paper round 7 days a week and a part time job at weekends delivering sand and cement in a push type cart during the latter part of 1945 and most of 46, but the pay for that was not very much. Of my 14/- I sent half home to mum and dad to help them and pay my way in the family.

The Royal Naval School of Music was formed in 1903 and was part of the corps of Royal Marines who were under the jurisdiction of the Royal Navy. Their role was to provide Bands & Orchestras of trained musicians for ceremonial occasions and entertainment for the Royal Navy & Royal Marines world wide. From after the war and certainly for the next 10 to 20 years the Royal Navy had many large ships for example Cruisers, Aircraft Carriers and even one Battleship and most of them had a Royal Marines Band. There were also RM Bands stationed in South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malta and most Naval establishments throughout the UK. During that first year of my RM career there were many RM bandsmen moving around the globe from ship to ship performing what we were all being trained for.

January 1950. This was a major event. The whole school of music was moving to Deal in Kent and it meant that all instruments and kit were going by road transport and the boys company was to travel by train. This happened without any problems as far as I remember. We were in blue uniforms and greatcoats as the weather was quite cold! Oxford to Paddington then buses to Charing Cross where we boarded the train to Deal. We were met at Deal station by the Commanding Officer and the Depot Royal Marines Band. Then the whole boys wing of the RNSM marched behind the band to East Barracks which was to be our home for the foreseeable future. I think the people of Deal were astonished at what they saw! They were certainly used to seeing marines because the Depot at that time was where all the Royal Marines (Bootnecks) joined up, but to see 300 odd band - boys marching through the town must have been quite a sight.

My home for the next 18 months was to be East Barracks where the new school would be housed for the next 40 odd years. East Barracks was originally built during the Napoleonic wars as a hospital for the wounded troops returning from Europe. The Royal Marines had been in Deal since the 1860s. South Barracks was where all the administrative offices were, the Officers Mess, Sergeants Mess, large gymnasium and playing fields plus the Depot Church. North Barracks was where all the Royal Marines recruits lived and trained and later in the 50s it would also accommodate band boys when a new large accommodation block and dining hall were built and opened by the Queen Mother.

Now back to our arrival at East Barracks! What a difference to our life back in Burford! This very large building was to house the whole of the boys wing of the school - there were large rooms where we lived with beds and cupboards for our belongings and where we also had our music lessons. The Euphonium & Cello class was at the top of P Block - if you ever get the chance to look at East Barracks (now made into luxury homes) it was top floor, left hand corner, six windows in. There was a main dining area with a galley for cooking all the food just across the parade ground at the back of the barracks and a communal washing area which was a sort of half round building behind the main block. We had our own canteen, concert hall, administrative offices, musical instrument store and work shops all within East Barracks so it was very self contained. Whenever we had to go to either of the other barracks for gym or sport or band duties with the senior ranks - we were marched from A to B and back again.

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