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

by Michael G. Hutton

We all got on very well with Sir Malcolm even though he was a hard task master and spent many hours getting the standard of playing to a high level. We were to meet up some years later when I was a student of his at the Royal Academy of Music. One very humorous incident during rehearsals was when one of the band arrived with the wrong cornet case! (he was the band barber who kept his barbering gear in a spare instrument case) and on the day in question explained to Sir Malcolm that he couldn't play but would give him a short back and sides if required! This was Polly Perkins one of our Solo Cornet players who had joined the band since our arrival in Malta when our best cornet player Jim Beach had transferred to the Cdo Band.

There was also a Trooping of the Colour ceremony in Valetta in which all Royal Marines and Bands on the island took part, the presenting officer was HRH Prince Phillip. He was a Commander in the Royal Navy in Malta at the time, again accompanied by Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Many of the band by this time had their wives and families in Malta and Eric Lee (Cnt & Vln), Barry Brunt (Cnt & Vln), Les Carmody (Basses) Bonk Woods (Cnt & Vln), and Dave Morris (Viola & Sax) were always inviting us single guys to their homes for meals and parties in between the hard work of keeping all the forces in Malta entertained. Most of us made our own entertainment when not on duty. I was lucky to be invited to conduct the Malta National Band during my two years on the island. It started when a couple of us were asked to play with them in Mosta church one weekend and the conductor fell ill during the rehearsal and no one seemed able to take his place so I offered and got the job for that concert and a few more that followed later in the year.

One amazing fact about the Maltese Band was that they had complete operas that had been arranged for Military Band and they were all hand written. It must have been that experience that first started my love of opera and also during one of our trips to Naples Dennis and I went to our first opera, 'Madame Butterfly' Some of the band were also members of the 'Under 21 Club' based in Valetta where we could go and meet civilian people who worked on the island including English and Maltese girls rather than just service people. I actually had a Maltese girl friend for a while, she and I used to run the club table tennis club.

I must mention the wonderful comradeship we all had in those far off days. The spirit of friendship was always apparent when daily tasks were often difficult serving on one of HM Ships. Many bands on ships in the Med Fleet made their way back to the UK for the Spithead Review in 1953 which was followed by a massive massed bands display on Southsea Common. When we returned to Malta there was time for some of us to join in promotion courses when we were all made Lance Cpls. There are photographs of some of the events in the next pages.

Two of the band met and married during our commission. Jim Mason and Alice who was a nurse at the Naval Hospital and John Stone and Maureen who was the daughter of a Chief Petty Officer on the island. All the band attended both weddings and these memories remain I'm sure with all of us. A few more names to mention of Glasgow fame; Les Keel (Piano), Ken Kelley (Solo Clt), Joe Crowther (Solo Cnt), Gerry Golding (Trombone), Dick Hawkins (Basses) Gammy Aylett (Saxes & Vln) and Ted Perkins (Saxes & Vln). They were a great bunch of guys who I will always remember with much affection.

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