John M Satchwell RM 1938-2023
Corps Bugle Major
RM 19457
Served 1953-1978

John Michael Satchwell was born on Monday 24th January 1938 in Newcastle Upon Tyne. He didn’t know his father, so took his mother’s surname, Vera Satchwell was an unmarried single mother, which was disapproved of in those days and as a consequence, his grandmother took him as a baby to be raised in Yorkshire. He returned to live with his mother some years later.

At fifteen years old, young John’s attention was drawn to an advert in the newspaper advertising positions vacant for boys to enlist in the Royal Marines… an advert that was to have a profound impact on his life ahead… he applied and was accepted. On 20th March 1953, he boarded the train for Deal, his mother went to wave him off at the railway station, to say goodbye… he didn't turn around to acknowledge her, he just went straight through without a backward glance, something he later regretted.
Like many young recruits at the Royal Marines School of Music in the fifties, Boy Bugler Satchwell found the treatment during training very hostile, however he was resilient and he overcame any obstacles in his way to pass out as a member of No 14 Commandant General’s Squad. Exactly seventeen months since joining up, he was assigned his first posting as a trained rank and his first taste of the West Country with a five-month draft to the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Plymouth at HMS Drake. He then moved on to the Royal Marines Band Portsmouth Group, based at Eastney Barracks for a short stay in February 1955. His first overseas post was to the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Mediterranean Fleet, stationed in the warmer climes at HMS Phoenicia in Malta. He returned to the UK at the beginning of 1956 and back to the Depot.

Bugler Satchwell was still only seventeen when he was afforded a place on the JNCO’s Course at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) at Lympstone. He did reasonably well, however the instructors didn’t pass him as they thought he was too young and suggested he return and do the course again the following year… they passed him the second time round with good results. He travelled to and fro, from Deal to Plymouth at regular intervals during his next five years. Satch was promoted to Cpl Bugler in May 1961, where he spent time as an instructor at the Royal Marines School of Music. It was while he was in Deal that he met the very attractive young Margaret from nearby Sandwich, she and John developed a relationship which blossomed. He was then bestowed with a two-and-a-half-year draft to Buckingham Palace, where he joined as an orderly on HRH The Duke of Edinburgh's staff. The couple became the proud parents of a daughter Debbie, who was born in the capital in 1963, before John and Margaret (Pevy) married on 24th March 1964 in Wood Green, London.

Following his Royal duties, Cpl Bugler Satchwell’s normal service resumed once again at Eastney for six months, before he was drafted to 45 Commando Royal Marines in November 1964 during the Aden Emergency. At this time, the unit was engaged in combat operations against the dissidents in the Radfan, which was close to the Yemen border. He was later assigned the role of Ammunition Resupply NCO, normally the role of a Sergeant, for which he was promoted on New Year’s Day 1965 in order to occupy this key position. For his services in Aden, Sgt Bugler Satchwell was awarded the General Service Medal and Clasp for South Arabia. On completion of his twelve-months commission in Aden, John returned to the ITC to take part in the SNCO’s course, he achieved a pass with sterling results. Sgt Bugler Satchwell qualified for and was appointed as Drum Major of the Royal Marines Band CinC Plymouth. He served there for a couple of spells after relieving the departing Drum Major Joe Fairclough. In February 1968, the Satchwell family was completed with the birth of Graham in Plymouth, before he was drafted back down the road to the ITC, then back once again to HMS Drake to resume his role as Drum Major. John was promoted further to CSgt Bugler and awarded his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1971, before heading back to Kent and where it all began at Deal. John was thereafter promoted to QMS Bugler in January 1972, and he reached the pinnacle of his career when he was selected to relieve Tony Ormond-Dobbin as Corps Bugle Major on 1st July 1972. The Satchwell family resided in a married quarter at 7 Freemen’s Way while he was serving at Deal. The rank of QMS was subsequently changed to Warrant Officer 2nd Class.

Corps Bugle Major Satchwell was at the head of the Corps of Drums on 6th February 1973 for the inaugural concert presented at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Malcolm Sargeant Cancer Fund for Children, the catalyst to today’s Mountbatten Festival of Music. One of Satch’s legendary moments was when replying to the Principal Director of Music Lt Col Paul Neville during Horse Guards rehearsals on South Barracks drill field in 1973. The Colonel asked, “Are those Buglers playing in Unison?”... “No Sir...they're all playing the same note!!” Another time in North Barracks drill shed for Royal Tournament rehearsals, forty buglers were heading towards each other on a collision course, when Satch bellowed out those immortal words… "Form a Diamond." After the carnage that developed, Satch shouted, "Whats wrong with you lot this morning, you’ve all done it before!!”
There was trouble for anyone who was critical of Bulgers in his presence…Bomber Mills received four days stoppage of leave while in the wing (1972-74), charged with, not making his bed, leaving his drum on top of his locker and not locking it. As he was marched out of the CO's office, Satch was seen giving the CO a rollocking for locking one of his own up! Not many SNCO's would have had the courage to speak their mind as he did. Bronco Lane, Al ‘Snake’ Sessions and some others were in one of the classrooms practicing when Satch's young son Graham (he was around 8-9yrs at the time, and looked just like his father) kept annoying them, so one of the buglers gave him a clip around the ear. Young Graham went running into his office crying saying "Dad, Dad, they smacked me." At this point they thought s**t… they then heard THWACK… “Well there’s another one, stop annoying the Buglers!”

WO2 Bugler Satchwell was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, awarded to personnel in 1977 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne. On 17th September 1977, he led the Depot Corps of Drums that appeared on Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game at the BBC Television Centre in Shepherds Bush. The line up of Buglers on the show were: Ian ‘Jock’ McCartney, John 'JC' Puddle, Michael ‘Tommy’ Tucker, Arthur ‘Tanky’ Webb, Derek ‘Taff’ Morgans, Alan Blackshaw, Keith Pullen, Buster Clarke, Malcolm Belcher and Andy Travis. John was at the helm of the Branch for six years, he took part in many important engagements both at home and away on foreign trips including Canada, USA and South Africa.

John Satchwell retired from the Royal Marines Band Service on 23rd January 1978. He was such a great man and a great example to the young men under his leadership, an inspiration and mentor to many. Following his memorable twenty-five years service with the Royal Marines, he emigrated to Sydney Australia with his family, where he’d successfully applied to join the Australian Dockyard Police as a Constable. He joined in February 1978, ultimately making it to the rank of Warrant Officer, Naval Police Coxswain.
Margaret sadly passed away in August 1992, just a short time before John retired. For his dedication to duty, he was awarded with the Australian Defence Medal, an accolade for Australian Defence Force members and the Defence Force Service Medal,
the Australian Military award given for long service. He spent the remainder of his life down under where he lived at Ettalong Beach, a short distance north from Sydney with his good lady Colleen Candy, who he met in 1994. John was also a pivotal and distinguished member of the Royal Marines Association of New South Wales, where he was later elected as President.

Corps Bugle Major John Satchwell RM sadly passed away at Gosford Hospital, Sydney Australia on 24th March 2023 aged 85. He had undergone a triple bypass operation in the past, but he was unable to recover as was expected. John was cremated privately a few days after he crossed the bar and the family held a memorial luncheon in his honour on 15th April at The Chatswood RSL Club (Returned and Services League), an independent support organisation for people who have served or are serving in the Australian Defence Force. This was where they also held all their Royal Marines Meetings.

Satch’s legacy lives on in the Royal Marines Buglers Branch, he set such a fine example for others to follow in their futures ahead. Gary Powell wrote… “I know we all go and that is guaranteed, but some people you think are invincible. Those of us who served the same time as Satch will remember his humour, but I think he was a man’s man who really worked hard to look after the Buglers branch. It’s a pity he lived so far away as I know he would have been given a massive send off.”

RIP John

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