WO2 Bandmaster Keith A Whittall RMB3601

Keith Whittall joined the Royal Marines Band Service as a solo cornet player in 1956, where he was under the guidance of Professor Walter Hargreaves. On completion of training he was drafted to the cruiser HMS Tiger (C20), visiting the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and Germany. Keith was then drafted to the Britannia Royal Naval College in 1961 under the baton of Bandmaster Ralph Sharpe.

Following four years at Dartmouth, Keith gained further sea time, embarking on Tigers’ sister ship HMS Lion (C34), which took part in The Gambia independence celebrations in early 1965.

Keith returned to the West Country with a draft to Flag Officer Plymouth Band based then at HMS Drake. He was at Plymouth for three years until drafty sent BCpl Whittall for yet more sea time, joining HMS Ark Royal (R09) under the leadership of Staff Bandmaster Ron Kempton. He travelled well again taking in the Mediterranean, Caribbean and the USA.

In late 1970 Keith negotiated the Senior Command Course and gained promotion to BSgt in March 1971. He successfully completed the Bandmasters course at the School of Music 1972/73, and gained further promotion to Band Colour Sergeant in 1974, when he became the Volunteer Band Instructor at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall.

On completion of his stint as VBI in 1975, Keith moved to the Royal Marines Band Commando Training Centre, Lympstone, where he enjoyed a trip to Oslo and a tour of Canada. He sampled the delights of Edinburgh during the 1975 Tattoo and was also the leader of the CTC Dance Band.

In 1978 Keith was both promoted to WO2 Bandmaster and drafted to HMS Ark Royal for a second time before the ships last deployment, which lasted eight months. The first five months were spent in the Caribbean and USA, visiting Fort Lauderdale for two weeks, then on to Mayport where the Ark Royal had to spend seven weeks on a maintenance period. It was during the passage from the USA to the Mediterranean on 23rd September 1978, that Keith Whittall had his finest hour. Little did he know at the time how popular the record would be as he conducted the Band and 2000 Ships Company voices in the BBC recording of ‘The Last Farewell’.

Following the Med part of the deployment visiting Gibraltar, Malta, Palma, Athens and Naples, the Ark Royal returned to her home at Devonport in 1978 to be decommissioned and ultimately towed to Stranraer to be scrapped.

Keith’s sea time was complete and he rejoined CTC as Bandmaster, where he lived with his wife Pam, son Garry and their daughters Karen and Deborah in nearby Exmouth. In November 1980, the couple were blessed with another daughter Emma.

In June 1981 Keith took up the post of Director of Music with the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary Band. He enjoyed playing with ‘Top Brass’, a group comprising former Royal Marine Bandsmen: Andy Stark also on trumpet, Steve Herbert (French Horn), Colin Parker (Trombone) and Pete Pendlebury (Tuba).

Keith also enjoyed the post as Director of Music of the Exmouth Town Concert Band, with quite a few former colleagues from the RM Band playing under his baton. The Bands’ supported charity was the British Heart Foundation and a favourite of Keith's, he took part in the annual cycling event in aid of the charity for numerous years.

Keith sadly passed away suddenly in Plymouth hospital on 15th November 2008 due to pancreatitis.

aul Foley

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