Duke of York's Royal Military School

Dear Rich,

I've just been looking around your excellent Royal Marines band website. I felt a bit of an intruder never having been in the Royal Marines band myself, although I do have some (tenuous) links.

In the late 60's and early 70's, I was at the Duke of York's Royal Military School which (you may remember) is perched on a hill between Dover and Deal. Our school band instructors were both ex-RM: Captain E.S.("Ernie") Ough taught woodwind and WOII Henry ("Nobby") Knowler taught brass. (There was also a Bugle Major by the name of John Wagstaff but we can't really class the bugle as a 'musical' instrument, can we?) [Editor: Politely - NO!]

I wonder if any of your site members remember Ough or Knowler? They were both excellent musicians and superb teachers. I learned euphonium with Nobby Knowler who instilled in me a lifelong love of good music - more of that in a moment. My main memory of Ernie Ough was that he could hold a note on the clarinet for well over a minute (circular breathing or just damn good lungs?) while Nobby Knowler sticks in my mind for his stories about Kenneth J. Alford (Maj. Ricketts under whom he served in Plymouth) and his mnemonics: "Go down and enter by force" (the order of sharp keys) and Flats become easy after direct guidance (flat keys). They must work because I still remember them thirty years on! I'm fairly sure that Nobby must be somewhere on the 1948 massed bands photo on your site - but where?

Two or three times a term we used to be taken to the concerts at Deal barracks. Some were orchestral concerts - always on a Thursday evening if I remember correctly - and they *always* seemed to include the overture to Die Bloody Fledermaus! Lt. Col. Neville presided, although a lot of student bandmasters used to get in on the act. We would also be invited to watch the rehearsals for Beating the Retreat and various other military events.

The school band became a passion and all this exposure to fine military music made me want to join the Royal Marines myself. However, Capt. Ough persuaded me to join the army instead. He said that the promotion prospects were much better (at that time there were still 134 bands needing a DoM or bandmaster rather than just five) but actually he probably thought I wasn't good enough for 'your lot'. And he was absolutely right! In any case, I ended up joining the Band of the Coldstream Guards in '74, but stayed only four years and never did achieve my ambition of becoming DoM at Kneller Hall. (Shucks...)

After a fairly unremarkable career playing piano on cruise ships and in hotels all over the place, I finally settled down in Amsterdam and started a little translation agency. But my greatest passion continues to be music and I still regard the ability to play and enjoy it as a gift given to me by two fine gents, your colleagues Ough and Knowler.

Best of luck to your site and all its readers,

Chris Merry.
Queen's English BV

Sint Jacobsstraat 5F
1012 NC Amsterdam

Tel. +31 20 330 9758
Fax +31 20 330 9759

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