FROM THE DAILY EXPRESS
Back with the band - BY HALA KHALIL
Sanders never thought he'd see or hear again from his old friends
in the Band of the Royal Marines after losing contact nearly 40
years ago. But he's one of thousands of people in Britain who have
been able to track down friends and relatives on the World Wide
Web and renew old ties.
A percussionist with the Band of the Royal Marines from 1944 to 1969, Robert was separated in the early Sixties from his old friends, bandsmen 'Maxie' Beare and 'Polly' Perkins, when he was posted to a different ship.
"In those days most people like me joined the Marines School of Music at 14 and spent much of their lives working on different ships. On a ship there's very little space and when you have to live, eat, and work with the same people every day you get very close."
Robert, 70, began his search for old friends with low expectations. "I started off just looking for general information about the band by typing the words Royal Marines Band into the search box of an Internet directory," he says.
The search came back with an unofficial site created by ex-bandsman Dickie Valentine, now based in the United States.
"I could tell from Dickie's regiment number that he was younger than me and would not have served at the same time but I e-mailed him to say hello and see if he had any news from other bandsmen such as Maxi and Polly."
Dickie indeed had news from other ex-bandsmen including Maxi, now in New Zealand, and Polly in Australia.
"He gave me their e-mail addresses and them mine and now we contact each other regularly," says Robert.
"We also chat over the Internet using a microphone and special software. It's much cheaper than using the phone and we can talk about old times and all the things we're doing now, without feeling rushed."
Valentine has now developed a Buddy List on the site where former bandsmen can post contact information about themselves.
Five years ago Robert knew nothing about computers but became interested in them while working as a security guard after retiring from the Marines.
"Watching people at work using computers intrigued me. They looked like a challenge so I decided to get one and try to master it." With a little initial help Robert had his computer up and running.
"It was a challenge but I was so impressed with the versatility of computers that it was worth the effort," he says.
Having got to grips with word processing Robert decided to give the Internet a try. "I had heard about the Internet five years ago and the idea of being able to send e-mails all over the world for just a few pence as well as the possibility of finding old friends and maybe making new ones was too good a chance to miss," he says.
"My first use of the Internet was to help my grandchildren research their school projects and sometimes assist with difficult homework," he says.
Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines:
The Daily Express © 1999