Peter M Heming 1937-2019
RMB/X 3012
Served 1952-1987

Peter Marsden Heming was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, a market town near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire on Tuesday 21st September 1937. He was raised alongside his older sister Mavis by parents Lillie (Groves) and John Heming, who was a well-travelled Captain in the Salvation Army. It was here that Peter’s initial musical training began, learning and performing with the various bands and choirs.

Aged fourteen, Peter enlisted into the Royal Marines School of Music in August 1952, where the boys wing was under the direction of Lt Ernest Smith Ough. He joined as a Cornet/trumpet player and subsequently won the Cassel prize under the tutelage of Professor Walter Hargreaves, the award was endowed by Felix Cassel and Peter was the eighth recipient of the silver medal in 1954, holding off a stong challenge from Peter Orton. Two medals, a silver and bronze have been awarded to a student from the Royal Marines School of Music every year since 1947.

Following training and due to his exceptional talent as an instrumentalist, Musician Heming was drafted to Staff Band where he featured prominently as trumpet soloist under the Principal Director of Music Sir F Vivian Dunn. In the late 1950’s, a dedicated music teacher, by the name of Kathleen Gartell, founded the Corfe Mullen Youth Orchestra, Peter was a student of hers.

Chainsmoking Peter travelled to serve with the band onboard the cruiser HMS Newcastle between 1956-58. In July 1956, the Newcastle was flagship of the Flag Officer Second-in-Command Far East on a cruise to Korea and Japan. In November, the ship accompanied the Royal Naval Squadron which visited Australia for the Olympic Games.
In January 1957. The Newcastle was detached to the East Indies Station until April, during which time she visited Karachi and Bombay and cruised in the Persian Gulf. On 6th December 1957, she carried out a bombardment of terrorists in South-East Johore. On 9th February 1958, the ship was present at Rangoon for the unveiling of the Commonwealth Land Forces War Memorial at Taukkyan in Burma. She left the Far East Station in June 1958, returning via Pearl Harbour, Vancouver, San Francisco and the Panama Canal.

On his return to the United Kingdom, Peter joined the Plymouth Group Band at Stonehouse Barracks, along the way earning his first two stripes. He remained in Plymouth until 1962. BCpl Heming began rapidly rising through the ranks of the band service, he earned promotion to Band Sergeant, before successfully studying for his ARCM and LRAM diplomas. He was then promoted to Bandmaster in 1965 and was part of the seventy-five travelling ranks that embarked on the Royal Marines School of Music Staff Band’s tour of the United States and Canada.

In the New year of 1966, Bandmaster Heming was drafted to the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Naval Home Command based at HMS Excellent. The band at the time was under the command of Director of Music Lieutenant Royston Nash, who had also been a product of the Salvation Army. The two of them were both brilliant musicians and were successfully intent on bringing the band to a high degree of excellence, especially the way that concerts were delivered and frequently on engagements in the north of England.

In January 1968, Peter took over control of the seventeen strong band required for service onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes.. the band successfully passed for duty in March. Following trials, the ship sailed in August on her nine months deployment to: Cape Town, Fremantle & Sydney Australia, Okinawa, Hong Kong and Singapore, before returning to Cape Town. Peter was promoted to Staff Bandmaster and received his Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1970. Both Peter and Ron Kempton were commissioned and promoted to Acting Lieutenants on the same day in March 1972. Peter’s first band as Director of Music was to the Royal Marines Band Flag Officer Naval Air Command (FONAC) stationed at HMS Daedalus. It wasn’t too long before he moved again to become Director of Music with the RM Band Commando Training Centre, where he was in charge from 1973-76… he was ably assisted at Lympstone by successive bandmasters Joe Kendrick and Vic Sylvester. The band performed at several combined concerts with Stonehouse band, who were under the baton of Wally Shillito. The Colston Hall in Bristol was a regular venue where Peter’s arrangements were a prominent feature. (In 2020, the hall was renamed Bristol Beacon, after protests and criticism of Colston's ties to the Atlantic slave trade). The CTC Band enjoyed a deployment to North America onboard HMS Hermes in 1975, the ship, which was also carrying 42 Commando Royal Marines and made her way via the St Lawrence Seaway en route to Quebec. In 1976, Lieutenant Heming was installed as Director of Music at the Royal Marines School of Music Training Company. His association with the Colston Hall continued, when he twice travelled with his Junior Band to Bristol to perform before sellout audiences. Along with his latest appointment came the roles of Supply Officer Music and Editor of the Blue Band Magazine. By now, Peter had become an established composer and arranger and held the position as honorary musical advisor to the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary Band, which he helped to establish in 1976, he devoted much of his spare time developing the forces band’s professional approach.

Peter was married in May 1981 in Kent to Margaret Northage. In 1982, he was promoted to Captain and appointed as successor to Graham Hoskins as Director of Music with The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, Commander in Chief Naval Home Command at Eastney and Her Majesty’s Royal Yacht Britannia. Peter and Margaret made their home in West Sussex, but he was away for lengthy periods while he was DOM, especially onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which including The Queen's Royal Tour of Canada in 1984. As he had dedicated to so much time on the yacht, he only managed to appear on stage for two Mountbatten Festival of Music’s when he conducted at the 1984 and 1987 events. He was also at the forefront of the Portsmouth band recordings: Men of Action 1985 and Portsmouth in 1988.

In 1986, The Yacht toured the Far East, calling on Shanghai, where Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stepped onboard. The band flew from there for an engagement in Beijing, before visiting Hong Kong. The Royal Yacht completed a short tour of the Middle East (mainly Oman) on route back to the United Kingdom. This was Captain Hemings last trip.
Peter Heming was appointed to be a member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in the 1986 new year’s honours list for his musical service to the Royal Family. He retired from the Royal Marines Band Service in 1987 following a glittering thirty-five-year career. Often labelled an eccentric, Peter was a real gentleman and a superb trumpet player, and as a boss, his philosophy was to be ‘firm but fair’… He wasn’t to everyone’s liking and didn’t suffer fools gladly, he was however inspiring and quick to express admiration to anyone who tried hard to improve through their own hard work. He was a real character, but clearly knew his music.

Peter’s exceptional talent for performing didn’t end with the band service. In 1992, he was employed as ‘Arts Development Consultant’ with the West Sussex County Council, and he took over the Musical Director role at Atherstone Choral Society in Warwickshire in 1993. He was a conductor, composer and arranger, he conducted at the Ambassadors Theatre in Woking, the Guildhall, Portsmouth and at Guildford Cathedral with The London Mozart Orchestra chorus and soloists. Peter toured Japan and the East Coast of America with the Mantovani Orchestra and Chorus and also recorded two albums with them. Peter also had associations with the Woking Epworth Choir, and the Royal Choral Society, where he followed in the footsteps of many excellent musicians, most notably Sir Malcolm Sargent, whose association with the choir spanned forty years. Peter travelled with his hundred strong Choral Society to perform alongside the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of his old boss and now lifelong friend Royston Nash. In 2011, Peter formed the London Show Orchestra, of which he was the Principal Conductor and Artistic Director. Peter and Margaret moved in the same year to Heather Heights, Scotlands Drive, Haslemere in Surrey.

Captain Peter Heming sadly passed away on 17th January 2019 aged 81. His funeral service was held at Woking Crematorium on 15th February. It was disappointing that there was only half a dozen former RMBS there, possibly a lack of information was the reason for the small turnout, nevertheless a nice fitting tribute was given to his life and achievements. The Band Service was officially represented by the PDM Lt Col Jason Burcham and a Royal Marines Bugler gave an excellent rendition of Last Post & Reveille.

RIP Peter

Paul Foley

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