Brian Keith 'Geordie' Renwick P027324X

BRNC Bugler 1971-73, 1988-92.

Brian Renwick was born on Wednesday 28th April 1954 in Hexham Northumberland and brought up by loving parents Bill and Trixie. He was raised as a Methodist where his apprenticeship as a Bugler began when he spent four years attached to the Boys Brigade.

Brian Renwick left school aged fifteen and enlisted into the Royal Marines Band Service as a Junior Bugler at Deal on 2nd September 1969 under the watchful eyes of Corps Bugle Major Ormonde Dobin and Instructor CSgt Bugler Tommy Handley. He joined as a member of 3/69 Troop... an entry that also consisted of the likes of Trev D’Arcy, Stu Thorn and Trev Waters.

It wasn’t Brian for very long, as he became Geordie while in training due to his strong dialect... and the name he was known as throughout the remainder of his life...

He completed training on his seventeenth birthday and was transferred across the parade ground to the Staff Band of the Royal Marines School of Music. It would only be for a couple of months though as he soon moved on... and an introduction to the West Country for the first time.

In July 1971 and still not old enough to buy a pint.. the young Geordie was drafted to the Royal Marines Band Britannia Royal Naval College. He joined to Band prior to the impending arrival of HRH Prince Charles at the College for his training. Geordie spent eighteen months at Dartmouth under the baton of Bandmaster Rod Farrell.

He then moved down the road to the Band at the Commando Training Centre Lympstone, this time serving for just over three years. The Band was subjected to a few weeks of massed bands for each year he was there... firstly 1973 Beating Retreat on Horseguards, then the 1974 Royal Tournament, followed by the Edinburgh Tattoo in 1975.

On 20th July 1976... the Band of HMS Ark Royal under the leadership of Bandmaster John Whelton became Geordies’ next adventure, where he was fortunate enough to spend a glorious eighteen months onboard... The ship spent a few weeks in the Mediterranean.. included in the deployment was a sixty-ship NATO exercise, they also enjoyed runs ashore in Lisbon, Toulon and Gibraltar. The Ark then returned to home to Plymouth for a six month refit, before playing a major role in the Queens Jubilee Fleet Review at Spithead on 28th June 1977. Geordie also enjoyed a four day trip to Hamburg where the Band played before 70,000 spectators at the Kevin Keegan inspired Hamburg v Bayern Munich league match. The year and Geordies time at sea was rounded off with a Mediterranean trip calling in on Malta, Naples and Gibraltar before the lead up to Christmas.

Following his time on the Ark Royal ... he returned to the West Country... this time to HQ Commando Forces at Stonehouse Barracks on 1st February 1978 where the Director of Music was Captain Farlow. Geordie... for the second time in his career was amongst the ranks of seven bands that performed Beating Retreat on Horseguards on 1st June 1978. The performance marked the 25th Anniversary of HRH Prince Philips’ appointment as Captain General of the Royal Marines.

Geordie enjoyed the first of many eye opening and dangerous trips to Northern Ireland before jetting out for twelve days to play in the Oman Military Tattoo. The lasting memory for Geordie was the Omani armed forces motorcycle display team similar to our White Helmet Display Team... however theirs was called the ‘Purple Helmets’...

In 1979 the Commando Forces Band flew out to Malta for celebrations that signalled the end of British Military presence in Malta, before travelling to Cyprus later in the year to cheer up 42 Commando.

Bugler Renwick was one of thirty-six ranks of the Band that were granted Easter leave, totally oblivious to the fact that on Sunday 4th April 1982, they would be recalled to barracks due to the invasion by Argentinian forces on the Falkland Islands... where was it ? Most people had heard of it but didn’t know the islands were over 9000 miles away in the Southern Hemisphere.

They all returned to barracks thinking they would be needed to maybe take over guard duties within Stonehouse Barracks... They were wrong... and following a few hectic days of drawing stores and packing, the Band departed to Southampton to join the cruise liner SS Canberra.

On Good Friday 9th April, Geordie was one of the band accompanying 4000 troops that set sail from Southampton on the Canberra, as part of the South Atlantic Task Force.

The ship had been rapidly converted in to a troopship in order to transport 3 Commando Brigade to the Islands. The Corps of Drums onboard consisted of Cpl Buglers Keith Pullen and Mac McCarthy, Buglers Geoff Naylor, Oli Oliver, Trev D’Arcy, Geordie and Phil Smith... Led by Sgt Bugler John Tansey, they volunteered themselves for fanfares for birthdays etc and providing mess beatings for any occasion throughout their time at sea, especially on their way home. The ship which was nicknamed ‘The Great White Whale’ victoriously returned home to Southampton and a hero’s welcome on 11th July, following three months away in the South Atlantic.

On 21st August 1982 whilst they were still on leave from The Falklands... Geordie married his beloved Annie at Plymouth Register Office with Mac as Best Man. Their reception was held at the Lockyer Tavern shortly before it’s closure. Long demolished, it’s now the garden of the Bank Pub and the Civic Centre car park.

Bugler B K Renwick and the other heroes of the Band proudly received their South Atlantic Medals with Rosette on 2nd October. A few weeks later on 12th November, Stonehouse Band featured prominently in the Falklands Victory Parade held in Plymouth. Eleven of those ranks that received their South Atlantic Medals with Commando Forces Band went on to serve time later with Dartmouth Band.

The routine soon returned to normal and Geordies massed bands adventures increased significantly when Commando Forces Band was selected to play at the Mountbatten Concert in 1983, before a mini massed bands involving Commando Forces and BRNC Bands in October 1983 celebrating the 200th Anniversary of Stonehouse Barracks. The following year 1984 saw the unique double massed bands of Beating Retreat and three weeks camping at Warwick Hall during the Royal Tournament. Trips to Denmark & Cyprus completed an extremely eventful year. He would go on to complete a total of seven years at Stonehouse until HM Commando Forces Band was sadly disbanded in March 1985. Geordie.. in that time had become a highly valued member of the Corps of Drums and lifetime member of ‘The Turtle Club’... Errol Flynn was the Sgt Bugler at the time at Stonehouse when the legendary club was formed. Like any band, the buglers were nearly always sat at the rear of the coach when travelling to engagements. Normally, SNCO's would sit at the front of the coach with the boss, but Errol would often sit at the rear, usually to play cards and/or just to have more fun etc... The normal procedure when someone spotted an attractive female as we passed them would be to shout... “On the left or right". He had observed, that on hearing the shout, the buglers would immediately stop what they were doing, rise in their seats to look/ogle at the passing females. Errol commented that as the oglers rose and turned to look, it reminded him of action of Turtles... when they extended their necks from their shells... Thus... from that time on, Commando Forces Buglers self-adopted the name... ‘Turtles’ with Errol head of the bale.

On 23rd April 1985... Bugler Renwick was installed as Ships Bugler onboard Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory... A post he occupied for nearly two years. Other than his bugling duties, he also acted as a Ships Guide to the public and as Ships Driver. His time on the Victory came to an end in 1987 when he moved across the city to spend his final year in Pompey back as a member of the Corps of Drums at Eastney and a reunion with his Best Man Mac McCarthy.

Following an absence of fifteen years... The pipe smoking Geordie rejoined Dartmouth Band for a second time on 28th June 1988 under the leadership of Lieutenant Rod Starr. The following year... he was one of the Buglers that was selected to take part in the recording of ‘Britannia’ in the Caspar John Hall. During his time in the Band, he was probably one of the most travelled of Buglers... taking in five overseas trips. In 1989 he was in the ranks that travelled to Hamburg to accompany the visit of HMS Illustrious.. a memorable week for Dartmouth Band. The following year began with the Corps of Drums excursion to Toronto... While in the exhibition hall where we were performing.. Geordie had the novel idea for all the Corps of Drums to club together and get a trip t-shirt printed... he returned with the said clothing... emblazoned on the front... ‘Purple Helmt Display Team’... Was it the Omanis from twelve years previously that had inspired him... or something else ! Whichever it was... it was spelt wrong !

1990 also saw Geordie travel to take in the delights of an extremely wet Paris for the British Embassy and to Oslo for the visit of HMS Ark Royal. Geordies final trip at Dartmouth was shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union when he was selected to travel with the Band on the goodwill visit in October 1991 to Sevastopol in the Ukraine for the historic visit of HMS Fearless. A real learning curve... and a trip of a lifetime if you like vodka ! It was all aboard the Fearless for the transit across the Black Sea to Constanta in Romania... During the crossing... the Band presented a Ships Company concert where the Corps of Drums marched on wearing full Russian uniforms, purchased for one or two roubles while ashore. The cultural trip proceeded with a four-hour coach transfer to the capital Bucharest, where the highlight was the guided tour around the palace of the deposed Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Geordie was the driving force in the launching of the ‘The Quaffing Club’... no member was to go anywhere without their Quaffing Club card.. if caught out, even in the shower... it was a fine of a round of drinks... He was also quite hands on with assisting Drum Major Phil Smith with the running of the popular map marches of the early nineties, then his contribution to Comic Relief in 1991 was to have his head shaved... but only half of it !.. don’t think Annie was too pleased... A quote from Geordie in 2008 regarding his time at Dartmouth... “The best draft ever apart from security duties... The best gig ever was sending the Buglers to Toronto for the British Show”.

Following Christmas leave in January 1992, Geordie, Annie and their children Marie and Billy bid farewell to Dartmouth and travelled north of the border to join Flag Officer Scotland & Northern Ireland Band (FOSNI).

It didn’t take long for Geordie to make his mark in the FOSNI Corps of Drums... In May 1992 he took the idea of the map march to the extreme, when he led a team of three other FOSNI buglers Paul Imm, Spider Burgess and Glynn ‘Jonah’ Jones on a weekend charity walk along Hadrian’s Wall... Beginning their journey at 3pm on Friday in Carlisle, they were making steady progress (5 miles) when they came across a pub at Hayton... they progressed no further and stayed the night in the landlords caravan!They finally reached their destination at Wallsend on Monday, therefore raising a good deal of money or the Compton Hospice for cancer sufferers in Wolverhampton.

Voluntarily... Geordie was amongst 116 ranks of the Band Service that were made redundant in 1993. As part of his EVT, Geordie took a course in computer training and a course in Occupational Health & Safety, before he was released from the Royal Marines Band Service on 28th April 1994. Geordie never stepped anywhere near the promotion ladder, he only became a candidate twice... neither did he make it beyond B3 qualification. Amazing how Geordie managed to go to War for three months and was duly decorated for it... yet criminally wasn’t allowed to receive his Long Service & Good Conduct Medal for whatever trivial reason... He did however give the Royal Marines Band twenty-two years outstanding service. A legend and one of the greatest ever characters of the Buglers Branch... a very rare breed.

Following his redundancy from the Royal Marines... Mr Renwick found a job working as security, chauffeur and ‘go to man’ for an elderly lady and her family on the massive Southwick Country Estate in Dumfriesshire. Geordie would refer to the job as ‘Driving Miss Daisy’... The owners wanted an ex-service man with a family that would live on the estate and keep an eye on things. It was a great place and so nice for all the family to be out in the countryside. Geordie also went to college and gained a further computing qualification in 1997. In 2001 the Renwick family moved a few miles down the road to a beautiful village called New Abbey, where the population at the time was only eighty-two. He worked in various roles over the next ten years or so... security, Argos, he was an advisor at the Scottish Tourist Board and for a long while at Patientline… which provided telephone and entertainment services to patients in hospitals. He worked as a manager there also gaining NVQ’s in Call Handling 2003 and Management 2006.

Geordie and Annie remained in Dumfries and Galloway the whole time after leaving Rosyth... He was always happy heading out into the countryside with his dogs by his side, walking for miles and having a pint in the pub on the way back! He was always and remained an avid book reader especially anything historical. He also helped out in the village with a local youth club for a while and some years on Remembrance Day he would turn out for the church to play Last Post & Reveille.

In 2009 Geordie had a bad crash, he unfortunately damaged his eyes and had to give up driving and his motorbikes. “I’m improving now but scablifter says I’ve to give up booze so I'm off to the pub. keep in touch, Geordie”...He became a full time carer for Annie who developed a fairly rare neurological disorder... before Geordie himself was diagnosed with the dreaded cancer...

In February 2013 he underwent a course of chemotherapy prior to an operation... he was in great spirits throughout his illness. In September 2014... he had a scan that showed the cancer had come back much more aggressively.

Brian ‘Geordie’ Renwick sadly passed away on 26th November 2014 aged 60, he died peacefully, at home in Ingleston Place New Abbey, in the arms of his beloved Annie.

Geordies’ funeral service was held at the Roucan Loch Crematorium in Dumfries on 9th December 2014.

Paul Foley

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