Mick L Saywell 1954-2021
Corps Drum Major
Michael Leonard Saywell was born on Friday 26th February 1954. His parents Molly (Hambly) and Eric.. a sheet metal worker who hailed from Nottingham, however they were later based in Aldershot.. Mick’s birthplace and the home of the British Army, they moved following Eric’s decision to enlist into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Raised as the youngest of four children: John followed by Sue, Lizzie and finally Mick, who in later life admitted that school held little interest for him and that he spent more time looking out of the window than at the blackboard. As such he left school aged fifteen with little education. He learned much more from his time in the cadets, however he didn’t start playing a musical instrument until he joined up.
Mick made his way to Deal where he joined the Royal Marines Band Service on 2nd September 1969 as a member of a talented forty-strong 3/69 Squad. He was the youngest of six Junior Buglers of Barham House that included Trev D’Arcy, Geordie Renwick and Dave Butler and for the next eighteen months, they would be under the watchful eyes of Corps Bugle Major Tony Ormonde Dobin and Instructor CSgt Bugler Tommy Handley. Following his successful training period, Bugler Saywell spent a period of time with the RMSM Staff Band Corps of Drums, before he was drafted to the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Fleet, based at HMS Pembroke, Chatham.
impressed on his Junior Command Course in 1978, he was a natural leader
in his military role, he always knew exactly what to do and he did it
well. Soon after his juniors, he was posted for a short time to the
Royal Marines Band HMS Ark Royal.. the last permanent band onboard a
Royal Navy ship and who were part of the ships company. It was a tearful
day when the Ark Royal paid off at Devonport in early December 1978,
the band disbanded and all ranks were drafted to other establishments
around the country.
Following his time at sea, Mick, who was a very good bugler, was drafted for a two-year stint to the Royal Marines Band Flag Officer Naval Air Command (FONAC) based at RNAS Yeovilton, his highlights with the band were performing regularly on the BBC Pebble Mill at One programme, numerous air shows and a trip to Holland.. all that while sharing a flat with Bugler Bob Heath! He was then selected to occupy a place on the Drum Majors Course at Deal, finishing top in the process. Following his success on the course, he was installed as Drum Major of Training Company, a position he enjoyed and for which he’s still held in high regard by the juniors under his guidance from 1982-84. Promotion to Sgt Bugler in 1984 led him to become the Drum Major with the Royal Marines Band Flag Officer Scotland & Northern Ireland (FOSNI) alongside Director of Music Lt Mike Goss. Regular trips to Northern Ireland and Iceland were enjoyed by the band. Two years later he collected a medal for service in Northern Ireland and his Long Service & Good Conduct Medal. Mick married for the first time in 1987 to Maureen Duffy in Edinburgh, before gaining promotion to CSgt Bugler and assuming the role of Drum Major of the Royal Marines Band Commander in Chief Fleet.. who were not only settled in their new headquarters at RAF Northolt, but were now under the direction of promoted Captain Goss.. they must have liked each other! Fleet Band was always well-travelled including, Bermuda, Holland, Italy, Hong Kong, Brunei, India, USA and Australia.. not forgetting all the many returns to Deal for various massed bands rehearsals. Mick was promoted to WO2 in 1989 while he was at Fleet Band.
Mick was a great administrator and always ran that side that as well as he did his Drum Major’s duties, so it was no surprise when he made it to the peak of his profession and appointed Corps Drum Major (CDM) in 1990. Mick, as you would come to expect, was one of the smartest.. even in civvies, he always starched and ironed a crease in his jeans! He toured with Staff Band in 1991 to Australia, The Falkland Islands and Russia for the 50th Anniversary of the Russian Navy Band. He served as the figurehead on many massed bands engagements including Beating Retreat 1991 in recognition of Prince Philips 70th Birthday. Further trips to Seville and Hong Kong were enjoyed in 1992 as well as fronting the Massed Bands at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. His swansong as CDM was the 1993 Royal Tournament, before he retired from the Royal Marines Band Service early in 1994, after completing an illustrious twenty-five year career.
his discharge from the Royal Marines, Mick took up an opportunity and
a completely different way of life. He accepted a supervisory role at
a soft-fruit farm close to Deal where he lived with his first wife Maureen.
From then on horticulture and soft-fruit farming in particular, was
to be his passion. Over the next sixteen years through a series of moves
to different farms, he became an expert strawberry grower, eventually
basing himself at Boyd Farming near Brockenhurst in the New Forest.
Needless to say, crops came in and out of production with military style
precision. Through his thoughtful approach and practical experience,
he was able to hold his own with world-leading, Dutch agronomists and
expert farmers with whom he developed poly-tunnel growing and irrigation
techniques that are now industry standard. He was eventually offered
the opportunity to invest in a venture based in Southern Spain to produce
out-of-season strawberries for the UK. Apart from his financial contribution
Mick was to be the main man on the ground in Spain. This involved everything
from building a desalination plant for irrigation, to greenhouse construction,
planting, growing, picking, packing and shipping. He had over a hundred-thousand
strawberry plants under glass from which he was supplying most major
British supermarkets. It was quite an achievement to get the process
qualified and accepted by the supermarkets in the first place. Managing
a cohort of reluctant local workers and recruiting a small army of Eastern
European immigrant workers for fruit picking and packing, on a continuous
basis, as well as the logistics of supplying packaged fruit from Spain
to the UK that still had a useful shelf-life was an example of the dogged
determination of which Mick was capable. For a while all was well but
unfortunately in early 2011, heavily subsidised strawberry production
in countries like Egypt and Morocco meant that Mick’s Spanish
operation was no longer able to compete. Consequently, his operation
was no longer viable and despite having twenty-five tons of strawberries
ready for harvest, Mick had no option but to close down. He returned
to the UK having lost all his investment and pitched up at his brother
in-laws (Douglas) four acre property in Berkshire with nowhere else
to go. In the September of 2011, he married Sasha whom he had met while
he was in Spain. They married in Sweden where she was completing a master’s
course. For the last ten years, Mick and Sasha lived in the Annex Lodge
on Douglas’s estate. Mick retired from full time work and became
not only Douglas’s head gardener, but the closest of friends.
There is hardly a part of the garden where it doesn’t have Mick’s
imprint. The soft-fruit greenhouse, the apple, blueberry and cherry
fruit cages, the covered raised beds, the planting schemes, the acer
avenue and a pond with fish. Mick also had a great interest in motorcycles.
Following his lengthy battle, Mick Saywell sadly passed away on 3rd May 2021 aged 67 at Frimley Park Hospital. His passing was peaceful and Sasha was with him, as she had been daily during his time in hospital. His funeral service was held at Easthampstead Park, Wokingham on 24th May. Regrettably, due to social distancing protocols, the venue would only take a small number of mourners, so the service was shown on live webcast. Douglas provided a glowing eulogy and two Royal Marines.. Cpl Bugler Ben Paine and LCpl Bugler Ross Tomkins paid Mick the ultimate honour with a fine rendition of the Last Post & Reveille.