A short autobiography written by Gerald Taylour.

My name is Gerald, but known to most of my friends as Gerry. I was born in Fulham, a borough of London on 30th. July 1934 to a working-class family. My father died when I was three years old and life was hard for my mother. My older brother Robert who was severely mentally handicapped became hospitalised about this time for the rest of his life.

WW2 was soon upon the family. I was evacuated in 1939 to somewhere in the countryside, and I clearly remember being taken to what was probably a farm and climbing up a ladder to the upper level of a barn where the hay and straw was stored. This was where I had to sleep. Eventually I was moved to Sawston in Cambridgeshire to stay with another family. This was at the time of what was known as 'the phony war,' and many parents took their children back to the cities, so I returned to London and shortly afterwards this the Blitz started. Young children amused themselves by searching for pieces of shrapnel (still hot) on the ground after an air raid and taking them to school to swap with their friends (something like collecting and swapping cigarette cards).  After a year or so, Mother and I moved to a village near Bristol, but sadly she was taken seriously ill in 1945, and because there was no one to care for me I was admitted to a Dr. Barnardo's home in Norfolk known, as the 'Watts Naval Training School'.  The regime here was hard for young boys, all the boys were dressed in sailors’ uniforms and the school was run on the lines of a Royal Naval Ship in late Victorian times. From April to October bare feet was the order of the day. However, the school did have brass band which was run by a retired Royal Marine Bandmaster a Mr Joyce. I could already read music because I had had a few piano lessons prior to being incarcerated in the in the Barnardo's home. I volunteered to join and soon found myself learning to play the trombone. I also apparently showed some talent as a singer and often sang with the band. Joining the band turned out to be a shrewd move, for besides playing for school events, the band was invited to play at local village fetes and even on a beautiful bandstand in Cambridge. And one of most important perks of being in the band was the hospitality shown to us after these gigs, often in the form of 'food glorious food' which supplemented the meagre rations from Barnardo's.

Two achievements that I was pleased with at this time were winning first prize at the Norfolk and Norwich music festival in the boy soprano class and passing Grade 5 on piano. So perhaps life had not been so bad.

In 1950 I enlisted into the Royal Marines School of Music and continued studying the piano. In 1952 I joined a band that went out to Singapore based at a stone frigate known as H.M.S. TERROR. It was a small band of only 9 players, and their role was to perform as either a small orchestra or dance band. Being part of the ' Royal Naval Commander in Chief's 'staff in the Far East we were required to accompany him on his tours of the area, this was known as 'showing the flag. These tours were taken embarked on H.M.S. ALERT, a converted Royal Naval frigate and known as the 'C in C's' yacht. My piano was winched on board by an enormous dockyard crane. I clearly remember two incidents from my time on H.M.S. ALERT. I had to collect a camp bed from the ship's store, however when I layed down on it all the stitching broke. Taking it back next morning to the store, the Petty Officer storeman said 'well son, here is a needle and twine and you can go and sew the b..... thing up again'. Another time when the band was playing on the quarter deck in the evening for a reception, a flock of insects flew in. The 'British stiff upper lip' prevailed, the reception went on with the orchestra playing and me pounding the beasties into the keyboard. I think this was in Borneo.

On return to the UK, I joined the band at H.M.S. Victory barracks Portsmouth for about two years then I was sent across town to join the 'Royal Yacht Band’ at Eastney. I nearly caused a international incident on one trip. Besides being the pianist in the band, I also had the responsibility of being the librarian and had to make sure all the music required for the trip was taken on board. One day the bandmaster sent for me and said 'get the national anthem books out' for our return to Portsmouth tomorrow morning. Apparently, if there was a foreign naval ship in port, there was a tradition that if a Royal Naval Ship was also in port and had a band embarked, the band was required play the national anthem of the visiting ship's country at the colours ceremony (at 0800hrs). Well you know what's coming! To my horror I realised they were still back at Eastney in the bandroom. I had to pluck up courage to tell the bandmaster, whose response was 'well you had better tell the Director of Music yourself'. As he was a Captain, it was a matter of 'off cap, quick march, halt' and try to talk my way out of the problem I had caused. I thought poor Captain McLean was going to have a heart attack. Anyway, it appears a way was found around the problem, no doubt via diplomatic channels and I survived with no comeback.

To gain promotion in the band service, one had to pass promotion courses. Besides the musical elements, there was the drill side. One had to demonstrate one’s ability to drill a squad of Royal Marines. This would comprise of new entrants to the service. Picture a large parade ground at the depot in Deal Kent, on a cold and very foggy morning probably in February. Yours truly was required to take the squad through various drills with the commands such as, right turn and quick march etc. Well the squad set off OK. To my horror they were heading straight into a fog bank at the end of the parade ground and disappeared from view. Panic, couldn't see them, and in desperation I bawled out 'About Turn'. Fortunately, the squad appeared again and I passed the test, after some snide remarks from the Drill Sergeant. After this I returned to Portsmouth.

At about this time I met Joan a Portsmouth girl and we were married in 1958. Soon after the birth of our son Jimmy, I was posted back to the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, and took up an instructor’s position, and promoted to the rank of Band Sergeant. 

For some years I had been planning a new career outside of the Royal Marines, and to this end had been taking advantage of the educational facilities available. The first target was to get some 'O' levels. After this was achieved, and having initially got some encouragement from the CEGB’s (Central Electricity Generating Boar) education officer in Portsmouth together with an offer of future employment if I managed to achieve a Higher National Certificate, I decided to study Electrical Engineering. By the time my service contract expired with the Royal Marines at the age of 30 and after attending various Technical Colleges in Portsmouth, Dover and Canterbury for night school classes together with help from the Royal Naval Education Branch Instructors, the five year target of gaining a Higher National Certificate in Electrical Engineering was almost achieved, except for the final year of the course. This course of action to radically change my life chances was quite a gamble, but fortunately the CEGB kept to their promise, so at the age of 30 I was taken on as a Technical Staff Trainee starting at the then Portsmouth Power Station and later 18 months of training I was promoted to the post of General Assistant Engineer (dog’s body). During this time, I managed to get day release to continue studying for the final year of my HNC at Portsmouth College of Technology, which subsequently became part of Portsmouth University. Further promotion was!. gained, but it involved the family moving to Birmingham, where I joined the System Operation Branch of the CEGB. Some 18 months later my family moved again, which by this time, had been joined by our daughter Anne. This time it was to Nottingham, where I became a Control Engineer at the Nottingham Grid Control Centre. Following reorganisation of the Electricity Supply Industry in 1983, I transferred to the then East Midlands Electricity Board in a similar Control Engineer role. 

After 30 years working in the Electricity Supply Industry, I retired at the age of 60.

During my time in the industry, I continued with my interest in music and for a number of years ran a dance band trio playing in and around Nottingham.
Having retired from East Midlands Electricity Board in 1994, two new interests opened up. Firstly, I decided to take up Trombone again, having not played one since my time in the school band in Norfolk. After taking lessons and lots of practice, I managed to pass the Grade 8 exam. Since then, I have enjoyed many years playing in various local community wind and brass bands, in particular for many years with the Loughborough Concert Band. After recent ill health and a serious operation that is making playing Trombone difficult I am staying with the band, but resuming my career with keyboards, but nowadays with a portable electronic keyboard, so no crane needed.

Gerry Taylour RMBX 2742

PS: Having read Graham's book 'Gold on Blue' reminded me of some further experiences on the Yacht.

I well remember the ornate Broadwood piano in the bandroom at Eastney on which I used to practice. Last saw it in the RM museum.

Thinking back to the sleeping arrangements on Britannia, because of my secondary role as librarian, and being responsible for the cabin where the music was stored, I must have seen that three of us could kip down in there, which we did. One on the worktop, one on the deck and the other in the cupboard. Bit of squash, but better than that space up forward where we used to rehearse.

Along with Peter Hughes (violin), Jock Stirrat (accordion) and myself on piano we performed at one of those concert parties held on the foc'sle, playing some gypsy music such as czardases.

I was friends with Bert Kingston, who retired from the service about the same as myself. We formed a trio with another retiree Band Sergeant by the name of Fletcher (his first name alludes me), playing cello. We earned good money by playing at mess dinners at the numerous naval establishments in around Portsmouth, such as Dryad, Mercury and Dolphin. Exactly what we had been doing before retirement.

[Editor] You'll be interested to know that Gerry has lots of images and stories posted on the Notice Board via his link there.

Previous | Home | Next  1 - Photo  by Richard (Dickie) Valentine  1 - Photo  by Richard (Dickie) Valentine
Richard Valentine -1996 - 2024 © - All rights reserved