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Memories of Howstrake Camp Pt II
by Tom Lambert

First published by the Blue Band magazine

Thank you so much all you fellows that were in the Isle of Man and or whom the first instalment of this memoir brought back reminders of a long lost youth. Thank you for taking the trouble to contact me one way or another and if this instalment encourages yet more responses, that will be wonderful. There are still queries outstanding from the first instalment, the hardest nut to crack being the identity of the four trombones. We know that Charley Watts was the one on the right and that Chris Taylor was second from the left, but the other two remain a mystery. Somebody out there must know. I'd like to thank the editor for being so kind as to make room for all the pictures and again thank Mr Peter Brain, the owner of the pictures for letting us use them. Here we go with the second instalment.

Pic 01

Picture 1 (left) shows a character once seen never forgotten, Harry 'The Rat' Sgt Major Kerslake (on the right of the picture). He was the Company Sgt Major of the Boys' Wing. The reason for his nickname can easily be deduced by even a passing glance at his physiognomy. Note the rodentine set of the upper lip, drawn back so as to expose a menacing set of chompers and eyes like gimlets that bored through any boy who happened to pass within 50 yards. This photograph would have been even better if it had been taken before the beret was introduced because Harry's trademark was to wear his cap flat aback which nobody else was allowed to do. After all that, I'm sure he was a sweet, avuncular elderly gentleman at heart, I should cocoa! The three badge heavy on the left of the picture is obviously an old shipmate, they wear the same medals, but I cannot remember who he was or what he did.


Pic 02
Picture No 2 (right) was extracted from the secret files held at the War Office and was originally for 'Select Eyes Only'. Us older members of the Band Service are very much aware of the excellent support given to the Civil Authority and to the Ministry of Defence by the Band Service of today. However, apart from the extremely dangerous task of being enclosed in Transmitting Stations during the war, it is not generally known that the School of Music was often asked for possible new ways to conduct clandestine or covert warfare against the enemy. This picture shows a team of Shallow Water, Mine Detection and Clearance Divers receiving their first instruction under the watchful eyes of Commissioned Bandmaster Sam Weller and PTI Pusser Hill. The second to be too high to sustain and the course was abandonedstage of this training was carried out on the beach but the wastage rate was thought.

Pic 03



Picture No3 (left) is of an entourage of various officers earning their daily keep by inspecting a platoon of bandboys' boots. Now, for those that have never had this to cope with, I swear this is true. One of the more important aspects of looking after a pair of boots was to ensure that the bit between heel and sole was as highly polished as the toecaps (I kid you not). When the platoon was in this formation as shown in the picture, and particularly when wearing greatcoats, the inspecting officer would pass in rear and tap the greatcoat with his cane with the order "Lift your right (or left) leg" so that he could inspect the said area. On one occasion his cane brushed two diferent greatcoats, whereupon one boy lifted his left leg and the boy next to him lifted his right leg. The officer concerned stared at this in some confusion for a moment then said "Better put one of those legs down, else you'll fall over". True, true, true, I swear it.



Pic 04


Picture No 4 (right) is of the afternoon PT Parade. The whole school paraded in PT gear and were then gently persuaded! to run across to the sports fields about a couple of miles away. Various section leaders are reporting to the PT Staff, CSgt Hunt and colleagues. One of those section leaders, is a very well known figure, one Jeff Jefferson, a wonderful pianist who subsequently went to Rhodesia. I recognise several boys in the leading group but particularly someone I served with, one Chuffy Blair. I wonder how many of these fellows you will be able to recognise. Please let the Blue Band know if you see faces that you recognise.




Pic 05


Picture No 5 (left) shows a clandestine meeting of the escape committee in front of the entrance to their tunnel, very cunningly disguised as a normal drain cover. At this stage they still had 87 miles to go having not quite reached the other side of the fence. Shown are, on the right, the real Pete Turner, highly respected for his incredible ability to adjust his rectal muscles so as to give a recognisable version of God Save the King (as it was in those days). Next to him is Roger Rowatt, then Del Thurlow, the other three I recognise but am unable to name. The fellow sitting on the drain cover is looking uncomfortable in the knowledge that it is his turn next in the barrel, so to speak. Any names for the other three!


Pic 06

Picture No 6 (right) is of the Boys Band performing in the 1944 World Beating Retreat Championships held at HMS St George, a naval boys training establishment in the Isle of Man. The distinguished panel of adjudicators, drawn from all over the world have the players under the microscope of their all-seeing eyes. The famous cross-dressing French Admiral is on the left of the grey-haired President of the panel. From this sequence sprang the phrase, "See you in the Countermarch".



Pic 07

Picture No 7 (left) shows Worshipful Company of Musicians prize winners posing for 'how not to do it' photographs under the somnambulistic eye of BDMR Jock Ashton. Note the cleverly arranged array of mistakes, hand positions, embouchures, postures and so forth all of which go to show that they really did know, only too well, 'how to do it properly' when required! The group of klaxon horns in the background seemed to be enjoying the spectacle as well.



Pic 08


Picture No 8 (right) shows incontrovertible evidence that the Royal Naval School of Music used a Suzuki method long before it was 'invented' by the Japanese. This is the so-called, 'by numbers' method, in which the instructor gave a short description and demonstration just prior to giving the order: "Bows on the A String, by numbers, One". This would be followed by a short period of gently corrective harangue such as, "Number one of the front rank that's a violin bow you have there, not a monkey wrench, don't wrap yer fingers round the frog you 'orrible little man!" and "Oh well done No 2 of the front rank, you will undoubtedly make a Director of Music!" And so on until he was satisfied that they could safely move on to "By numbers Two".

The devisor of this method was one LCpl Curley (for obvious reasons) Annereau who had been an outstanding professional player in London. In fact he was given the job of transforming Bandboy D R Woods, a wonderful young trumpet player upon joining, into a violinist of comparable accomplishment in as short a time as possible. It took him possibly 14 months or so, due to the dedication of both the instructor and the instructee. Woods went on to be a very young Bandmaster of the Staff Band at Deal and would undoubtedly have been an outstanding Director of Music but he chose to retire and take his family to Canada where he has made a great name for himself in every musical undertaking imaginable. (Cheque to the Blue Band in my name please David).

I should also like to mention a whole host of characters, both staff and pupils, but perhaps another time and especially if you chaps that were there can chip in with your memories. Thank you all for reading these reflections - it has been really great fun for me. Finally, in the words of that great entertainer who recently shuffled off, 'Thanks for the Memory".

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