WO1 Bandmaster Philip Hughes LRAM RM
1942 - 2019

Philip John Hughes: Born in Rotherham, raised in Weymouth and then like so many of us was made in the Royal Marines. Having moved to Weymouth at an early age, Phil began his musical career as a choir boy at the local church. There were ulterior motives of course, one of which being able to give a little nudge to Joy as he passed her in the church aisle. She was suitably unimpressed with Phil’s attempts at young courting, even when he became head choirboy and member of the local Sea Scout band.

Phil must have decided he needed the kudos of a better uniform to impress Joy, so in 1956 at the tender age of fourteen, he took his grade eight music certificate and joined the Royal Marines on Piano & Flute. Dressed now in what we all know to be the best of uniforms, Phil returned on leave to Weymouth and with renewed vigor and confidence continued his pursuit of his young love Joy. As we now know, she succumbed to whatever it was that Phil said, and their young romance started in earnest.

Phil eventually passed out from RMSM training and like many young sproggs of his time was drafted onto a Royal Navy ship, HMS Blake. Ships bands were a great musical learning and life experience, but even during his eighteen month commission to exotic places, Phil stayed in touch with Joy whilst at sea and during one particular shore leave they became engaged.

Phil’s name and number were now in the lottery drum of the band service drafting officer. However, by a stroke of good luck and someone else’s misfortune, there was a suitable vacancy in HMS Raleigh Band. Phil’s talents and musical skills were noted as over his early career years he moved between the three West country bands of the time, Raleigh, Plymouth and CTCRM. His career and promotion slowly progressed at a leisurely pace until he was temporarily seconded to Deal Staff band for a musical soiree in Paris with the PDM. So impressed was the PDM with young Phil’s musical ability that he offered him the opportunity to leave the backwaters of the West country and move to the bright lights and big city of Deal.

We shall never know what prompted Phil to decline the PDM’s offer, but we do know that six months later Phil was drafted, so he and Joy moved lock, stock and piano to Deal. PDM’s of that era had a habit of getting their own way and Phil now was firmly in the musical spotlight amongst the elite of the staff band in Deal. His career now really took off, or at least as much as it can in such a relatively small branch as the Band service within the Royal Marines. Gripping tightly to the slippery pole of promotion, Phil became a SNCO in the band before in 1976 promoted to Colour Sergeant and Instructor of Higher Training. He must have been very good in this role, as before long further promotion to WO2 Bandmaster and the role of Chief Instructor rightly became his. During this time Phil had many hilarious stories to tell about Bandmaster candidates conducting and foreign student training, none of which are suitable for printing and will not be for many years to come!

Whatever Phil was doing he was obviously doing it right, as there was little surprise amongst those in the know when in 1980 Phil was chosen to become WO1 Corps Bandmaster, a role in which he was held in high regard by everyone that met him and rightly a rank he was very proud to have achieved. Of course, all the while Phil was busy getting himself promoted Joy was even busier running the house and raising their two children, Mark & Rachael.

All good things come to an end and having done his time at the mast, in 1983 Phil retired from his successful career in the Royal Marines. Remaining in Deal, he continued playing music locally in many combinations, most notably ‘The Phil Hughes Sound’. He also continued to teach, being a peripatetic at the prestigious Kings School in Canterbury for over thirty years. Not content with a having a full diary he was also a partner in a music publishing company called Cinque Port Music with his partner in crime and music Steve Misson. Then, wanting to give something back to his musical roots, he became the organist and choirmaster at St Mary’s Church in Walmer for four years.

His patience was truly put to the test with our annual Deal pantomime, for which Phil was our resident musical director. So keen was he always to get things ‘just right’ and so appalled was he at the acting and singing he was witnessing, I took to circumventing Phil’s acerbic comments at the performers by actually writing them into the script. This suited everyone and actually became a funny part of the show. He did us proud for the last seven years and next year’s show will be dedicated to him.

Even in semi-retirement, Phil was very active in playing for local musical shows, being the musical director for dozens of them over the years. His final show was in the Spring of 2019 when he conducted the Lloyd Webber Show Cats. Not an easy show to play and conduct at the same time, made all the more difficult by his worsening medical condition. This was highlighted on the last performance, when Phil was so terribly ill, he could hardly stand and was supported by his son until the final down beat. Then, and only then did his professionalism allow them to take him to hospital.

One of his last entries in his diary reads “Sixty two years, seven months and five days, I have finally retired” Phil has done his final gig, shouted at his last panto singer and finally put down his baton. However, a big man in so many ways and an inspiration to all those that worked with him, he will be sorely missed.

Brian Short

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