The Royal Marines Band Service
The development of music in the Royal Marines is inextricably linked with the evolution of British military bands. Lively airs and the beat of the drum enabled columns of marching men to keep a regular step. The drum was the normal method of giving signals on the battlefield or in camp. As long ago as the days of Drake and Hawkins the drummer's rhythm would advertise the changing watches or beat the men to quarters.
Without doubt, groups of musicians existed in the Service before this, but in 1767 Royal Marines Divisional Bands were formed at Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Deal.
The original Royal Marines Band Service, together with its headquarters, the Royal Naval School of Music, was founded in 1903 to provide Bands for the Royal Navy. The task of forming the school was assigned to the Royal Marines and from then on the Band Service became an integral part of the Corps. Its original home was Eastney Barracks Portsmouth; where it remained until 1930 when it was transferred to the Royal Marines Depot, Deal. After the outbreak of World War II, it moved to Malvern, then it divided with the Junior Wing moving to the Isle of Man and the Senior Wing to Scarborough before reuniting at Burford in 1946 and finally returning to Deal in 1950. The amalgamation of the Divisional Bands with the Royal Naval School of Music to form today's Royal Marines Band Service also took place in 1950 when the headquarters and training establishment were re-named the Royal Marines School of Music.
Today, all Royal Marines Bands are required to provide every imaginable musical ensemble including orchestras and dance bands. To achieve this, most musicians, except solo specialists, are required to attain an acceptable standard on both a string and a wind instrument. As a result of this special amalgam of expertise, Royal Marines musicians are regarded as one of the most versatile in the military musical world. The Corps of Drums receive an equally thorough training and pride themselves on maintaining the highest standards of drill, bugling and drumming. Their glittering presence at the front of all Royal Marines Bands on the march gives the bands a visual impact that is second to none.
The Royal Marines School of Music is firmly established at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth, where the exacting process of producing military musicians and buglers worthy of the Royal Marines begins. Through a very productive link with Portsmouth University, Royal Marines Musicians can now attain civilian qualifications linked to each stage of their training and professional promotion courses. Male and female students of all ages are trained in all aspects of military music. They are taught by professors of the highest calibre that include musicians from the London and provincial orchestras. The students are also drilled in all aspects of military ceremonial in order to ensure that the worldwide reputation enjoyed by the Royal Marines Band Service for both its music and precision marching is maintained. At the School of Music the future of the Band Service, based upon the experience of the past and the professionalism of the present, is forged; here the young instrumentalist is tempered and honed before taking his or her place in one of the five Royal Marines Bands.
As the Musicians and Buglers careers progress they return to the Royal Marines School of Music to undergo further musical training to qualify for a higher rank. This culminates in a place on the Student Bandmasters' Course that is widely recognised as one of the most demanding courses of its type. Students study all the main music disciplines; the orchestral and contemporary wind band repertoire and they work with world renowned musicians.
In addition to music making, Musicians and Buglers are trained for a dedicated military role within the Royal Marines. In the past 100 years and during virtually every major conflict members of the Royal Marines Band Service have temporarily set aside their musical instruments in order to carry out their operational military duties. These duties have been conducted from the beaches of Gallipoli to the transmitting stations on board Second World War warships. From guarding prisoners of war during the Falklands conflict to casualty decontamination in the scorching heat of the Iraqi desert. From casualty handling in the flight-deck of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Primary Casualty Receiving Facility during both Gulf wars to guarding sensitive communications installations high in the Cypriot Mountains.
During the last decade, we have seen the tempo of this activity increase dramatically. Members of the Royal Marines Band Service have participated in the humanitarian mission to war-torn Kosovo in 2000, deployed as a rifle company to Cyprus in 2007 and supported 3rd Commando Brigade Royal Marines during their 2009 tour of duty in Southern Afghanistan. In April 2011, the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Lympstone deployed as part of the Joint Force Medical Group in Afghanistan. Members of the Band have qualified to drive a range of specialised military vehicles and they will form part of the Motor Transport Section. They will take a full part in combat logistic patrols which replenish supplies in forward operating bases. Some will be manning the ambulances in Camp Bastion and will be responsible for receiving casualties and transporting them to the hospital facilities. Others will be acting as radio operators. They will have their musical instruments with them and will perform various ceremonial parades to include repatriations, and morale-boosting musical entertainment for the deployed troops. More recently, a team of musicians formed a show-band deployed from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth (Royal Band) as musical support to the Joint Force Medical Group and other deployed NATO forces. They performed entertainment in Camp Bastion and other surrounding bases in the Southern area of Afghanistan.
Last updated 08 September 2011