Joe Bloggs:An Unlikely Hussar Part24 How I Joined the Band of The Queens Royal Irish Hussars with the help of my Hockey skills

Band Hockey team at shauncliff kent beat war office champions at the time

After 3 years of full time man’s service, in 1960, I had to make the decision as to whether to sign on for further service, or if I left at this point, what careers would be open to me in “civvy street”. By this time I had more than myself to consider, as I had married my German sweetheart, Karin, and already had one small daughter, Carmen, and another one on the way. I was frustrated about my career going nowhere and I wanted to be able to earn good money when I eventually left the army. Band membership seemed to be a better way for me to do this, as tank driving wouldn’t be a job in civilian life whereas music would. Driving vehicles wasn’t well paid enough at that time whereas music was a professional career with many openings if you were good enough. My teenage days delivering telegrams to celebrities in Chelsea, seeing how Carmen Munroe’s early show-business career developed and my own early efforts at Carol Levis Discoveries in Boys Squadron Royal Armoured Corps, had all shown me the many exciting aspects of the music industry that existed within show-business. The late fifties and early sixties was an exciting time in the music industry. There was great potential for earning good money.

I went and asked Band Sergeant Major Stocks if I could join the Band. He was a very good musician and popular throughout the regiment. I liked him a lot because he had played for Arsenal before joining the army. He knew London well, so we had a lot in common. He suggested that I start learning to play the trumpet to an acceptable standard so my application would be looked on favourably. I was put on trumpet guard as a way of enabling me to do this. After a while I went for an interview with Major Coleman, the squadron leader.

“You can’t play an instrument Joe,” he said to me.

“I can learn when I get there,” I said.

“I’m sorry Joe, but I can’t give you permission unless you already play an instrument to the required standard.”

I wasn’t going to give up that easily, so I went to his second in command, Major Meade, who promised to see if he could help. I also spoke to Band members and good friends whom I played hockey with. They all encouraged me to keep pursuing my aim to get into the Band. They all liked me and wanted me in the Band so that it would have the best hockey team in the regiment. At the time, the regiment was in training for a tour of duty in Aden, Malaya and Singapore, so I was happy when I was told that I would not be travelling with the regiment, because I had been accepted into the Band and would go with the Band to Shorncliffe in Kent for a year. After that time, I would travel with the Band to re-join the regiment in Aden and then Malaya.

In Shorncliffe, the first instrument they gave me to learn was a clarinet. I didn’t like it so I knew I wouldn’t be any good at it. Then I went on to trumpet, but within weeks of arriving in Shorncliffe, I asked if I could learn percussion because I knew I would enjoy that and be good at it and the Band only had one percussionist at the time. Band Master Patch agreed to have me in the band as a percussionist, but I would first have to learn to read music and learn to play all the various percussion instruments and effects. This included the drum console, timpani, and all other drums and struck instruments including glockenspiel, xylophone and tubular bells, but not the pianoforte. He let me take home a glockenspiel to practice, and gave me a book of the rudiments of music.

“Ask about anything you don’t understand, Joe,” he said. “Any of us in the band will be willing to help you to learn.” And so they were. In fact at this time in my army career, the camaraderie I felt among band members was at its highest.

I was excited about this new challenge and eager to prove to my “C” squadron colleagues when I got to Malaya that I had learned a lot of music and music theory during my year out.

I was living with my family in Shorncliffe in army quarters by then, after a short spell of living in private rented accommodation in Sandgate where my second daughter, Kirstin was born. The army house was in walking distance from camp, where I could spend a lot of time practising in the evenings, with the help of other band members, so I didn’t disturb my young family with all the noise. I soon got good enough to play out with the band at jobs in venues all along the Kent and Sussex coast. We worked a lot and travelled a lot to get to the seaside carnivals, band stands and other types of bookings. When we did paid jobs, I got extra money which helped support my young family. One highlight of this time was taking part in several BBC radio broadcasts of “Music While You Work”. I was very proud to be a part of this even while I was not yet as musically proficient as the others. It was an incentive to practice and raise my performance level to the standard of everyone else. Working out in public like this improved my proficiency at the instruments so by the end of the year, I was ready to take my first army practical and theory exams. I didn’t take them yet, because at this point, the band had to leave Shorncliffe for Aden where it would pick up with the rest of the regiment en route to Malaya. I did not take the music exams until I was in Singapore.

In Shorncliffe, the Band started to make a name for themselves on the sports field. We went out every afternoon to play hockey, cricket, or football or to run whenever time allowed. I saw how the sport helped us to bond together as a team, just as it had been when I first joined up, but this time it was even better. I felt like I really belonged here. In the photo above, we had just beaten the War Office hockey team, who were the army hockey champions at the time. We went on to play in the army finals but unfortunately got beaten in a closely fought game. We also made a very good cricket team and in the summer, local teams were queueing up to play us. In football we were also successful and won the Folkestone five-a-side indoor league. I also played with a couple of other band members in the East Kent Football League for Cheriton. At the end of the season, they hired The Folkestone Constitution Hall and organised a farewell party for us as we were leaving for Aden.

 

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