KRRC - 2RGJ

2 rgj logo

The King's Royal Rifle Corps

There was music in the 60th Foot at an early date, as an Inspection Report for the 1st Battalion dated 19 December 1783 demonstrates: '2 black pioneers borne on strength of each company. 3 Fife cases wanted. Band tolerable. Now as much British as any other Corps in the service.' With the change of the Regiment into a light infantry unit, however, the idea of having a band seems to have been reduced in priority; a report of the 5th Battalion in 1804 mentions '22 Bugles and Buglemen's swords' but no other instrumentation, and when the 60th petitioned Horse Guards for permission for a man 'to be borne on the strength of the Regiment as a Serjeant, he not being an enlisted soldier, for the purpose of being employed as a Master of the Band', the request was turned down.

This situation was gradually to change and by the middle of the century bands had been firmly established in all four battalions, with the earliest recorded bandmasters being A Emanuel (1st Bn, appointed 1856), W Woodcock (2nd Bn, 1865), J Coleman (3rd Bn, 1864) and G Light (4th Bn, 1874). Of these, the last three were all Kneller Hall graduates, but the 1st Battalion held on to the old tradition of the civilian musician as long as possible - Mr Emanuel served through to 1871, when he was succeeded by Giacomo Raineri, another civilian. It was only when the 1881 reforms of the Army insisted that all bandmasters should be accredited by Kneller Hall that Mr Raineri enlisted into the Regiment and attended the School on the bandmasters' course.

William Woodcock of the 2nd Battalion had been born into the Regiment, his father then serving with the Battalion in Dublin. By the time the young Mr Woodcock enlisted at the age of fifteen, he had already seen foreign postings to Gibraltar and Corfu, but his days as a bandsman were to be even more eventful. In the early 1850s the 2nd Battalion was posted to South Africa where it was involved in the protracted fighting of the era; presumably the musicians too were called upon to serve, but the Kaffrarian Observer reported in 1857 that the Band was present (playing 'lively airs') as the 60th Rifles entered King William's Town, suggesting that it had not been too heavily damaged by the war.

Even then the 2nd's campaigning was not done, for in 1860 it moved to China where the bandsmen were on active duty in the fighting at Taku Forts and Peking; they also played at the funerals of Mr Bowlby, the war correspondent of The Times, and of various prisoners who died in Chinese custody. Having served through these postings, William Woodcock was promoted to Serjeant in 1862, sent to Kneller Hall and then appointed Bandmaster, though the years abroad seem to have weakened him: in 1870, whilst stationed in India, he fell ill and was discharged from the Battalion, though he subsequently found a more comfortable berth with the 3rd East Surrey Volunteers.

The record of overseas service in the Regiment continued with the 1st and 4th Battalions' involvement in the Boer War: in 1909 the Band of the 1st played at Winchester Cathedral for a ceremony in which the Prince of Wales unveiled a stained glass window in memory of those who had fallen.


Bandmaster C Anthony, 2KRRC

Other accounts from the turn of the century tell of the 1st Band playing for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught in Malta in 1903 (the couple then proceeded to India, where they were welcomed by the Band of the 2nd Battalion), and of the 3rd Battalion in Crete in 1908: here there was a regimental production of 'Humpty Dumpty' with Band Serjeant E France taking the part of the Queen of Humptiland. A more serious engagement for the 3rd came a few years later with the Delhi Durbar, at which Sjt France was appointed assistant Sergeant Major for the massed bands; Durbar medals were presented to Bandmaster Henry Lovell, Sjt France, Sjt W Pearson, Cpl J H Shirley, L/Cpl G E Stokes and Bdsm H G Gibbs.

Mr Lovell was a highly regarded musician, who served with the 3rd right through to its disbandment in 1922, but the most distinguished Bandmaster of the era was William Dunn of the 2nd Battalion. Appointed in 1908, 'Paddy' Dunn came from a musical family, his father and brother having been in the 33rd Foot Band (see The Duke of Wellington's Regiment), whilst his other brother was then Bandmaster of the 1st Irish Fusiliers. Under Paddy's influence the 2nd Battalion became the first 'silver band' in the Army, with a complete set of silver-plated instruments. Whilst playing at the 1912 Paris Exhibition, he found an even more distinctive instrument, the Unaphone, a keyboard comprising an octave-and-a-half of tuned bells. The first performance was given by Mrs Dunn at a regimental guest night; when the commanding officer discovered that the Unaphone had not yet been paid for, he passed around a menu card for donations from the officers - the money was raised immediately. This unique instrument now resides in the Kneller Hall Museum.

Mr Dunn's greatest contribution came in 1914. The 2nd Battalion was dispatched to France as soon as war was declared, and Mr Dunn - having been refused leave to accompany them - disguised himself as a rifleman and joined the draft secretly; he was subsequently given command of the 2nd Brigade Ammunition Column, in which capacity he won the Military Cross.

In the aftermath of the War the 3rd and 4th spent a brief period in India before being disbanded, whilst the 1st served in Ireland and then India, and the 2nd was posted to Cologne. Photographs of the two surviving bands in the '20s show them at a strength of nearly 50 musicians each, and both had a deservedly high reputation: when the 2nd Band entered a competition in Ostend in 1923, it triumphed over 300 civilian and military bands from France, Belgium, Holland and Germany to take the first prize.

When Mr Dunn moved on to an appointment as Director of Music of The Blues, he was succeeded by another towering figure of military music, David McBain, who later became Director of Music at Kneller Hall. Under his baton the 2nd Band maintained its standards - it was described by Lt-Gen Sir William Pitcairn Campbell as 'one of the three best bands in the British Army' - and even broke new ground, playing at Buckingham Palace and becoming the first line band to broadcast on the BBC. Amongst those to emerge from its ranks was Bandboy Bashford, winner of the Horn Prize in 1935 and later to follow Mr McBain as Director of Music at Kneller Hall.

The 1st Battalion too had the benefit of an outstanding Bandmaster: Arthur Hibbert was appointed in 1930 whilst the Battalion was in India. One of the most gifted musicians of his time, Mr Hibbert had - uniquely - passed the psm examination even before leaving Kneller Hall to take over his band; whilst at the School he had also designed the new bandstand, known as The Rock. Although there were few opportunities in '20s India for making a musical reputation, Mr Hibbert found himself busy playing at parades, dinner nights and concerts; there were also tattoos, though this term could sometimes give a misleading impression of grandeur - at the Mandalay Tattoo in 1937, for example, the 1st KRRC was the only band.

In 1939 the 2nd Battalion went to France, with the bandsmen reverting to their stretcher-bearer roles, though they took their instruments for use when possible. Any opportunities that may have existed were short-lived - as the German advance swept the Allies back through France, the 2nd and 7th KRRC found themselves engaged in an heroic defence of Calais that was absolutely vital in covering the escape from Dunkirk, but cost the Regiment dearly. When the position was finally overrun, all the survivors were captured, including the whole band save for a trombonist who had been killed earlier in the siege. The instruments were also amongst the casualties - the truck in which they were stored was crushed by a German tank and all were destroyed, amongst them the French horn that had been given to Rodney Bashford as his prize in 1935.

New bandmasters had been appointed to both battalions shortly before the War, Albert Jarvis and Stephen Baker. The former was able to rebuild at the depot, and in 1945 took his Band on a tour of Germany, but Mr Baker and the few musicians unfit for active service were sent on loan to the Cairo Area Military Band. It was not until the end of the conflict that all KRRC bandsmen assembled together at the depot; by 1 September 1946 there were 60 musicians - two bandmasters, two band serjeants, forty men and sixteen boys. The residual strength of the men can be gauged by the fact that this total included three future bandmasters, Messrs Bashford, Hilling and Watkins.

The principal task of these musicians was to welcome in troopships at Southampton; more than one hundred such vessels were greeted during the winter of 1945-46, amongst them the Corfu, the first ship to return with former prisoners-of-war from Japan. They also played for the departure of the 2nd Battalion, which sailed for Tripoli in October 1945. It was to be only a brief posting, however, for less than two years later the Battalion was disbanded, with the majority of the musicians moving to the 1st, though a few accompanied Bandmaster Baker on his transfer to the 3rd Hussars.

In 1951 the order was given for the 2nd Battalion to be re-formed and in May of that year Reginald Rodgers was appointed Bandmaster, or to put it in his own words:

On May 2nd the edict went forth that the 2nd Battalion The King's Royal Rifle Corps would form a Band. Contact was immediately established with the Factory for the Production of Bandmasters, Mark 1, Army, for the use of, at Kneller Hall, who sent one of their specimens.

During the five years of the Band's existence it made tours of UK summer resorts, massed with the 1st Band to beat retreat at Sennelager and served in Germany and the Middle East. It also made a return broadcast on BBC radio and survived long enough to celebrate the bicentennial of the Regiment in 1955 in a combined parade at Tidworth with the 1st Battalion.

The 2nd Battalion was disbanded forever in 1956 and two years later the KRRC was officially redesignnated the 2nd Green Jackets, though this had little immediate effect on the Band. Ted Jeanes continued as Bandmaster until 1961 when he was succeeded by Stewart Swanwick, formerly of the 3rd King's African Rifles. When Mr Swanwick returned to Africa three years later, to become the musical advisor at the British Military Mission in Libya, his place was taken by Ray Tonks, who was still in command when the title of the Regiment was once again changed in 1966.


Band & Bugles, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Church Parade, Blackdown, 1912

2nd Battalion, The Royal Green Jackets

In May 1969 Mr RayTonks was succeeded as Bandmaster by Jack Boden, who built on the legacy of his predecessors. Under his command the Band was extremely popular wherever it travelled, a fact not unrelated to the support Mr Boden received from Band Sgt Maj 'Digger' Ashby (a talented flautist) and Bugle-Major Colin Green, the latter one of the most famous SNCOs in the military band world, with his moustachioed appearance and immaculate turn-out.

Subsequent bandmasters were 'Don' Donaldson and Peter Road-Knight. For the most part the Band alternated in these years between the UK and Germany, with highlights coming at the Wembley Pageants of 1971 and 1973 and whilst doing public duties at Buckingham Palace in 1972. In 1975 the Battalion moved to Cyprus, where the Band played on a Silver Jubilee Parade in 1977,

When cuts were made to regimental bands in 1984, the Royal Green Jackets decided to have two medium-sized bands rather than three small ones.

TOP

© RGJ BAND 2017