Hornchurch Drum & Trumpet Corps history
HOW THE BAND WAS STARTED by BRIAN KEELER
The band was started by Brian Keeler as Founder Bandmaster, on 19th June 1959 who invited Bob Stables, as Drum Major and Drill Instructor, Reg Aris and Chas Deverall, as Drum and Percussion Instructors, who had all been band members previously together, of the Hornchurch Unit of the Sea Cadet Corps Band in their younger days.
We were all aware that our lads would soon lose interest without instruments, so to enable the band to get started musically, my wife and I agreed to loan our hard earned house deposit to the Band Supporters Committee, in order that instruments could be purchased quickly. The Committee had agreed that they would make strenuous efforts to repay this loan as soon as possible. Our formation had caught the interest of the Elm Park British Legion, who wanted us to lead their Remembrance Day Parade on 8.11.59 and as we knew that there was no chance of equipping the band with uniforms by this date, it was agreed that dark suits would be worn with black Army surplus berets as head gear at least.
The original band are shown drawn up in Woodcote Avenue, Elm Park ready for the march back to the British Legion Headquarters with the following members on Parade:
Drum Major Tom Daley
FAR COLUMN: MIDDLE COLUMN: NEAR COLUMN:
Side Drummer Dave Roberts Side Drummer Keeling “Tipper” Drummer Ken Daley
Tenor Drummer Fox Side Drummer Clark Tenor Drummer Keith Bowdidge
Cymbalist Brown Bass Drummer Barry Armstrong Cymbalist Brand
Trumpeter Tilson Trumpeter Jones Trumpeter Eamon Brennan
Trumpeter Tilson Trumpeter Brown Trumpeter Green
Trumpeter Barry Harman Trumpeter Wetherall Trumpeter Antrobus
Solo Trumpeter Ray Chipp Solo Trumpeter Alan Hughes Solo Trumpeter Cooper
By December, we had a sample uniform on show and we then had to make an all out effort to raise the remaining funds to pay to equip the whole band, as Victor Maddern, the Upminster T.V. and film actor was organising a charity football match between the T.V. All Stars and the Hornchurch & Upminster Football Club.
He had arranged for the game to be played on February 7th 1960 at the Hornchurch Stadium and we had been invited to play before and at the half time interval. This was the first occasion when the public would see the whole band turned out in their
immaculate maroon and gold tunics, with the distinctive gold stripe on their black trousers, these being the colours of the Hornchurch Coat of Arms which the Council
had granted us permission to use. At the end of the game, the lads were able to get autographs from the more well known stars such as Ian Carmichael, Benny Hill, Andrew Ray, Bernard Bresslaw, and Dave King, with an appearance by an unknown at that time, - Sean Connery who had yet to achieve stardom as James Bond! Shirley Bassey was also there to start the game by kicking off. This was an occasion when this little football ground attracted record numbers, who came along to support the charity and see the stars. February saw the Chairman of the Hornchurch Urban District Council being invited to become the Band President and a special parade was put on for Cllr. Harry Moss.
Around this time, we were introduced to a local printer who was keen to produce a brochure, the cost of which would be met by advertising, and distributed to every household in Hornchurch free of charge. He had requested an advance of a couple of hundred pounds to purchase the paper, which seemed reasonable but as time went by our suspicions were aroused, when no brochure seemed to be on the horizon and we discovered we had been subjected to a con by an undischarged bankrupt, which made everybody in the Committee furious, as the money had taken hard work to acquire.
During the next few months, we were to take part in various local events and as I was also organising the first Hornchurch Carnival Procession since before WW 2, in my role as Procession Chairman and Chief Marshal, it was obvious who was likely to be leading the procession in May 1960! Shortly after this was the first main competition in which the band was to take part, the Hornchurch Bugle and Trumpet Band Contest scheduled to be held at Harrow Lodge Park on 11th June 1960.
From the inception of the band, the lads had been encouraged to aim high, with the Romford British Legion Boys Band having taken 3 years to become Champions, with two years for the Romford Borough Drum and Trumpet Corps, our goal was “From New Boys to Champions in 1 year” and this was a constant reminder during our first year of training. As new boys, our arrival at the competition to a drum tap only, had our rivals worried, because we looked good and we didn’t want them to get an idea of how well we could play until we entered the arena. This caused quite a sensation with many bands obviously impressed and when it came to the prize giving, we took two out of the three main competition first prizes, with other lesser prizes as well.
A fortnight later we took part in the Romford Band Festival, where once again we
caused a stir by taking the two main prizes there, which demonstrated to our rivals at Romford that we had arrived on the champion band scene. Also in August, we took part for the first time in
leading the procession in the Basildon Carnival, where we met their enthusiastic organiser, Bill Barber who had been very impressed with the band. Basildon at this time was in it’s infancy and at
that time, was only the initial housing area along Whitmore Way, with no Town Centre, no hospital and no bus and train stations. Bill felt that Basildon needed a band of this type, but he lacked any
musical ability to be able to train a band. As it happened, I knew that an old band contact, Peter Friend was moving to Thundersley, so he was approached to enquire whether he would be interested in
the formation of a new band in Basildon as Bandmaster.Having received an affirmative response, I informed
Bill who had already a potential committee, who came to our house where we explained the steps that we had taken tostart, which gave them food for
A little later on when they had a small group of lads together, the Hornchurch instructors went down to Basildon, to give their lads some elementary tuition and some of them came to our next important Contest. We also introduced them to our tailor who helped them produce their own uniforms.
This Contest was the Midland Youth Band Championship, held each year at the Aston Villa Football Ground in September and took on a completely different format from that used at Romford and Hornchurch. Bands had to perform a routine of their choice, where they had a maximum time of 10 minutes in the arena, and they had to perform for a minimum of 8 minutes when a signal was given – if the band took longer than the overall limit or under the 8 minutes, points were deducted. It seemed that most bands on hearing the signal, then promptly finished off their performance. We took on a different approach, where our routine was worked out and timed to last for 9 minutes and 45 seconds. We also cut out all waves of the mace, or double beats on the bass drum etc., which in our opinion, gave away that something was going to happen. All changes of pace, routine etc were based on a reaching a particular part of the music, which caused things to happen.
After many practices against the clock, we were certain we would not overrun our time limit. The day arrived and the Romford British Legion Boys Band was hoping to win once again to make three in a row, and the celebrated Coventry School of Music was also due to take part. When our lads started their routine, there were gasps from the stands as the trumpets or drums all changed step to slow time or vice versa, or wheeled around, as planned in the band program, all without any give away signals. The 8 minute signal was sounded and the band continued with their program, causing other competitors to chortle as they thought we were running over time, but as planned, the band wheeled round in front of the judges tables and halted having taken 9 mins 45 seconds, which drew much applause!
When it came to the results and prize giving, we were jubilant when we heard that we had gained 180 out of 200 points, beating Coventry into second place by four points with the Romford British Legion in last place 46.5 points behind us. Strange to say, it appeared that no other band had interpreted the rules as we had and the next year saw others adopting the same principle, which of course, gave a better spectacle to the supporters as well as presenting a slick routine. We now felt that we had achieved our target of “New Boys to Champions in one year” which had been our mantra of encouragement during our training. To provide additional facilities for the lads, we had joined the Essex Association of Boys’ Clubs, which was the local branch of the N.A.B.C. The local secretary was Lt.Col. I.F.G. Hall who had been very enthusiastic about the band and said that he would like to bring down an old friend, Major C.H. “Jinks” Jaeger, Director of Music, Band of the Irish Guards.
November 29th 1960 was the evening when Major “Jinks” Jaeger accompanied Lt. Col Hall and arrived whilst the band were undergoing their drill practice, which must havebeen of good standard for “Jinks” to turn to Lt.Col. Hall and comment” It’s very impressive, if they can do this and play instruments as well……”.
The band formed up with their instruments and gave a demonstration of how they could perform, within the confines of the Elm Park Assembly Hall. On conclusion, they were asked to gather round the stage where Major Jaeger addressed them. “ I have watched each one of you perform in the band and you still have a lot to learn. However, all of you contribute to the overall performance and you play better than most bands of your age that I have seen in years. From the moment that I walked through the door, I was impressed and agreeably surprised by the high degree of efficiency and turnout.”
This was felt to be high praise indeed as besides his own regimental band, he was also the Chairman of the Arts and Music Committee of the National Association of Boys’ Clubs.
As we moved into 1961, our first contest was the Middlesex Youth Band Competition at the Hanwell Community Centre in March and we were changing headgear – gone were the black berets which had served us since 1959 and we were sporting new “Guards Style” caps in the maroon to match the uniforms, with a new cap badge bearing the Hornchurch coat of arms. This addition brought us more luck in that we carried off the main prize, the Open Championship Shield, 2nd prize in the Non Pre-Service Class, whilst our drum major, Tom Daley won the best Drum Major. During the winter months, we had been making enquiries into improving our instrumentation, by purchasing Piston Bugles, which would enable us to play a wider range of music, and with the various instrument pitches, produce a more mellow sound. However, the next month was the final of the London and Essex Federation of Boy’s Clubs Arts Festival being held at the Brady Clubs in Whitechapel, where we came first as Musicians of the Year, with two other arts awards, which meant we would take part in the National Finals at the Festival Hall in London during Boys’ Club Week in October. The judges had been particuarly impressed by a special Jazz routine composed by Reg Aris.
May saw a farewell to our retiring Band President, Cllr Charles Welch, when our new piston Bugle section having had only one practice beforehand, made their debut by playing “Auld Lang Syne” at his special parade. In June, we took part in our Hornchurch Contest where we were somewhat disappointed when we were beaten into 3rd place in all three championships by the Romford D. & T.C. A fortnight later, we were to gain our revenge at the Romford Contest, where we came away with 9 awards. Carnival appearance at Basildon followed in August with our first T.V. appearance in the same month when we led the Maldon Carnival. Our Open Night followed when we welcomed our new President, Cllr. Mrs E. Dean who presented a new shield bearing the Hornchurch Coat of Arms which she had made.
September arrived and we were back up the M1 to Aston Villa to defend our Midland Youth Band Championship title. With 11 other bands competing, including the Romford British Legion Boys Band, at the end of the competition as reigning champions, we played all the bands onto the arena and awaited the results. When it was announced that we had won again scoring 190.5 points out of 200, our supporters went wild. Coventry School of Music were second with 184 points whilst the Romford Band came third with 175.
Boys’ Club Week was soon upon us and we left for the Festival Hall on the South Bank, where we were now attempting to gain the title of “Boys’ Clubs Musicians of the Year”. Before the show began, a fanfare party were dropped off at the old L.C.C. County Hall, where they were to play for the Duke of Gloucester, President of the N.A.B.C. and then run back to the Festival Hall ready to join a larger fanfare party
who were to open the event. This was called “Clubs are Trumps” and was compered by the D.J., Brian Matthew. The show was made up of the various boys taking part in
the competition, interspersed by professional acts from well known stars, including Frankie Vaughan, Vera Lynn, Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine, Billy Dainty, Ray Allen the ventriloquist with “Lord Charles,” Billy Ternent and his Orchestra and the Regimental Band of the Irish Guards, under Major “Jinks” Jaeger. At the start of the show, the auditorium had been plunged into darkness, whilst the fanfare party climbed to the high tier behind the two big bands. As Brian Matthew announced “Clubs are Trumps 1961,” Spotlights beamed down on and picking out the members of the Fanfare Party and my heart was in my mouth, but the boys had trained well and hit the right notes of the fanfare “Royale” which received much applause. When our turn to perform as band came round, after the announcement, we struck up from the back of the hall, marching down the aisles and forming up on stage where we completed our performance and at the end of the show, played with the Band of the Irish Guards for the grand finale. I think you could say our year was complete, when it was announced that we had beaten 9 other soloists, jazz bands and pop groups to win the coveted award, which was presented to us by the T.V. Producer, Dennis Main-Wilson.
Sadly this was the end of an outstandingly short but successful era when a large proportion of our original members (20 out of 34) had reached the upper age limit and left the band.
The instructors had to swallow their disappointment and start once more with a group of new recruits to fill the gaps, they had but a few months to get licked into shape before the first contest in March at Ealing. However, in spite of this, the new lads put on a good performance considering the short time they had trained. The media were rather harsh, commenting that the Corps high standard had dropped when compared with previous years – they seemed to forget that when you are at the top, everybody else is trying so hard to knock you off your pedestal. The lads gained second places in both of the competition classes entered, which the instructors thought most creditable. Shortly after this in April, we were to welcome Lt.Col Hall, who was retiring after serving 23 years as the Secretary of the Essex Association of Boys’ Clubs. He had been a real fan of the Corps, encouraging and helping in our ambitions, introducing us to Major “Jinks” Jaeger along the way and after putting on a special display for him, our President, Cllr Mrs E. Dean presented him with a framed photograph of the band on stage at the Festival Hall. Strange as it seemed, but her husband a Major in the Army, had served with Lt. Col Hall in India, and it was quite a reunion for them.
June arrived and we entered the Hornchurch Contest as usual, but once again had a critical riposte from the local press, who ignored the fact that we were virtually starting again and we felt that the three 3rd places in our 3 classes, with our new Drum
Major (David Setterfield) winning 2 out of 3 classes was a pretty reasonable result. Our old rivals the King Edward VI School (Chelmsford) Corps of Drums, were on outstanding form, winning all three classes plus the Grand Champiuonship.
If my memory serves me correctly, the Romford Contest was not held for some reason or other in 1962 so our next competition would be at Aston Villa Football Ground when we were attempting to retain our hold on the magnificent Jack Mould Cup.We were somewhat unsure of the possible result and although they performed well, the other contestants were better. 13th Coventry Boys Scouts took first place with 178.75 points, Coventry School of Music A Corps came 2nd with 178 points, whilst yet again we came in at 3rd place with 167.5
As the year came to an end, we were practising hard to regain our laurels in 1963. Our first contest was as usual at Ealing on 2nd March 1963 where we obtained 2nd place in both our classes against 11 other bands, the eventual winners being the Northampton Girls’ Life Brigade who gained an additional 1st Prize for Best Girls’ Band. Steve Johnson, one of our trumpeters competed in the E.A.B.C. Chess Championship in May, where he became Essex Champion and was also awarded other prizes for his entries in the Arts and Crafts section. He would now be going forward to the finals in London later in the month, but before this, we were invited to take part in a Boys’ Club show “Fed Up” organised by the London Federation of Boys’ Clubs at the Victoria Palace in London.
A rehearsal for the show was being held at Grange Farm, Chigwell and although this was carried out in civvies, the producer was satisfied with our routine and allowed us to go outside the centre buildings, to practise further in the surrounding fields. Our practice there was to earn us fame all round the world in due course, when Farmer Read claimed that our playing had caused his herd of cows, unseen by us in nearby fields, to stampede which had caused 5 pregnant cows to die. We had packed up immediately at his intervention and in due course, attended Victoria Palace to take part in the show. When the other performers saw the “Bulls Head” shoulder flash on our uniforms, they asked whether this was to commemorate our killing the cows and still did not believe our reply, that this had been part of the uniform since we began. This information, was picked up by a free-lance reporter, who promptly gathered the story, which he sold to most of the main newspapers. We had purposely kept quiet about the event, as we did not wish to stir the Farmer into taking action against us for damages! On the Monday following the show, most of the papers reported the story with various degrees of accuracy, which was then transmitted all round the world.
However, we had more important things to attend to, as the Hornchurch Contest was
very close on 15th June and so was the imminent arrival of our first born, my wife having to miss the Contest for the first time, being hospitalised and he arrived just before midnight on
13.6.63. Everyone was delighted when our performance caused us to gain 1stplace in the Open, Non Pre-Service and the Grand Championship’s, plus a special Drum Playing award, with our Drum
Major David Setterfield winning an award as well, we felt that we had regained our position in the upper echelons of band performance. Terry Turvey, one of our trumpeters, had been allowed out of
hospital and given a front row seat, (after being involved in a near death accident,) where he was able to watch the victory before returning to his hospital. Once the Contest was over, I drove to
Forest Gate Maternity Hospital, still in uniform and carrying an armful of trophies, which caused nurses to ask whether they were to be presented to my wife on producing a
I had been invited back in December 1961 to join the Hornchurch Band Contest Committee to represent the interests of the independent Non Pre-Service bands and as
an actual bandmaster, was able to put through minor changes here and there for the benefit of bands in general. However, due to the merger of Romford with Hornchurch, the general feeling of the Committee, was that as the smaller partner, many things related to Hornchurch might be cut back in the interests of economy. To celebrate the 21st birthday of the Contest on 13.6.64, I suggested that a new class be set up for bands having in excess of 30 members, and including our Corps, there were three entries. However, we found on the day that the two other entrants had dropped out, which was a disappointing walkover for us. The Basildon Drum & Trumpet Corps made their first entry since their formation and gathered three awards in the 3 classes they had entered, but this was possibly our finest performance, winning 3 classes, 2nd in the other plus the Grand Championship. David Setterfield also had a field day, collecting 3 best Drum Major prizes.
In April 1964, we received a letter from two American scientists at Los Alamos, New Mexico, who queried the happenings regarding the cows episode. They pointed out that one of their Pershing missiles, got out of control on a test range and was blown up. A chunk of the missile the size of a pick-up truck had landed amongst a herd of cows, but none were killed! They asked whether the Corps was more powerful than their Pershing missile and my wife wrote back to explain the circumstances, that we had since heard that the farmer had concocted the story to stop the band playing, but the resultant publicity had spread all round the world. An explanation of the band activity was given and she suggested that if they ever came over here, we would be happy to put on a performance for them to judge for themselves.
We never expected anything to come of this but shortly after the Contest, we heard that they would be over in London and they would like to take up our offer. We promptly made contact with various bodies to take advantage of the chance for further publicity. On 9.8.64 I met Dr Paul Mutschlecner, Dr Robert Brownlee and his wife Addie Leah outside Westminster Abbey and brought them back to our home for a typical British Roast, then caused some surprise when Jack de Manio, the BBC presenter of the “Today” program turned up to interview them on the reason for their visit. We then dashed off to the Hornchurch Stadium, where they met the Chairman of the Council, Cllr. S.A. Legg and his wife and were conveyed in his official limousine into the Stadium ground ready for the performance by the boys. Pictures were taken by the media, a special doll in a miniature band uniform was presented to them to their delight, which they still have today. Needless to say, the occasion produced further publicity with their opinion that the band were not guilty!
Around this time I had accepted a new position in another bank which provided greater responsibility and which was set to take up more of my time and with the additional family duties to consider, I was having second thoughts about continuing as Bandmaster, I resigned in 1965. I had also been appointed Vice Chairman of the Hornchurch Band Contest Committee in 1963 before taking over as Secretary, when Havering Council issued an ultimatum in 1967 that they would no longer support the Contest as previously. This was the start of a new challenge for me to undertake, but then, this is another story completely!
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