America and West Indies Station
1930 – 1932
The Formation of the Volunteer Band
The Brass Band on Church Parade.
Location uncertain – possibly Port Natal
Click to enlarge
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of a first class Brass Band in any ship on the America and West Indies Station. On this station, which embraces important Dominions, countries and republics, there are numerous official and social occasions on which an efficient brass band can
enhance the prestige both of the Empire and the ship. In some of the West Indian Islands the natives judge the worth of the ship by the display of the Band on a church parade. When H.M.S. Cameron’s Band visited the Argentine during the Empire Exhibition an Argentine was heard to remark, “These British have taught us to play football and cricket. They are now teaching us how to play our own National Anthem.”
When H.M.S. Dauntless commissioned at Portsmouth, Commander Bruce, Lieutenant Whetstone and certain officers and ship’s company formed a committee to investigate the necessary requirements for the commission as regards Music and Sport. It was decided to form a Brass Band and to buy a piano for use by the ship’s company. But where were the funds to come from? Both were expensive items. The position was this. The ship had been in Dockyard hands for nearly two years. Were there any Canteen Funds available? Of course not.
However, the Royal Navy & Royal Marines Sports Control Board came to our rescue. They advanced the ship’s company £132 7s 7d, free of interest and money to be paid back by monthly installments, and so the purchase of band instruments, a piano and sports gear was made feasible. Lieutenant Whetstone obtained the instruments from Messrs. Hawkes at special terms. On the 27th March 1930, the Volunteer Brass Band was formed.
Private band instruments were forthcoming, which brought the total to 18, excluding two drums. A.B. Simpkins, who had passed tests in the R.M. School of Music and had much experience, was elected Bandmaster, while A.B. Cartland was selected to be Deputy Bandmaster. About eleven ratings had previous experience in a band. The remaining instruments were allocated to musical volunteers. The band put in a lot of hard work in their spare time; work which was so profitable that a week after our arrival in Bermuda a very creditable performance was given. Four more tub drums were brought and more volunteers came forward.
The first Sunday after our arrival in Bermuda, the band of H.M.S. Dauntless was ordered to head the church parade of ships present. It was obvious from this first appearance on the march in public that we had the foundations of an excellent band. Since then the quality and quantity of the music played have surpassed all expectations.
Too much cannot be said of the time, interest and efforts expended by Lieutenant Whetstone on behalf of the Band, and it is largely due to him that we are now so proud of our Volunteer Brass Band. When Lt. Whetstone left the ship, Lt.-Comdr. Bond ably fulfilled his arduous tasks.
A.B. Simpkins, A. B. Cartland and their musicians have rendered delightful programmes at Captain Vivian’s dinner parties, Captain and Officers’ ‘At Home,’ at concert parties, to the ships company, at sports meetings and at official functions ashore. They have played at ‘Colours’ in most of the important seaports of the New World. Without exaggeration it may be said that few will forget our band on a church parade, headed by our 6-feet Drum Major, Stoker Blake, late Drum Major of R.N. Barracks, Portsmouth. The band has also played on the plazas of nearly all the places visited in S. America, to the very great enjoyment of the inhabitants, according to the local papers.
The solid silver mounted mace, presented by Lieutenant Whetstone, is a gift greatly cherished by officers and men of the ship. Alas! Volunteer Bands are to be a memory of the past, for the Admiralty has approved a Royal Marine Band for all cruisers.
The band at the time of going to press was composed as follows:
The Concert Party
We can truly say that the Concert Party and the Volunteer Band have been one of the big successes of the commission. Great credit is due to the organisers, artists, producers, scene-painters, lighting experts and sceneshifters and others responsible for the high quality of the variety entertainment provided. These marvelous results were only obtained by hard work, cheerfulness and harmony. The combination of Concert Party and Band at the Concerts given in the various countries was all that could be desired. In small ports, where variety entertainments in English are unknown, British, Canadians and Americans expressed their appreciation in terms, which would make the artists blush if they but knew. Most of us have seen the Concert Party at least on five occasions and we would willingly be present at another performance and could enjoy ourselves as much as we did on the previous occasions.
The debut was made at the Concert Hall in the Chamber of Commerce, Victoria, B. C., in June 1930.
On our return to Bermuda a series of rehearsals took place at the R. N. Canteen Theatre. Turns, which had proved an unqualified success, were retained and substitutes provided for those not so good. In December 1930, after much hard work, we gave a Concert for the fleet, the proceeds of which went to the dependents of our shipmates who were drowned at Vancouver. This effort at Bermuda may be considered as the second stage reached by the Concert Party and was voted a decided improvement.
The following is an extract from a local paper:
The concert party of the Dauntless made its first appearance since her arrival on the station and
won for themselves a place equal to the best performances that have been seen in this theatre.
The programme at Bermuda was the basis of all the performances during our second cruise. Many entertainments were given during the South American Cruise. By this time the Concert Party had reached their zenith. (The third stage) For example the concert given at Stanley, Falkland Islands was reported in the Falkland’s newspaper ‘Penguin:’
The Ship’s Concert
A Record Attendance
The attendance of the public in the Town Hall on Saturday evening, when the Concert Party of H.M.S. Dauntless, by kind permission of
Captain Vivian, gave a performance, amounted to approximately 650 people, constituting what must almost be a record. The Hall was packed
to overflowing, but what discomfort might have been experienced as a result of this was immediately forgotten when the Party commenced
their programme. They kept everyone in the highest of spirits throughout the evening, and when, at last, the final curtain rang down it was with
real regret that those present made their departure, loathe to leave these laugh provoking characters whose jollity truly caused mirth to break
loose, rampant over Stanley.
A well-played Overture by the Band of H.M.S. Dauntless set the ball rolling and this, followed by a jolly opening chorus, gave everybody the
cue to expect much from their jovial entertainers. It was not long before these expectations were being realised. C.P.O. Cook Jolliffe made a hit
with his “Don’t be so unkind, baby,” while A. B. Leary charmed all with his dulcimer. L .S. Simpkins comic song, “A Soldier’s Life,” brought
rounds of applause, as did also the comedy duo, “The Li(e)on Tamers,” by C.P.O. Cook Jolliffe and P. O. Grandison. The last named caused a
furore with his antics. Sgt. Gerrey, Yeo. Sigs. Thomson, C.P.O. Kemp-Knight and A. B. Clark then gave a clever interlude for which they were
heartily applauded, while in the next item Sgt. Gerrey gave a further exhibition of his talent in company with Ldg. Sig. Lishman and aided by
the chorus. Ldg. Sig. Lishman proved himself (or herself) a worthy possessor of the title, the “Pride of the Pier.” The first half of the
programme concluded with a well rendered song, entitled “The Road to Mandalay,” by Lieut.-Comdr. Bond, who was accompanied by Mrs D.
Creamer and clever vocal effects by Off. Std. Worton, whose sympathetic treatment of old songs captured the hearts of his audience.
During the interval the band played another selection of music, which was greatly appreciated.
The Cabaret, acted by the whole company, gave the second half of the programme an excellent send off, and Off. Std. Worton maintained the
standard with another of his delightful songs. Sgt. Gerrey continued the good work also with a song rendered in a rich voice, which captivated
all. Immediately following this, those two irrepressible comedians, C.P.O. Cook Jolliffe and P.O. Grandison, had a little set to in “This and
That,” which kept their hearers in shrieks of laughter. In “Telling the Tale,” Sergeant Gerrey demonstrated that it was no good telling it to the
Marines when funny stories were concerned. He seemed to have an inexhaustible supply of real mirth provoking yarns, all of which were
The ‘piece de resistance’ of the evening was “The Musical Law courts” by the company, consisting of comic opera effects, in which the
divorce of Mr and Mrs May reaches a happy conclusion. The principal parts were taken by: - Yeo, Sig. Thomson (Judge), Sgt Gerrey (Lawyer
for the Crown), A. B. Clark (Lawyer for the Defence), P.O. Grandison (Joe May), Ldg. Sig. Lishman (Mrs May), C.P.O. Kemp-Knight
(Constable), L.S. Simpkins (Usher), with the rest of the company acting as Jury.
In conclusion a really good finale brought the entertainment to a conclusion. But before the audience dispersed, three hearty cheers were
accorded the Concert Party, who had given them so rollicking a time.
Before concluding a word must be said in praise of the fine effects produced and the singing of the chorus, while the staging and lighting
features could not have been better. The stage Manager was M.A.A. Milsom, the lighting effects were under the charge of P. O. Bell, while
O.A. Brown acted as pianist. Among those present were His Excellency the Governor, Captain J.G.P. Vivian, R.N., and the Hon. L.M. Ellis
(Colonial Secretary) and Mrs Ellis.
The Programme rendered at Vina del Mar, Valparaiso, representing the Concert Party at its best, was as follows:
Chilean National Anthem
1) Overture (Band of H.M.S. “Dauntless”)
2) Opening Chorus (The Company)
3) Song - “Don’t be so unkind, baby” (C.P.O. Cook Jolliffe)
4) Song - (comic) -“A Soldier’s Life” (Ldg Sea Simpkins)
5) Song - “Oh, Granny, what big eyes you’ve got” (O.S. Worton)
6) Comedy Duo - “Full Bighters” (C.P.O. Ck. Jolliffe and P.O. Grandison)
7) Concerted - “Pride of the Pier” (Sergeant Gerrey, Lg Sig Lishman and Chorus)
8) Song - selected (Lt-Comdr Bond, R.N.)
9) Russian Ballet (The Famous Brothers, Wortonski and Clarkski)
10) Dilcimer - Solos and Choruses (A.B. Leary)
11) Selected - “The Cabaret” (The Company)
12) Song - selected (Sergt. Gerrey)
13) Illuminated Swinging-Band (Sto. Blake, A.B. Sanders and A.B. Backhouse)
14) Duet-Epitaphs (O.S. Worton and L.S. Simpkins)
15) Concerted - “Lovely by the Sea” (Sergt Gerrey, Lg. Sig. Lishman and Chorus)
16) Comedy Duo - “this and That” (C.P.O. Cook Jolliffe and P.O. Grandison)
17) Song (Comic) - “Everything at Home” (Lg. Sea. Simpkins)
18) Raconteur (Sergt. Gerrey)
19) Sketch - “The Musical Law Courts” (The Company)
20) Finale (The Entire Company)
God Save The King
President (Lieut. A.B.R. Sands, R.N.)
Stage Manager (M.A.A. Milson)
Lighting Effects (P.O. Bell)
Pianists (O. A. Brown and Cook Giblin)
Scenery Effects (Ptr. Day)
The above was also the programme given at our final performance at Talara Bay, Peru. The reception was stupendous.
The combined efforts of Lieut.-Comdr. Whetstone, and later Lieut.-Comdr. Bond and Lieut. Sands, M.A. A. Milsom, P.O. Rayment and P.O. Bell, the hard work and cheerfulness of the performers and other necessary personnel of a concert party and the whole hearted co-operation of the band, were the factors which contributed to the undoubted success of our concert party. Both officers and ship’s company were proud of them. We herewith tender our congratulations.
Just reading the programme once again brings back very pleasant memories.