I met my husband through my first love, music. A musician since the age of five, by eleven I joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Band Service and fell in love with symphonic wind band and military music. At nineteen I spent a week with the Band of the Life Guards to learn about life as a musician in the army. I never did join the armed forces like my father and grandfathers before me, instead I’d fallen head over heels in love with a reserved young Lance Corporal and in time became the wife of a soldier and carried on with my burgeoning museum career instead. For me, playing in a military band (or four) in my spare time was enough. It provided me with a huge new social group, an invaluable musical education, the chance to travel across the globe and unparalleled access to the kind of gigs that other amateur musicians can only dream of (The Royal Tournament 1999, The Queen’s 80th birthday party at Kew Palace, on board the decks of HMS Warrior and HMS Victory among others.)
My experiences with the RNVBs and as a Corps of Army Music WAG have made my life immeasurably better and made me friends for life, so I would like to share a story with you that deeply affected so many people in our military music and Household Cavalry communities.
On the morning of the 20th July 1982 the ceremonial duties of the army were being carried out in usual in London. Crowds of tourists gathered to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and lined the route that the soldiers took from there to the barracks.
The Blues and Royals were parading down Rotten Row in Hyde Park for the Changing of the Guard when a nail bomb hidden in a car exploded close by. Nails and bomb shrapnel tore through soldiers, horses and tourists. Three soldiers died instantly, and later another would die in hospital from his wounds. Seven horses were killed or had to be put down.
Two hours later in Regent’s Park a concert was well underway at the bandstand. The Band of the Royal Green Jackets were playing a crowd pleasing piece, a medley of tunes from Oliver! I’ve played it several times myself. An audience had gathered, enjoying listening to the music in the beautiful surroundings of the park. Another nail bomb had been hidden beneath the floor of the bandstand and had been timed to detonate in the middle of the concert. Every single musician was injured and seven killed, with many of the audience also hurt.
In the days that followed the IRA took full responsibility. I can’t even bring myself to write what they said about it.
I’ve met survivors of the blast and they still feel the pain of that day very deeply, 30 years on. To this day the Band of the Royal Green Jackets have never played Oliver! since.
Please take just a minute today to pay your respects to those that died in the terrorist attack.
Anthony Daly of the Blues and Royals, aged 23
Simon Tipper of the Blues and Royals, aged 19
Jeffrey Young of the Blues and Royals, aged 19
Roy Bright of the Blues and Royals, aged 36
Graham Barker of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 36
John McKnight of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 30
Robert Livingstone of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 31
Laurence Smith of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 19
Keith Powell of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 24
George Mesure of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 19
John Heritage of the Band of the Royal Green Jackets, aged 29