Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Playing at Wembley

Myself and many of my colleagues have probably spent more time on the hallowed Wembley turf than England captain Bobby Moore. Not playing football but playing our musical instruments.

On the 20th April 1968 The Royal Artillery Band played  for the Amateur Cup Final at Wembley. This was my first time playing at the world famous stadium. My next time would be for a School Boy International football match. I remember the noise of 95,000 school kids all screaming and cheering the noise was unbelievable. England won 2-1 against Germany and I was paid an extra £1-10s for playing wahooo.

Before the match started the band played from the centre spot, a selection of popular tunes and community singing led by Bill Scott Coomber.

Next we played the National Anthems of both sides and then marched off into the tunnel ready for the half time marching display. Our marching display was called an Arrow Head which included slow and quick marching at the same time and the band ended up looking like an Arrow Head hence the name.

After the display we never stayed to watch the football as we would have to get straight on the coaches for the journey back to the barracks at Woolwich.

Here is a list of the international matches which I played for.

12th March 1969 England 5-0 France
22nd May 1974 England 2-2 Argentina
12th March 1975 England 2-0 Germany
7th September 1977 England 0-0 Switzerland
29th November 1978 England 1-0 Czechoslovakia
7th February 1979 England 4-0 Northern Ireland
13th May 1980 England 3-1 Argentina
25th March 1981 England 1-2 Spain
16th June 1982 England 3-0 France
15th December 1982 England 9-0 Luxemburg
1st June 1983 England 1-0 Scotland


In the centre of the giant Wembley Stadium more than 200 Herald Trumpeters and Buglers raised their instruments for a giant fanfare. The Military Musical Pageant of 1973 was underway.

As the last notes of the fanfare died away a great mass of men began pouring into the stadium. The massed bands of the Foot Guards followed by the Mounted Bands of the Life Guards, The Blues and Royals, Household Cavalry and The Royal Artillery.

     This was the biggest show ever staged anywhere by British Bands and in one word it was SPECTACULAR.

The two men behind the Musical Pageant were Major Aubrey Jackman, the producer and Lt Colonel Rodney Bashford, The Army’s Senior Director of Music and Director of Music at The Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall.

After the spectacular opening there was the Gaelic Gathering of the massed pipes, drums and Irish Regiments. Then in complete contrast was the massed bands and bugles of the Light Division, marching at their distinctive rifle pace, they performed the Light Fantastic which was a brilliant display of marching in slow and quick time.

Then the musicians gathered together to form the biggest of big bands, more than 1500 musicians belting out tunes from the 1970’s.

But the high spot of the evening for me was the 1812 Overture. There were men in period dress firing muskets, The Guns of The Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery firing as the music reached its dramatic climax, while the Armies of Bandsmen re-enacted The Battle of Borodino in music.

For the finale all the bands gathered on the turf to play together while giant search lights picked out the scenes and fireworks were launched.

It was the start of many musical pageants and many many more hours standing on that Wembley turf.

I played at another five of these pageants before I retired from the Army and each one was as good as the last.

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