I was given an E- flat bass, a three valve monster that you had to carry with a plastic strap attached for support.
I had to serve 9 terms to pass my apprenticeship. Each term lasted three months with a break between each one. Before I left to go home at the end of the first term I was measured up for a dress uniform, or “blues”, that the band wore on ceremonial occasions. I was looking forward to going back in my second term to start learning my trade, military skills and further education.
The band met every day in the evening after work, where we practised the pieces of marching music required for Saturday’s parade, hymns for Sunday Church parade and music scores from musicals like Oklahoma, West Side Story and many others that we played at Officers' Mess evenings and gala events. I also had to learn how to march, carry the instrument, read the music cards attached to the instrument and learn how to counter-march all at the same time.
It was during my second term that we were invited to play at the Royal Tournament during the warm-up session before the programme started. I practised with the band but was told by my trainer to concentrate on staying alert, keep in line and not to worry about playing too much music. On the evening of our performance I can remember the feeling of horror when the doors opened and we marched into the massive arena covered in rutted sawdust from the King's Hussars cannon troop and horses' earlier practice. I did stay on my two feet but I do not remember blowing much music!
Also during term 2 we had the honour of marching Mary Rand through the streets of Henley when she returned from Mexico with her gold medals.
Terms 5, 6 and 7 went by with plenty of events but most of my time was spent concentrating on my apprenticeship exams. I was promoted during term 5 to Lance Corporal after attending a cadre course on Brecon Beacons with other members of my division. It was during term 6 we played at a ceremony when the school became an Apprentice College and put on the REME badge.
Term 8 arrived with me becoming Band Sergeant. I arrived at the gate to sign in for the start of a new term and was told to report to the Regimental Sergeant Major immediately. Our band master had been involved in a car accident during the holiday period and his return date was unknown at this time. I was to ensure the band was ready for the Saturday parade and had rehearsed the RSM’s favourite marches. Then the Padre gave me the hymns for the church parade on Sunday. The band master did not come back for another month so it was pretty busy, leading the band and getting ready for my apprenticeship final exams as well.
Term 9 was a lot more relaxed, exams over and I had passed my finals and heard I was being posted to West Germany. Then the band master said we had to stay for an additional two days and provide a marching band and church parade at Winchester. We had to learn “Winchester Cathedral” for this special day and played it at least four times during the day.
I left Army Apprentice College Arborfield with fond memories. The band had been my saviour during the early terms of being away from home for the first time. But as I progressed through the school it kept me busy and eventually when the band became mine for the last two terms it got me out of the day to day army routines. This philistine now plays the saxophone in his spare time and appreciates most music.