University challenge leads to Remembrance time

LCpl Damian Dunphy

LCpl Damian Dunphy

Lance Corporal Damian Dunphy is a trombonist with the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band (HC&C Band) based in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Prior to joining the HC&C Band on its formation in 2006 he was a member of the King’s Division Waterloo Band, and prior to that the Regimental Band of the Green Howards.

Having served such a length of time in Yorkshire Damian’s roots are well and truly established. He plays for a number of orchestras in the North East in addition to a number of brass bands, he is also the Musical Director of a local brass band and has conducted a number of other bands in the area.

University challenge

The Band has recently been fostering links with music departments in local universities in order to demonstrate the capabilities of the Corps of Army Music and to assist the music students with workshops. We have been giving lunchtime recitals in Durham Cathedral, York St John University and we have further events with Newcastle University coming up.

The Band at York St John University

The Band at York St John University

The lunchtime recital in Durham Cathedral delighted of audiences young and old, many of whom relished the chance to enjoy a free concert just as they happened to be visiting the Cathedral. A varied programme ranging from Reed’s Festive Overture through to John William’s Star Wars via some varied and stylish repertoire including a fantastic contemplative arrangement of John Lennon’s Imagine ensured the audience enjoyed the event.

The Band set up for a lunchtime recital at Durham Cathedral

The Band setting up for a lunchtime recital at Durham Cathedral

The performance at York St John drew a capacity crowd of students. The academic staff remarked admirably on the standard of the Band and how thrilled they were to have such a partnership in place. The concert band performance was followed by a careers presentation and a ten-piece brass ensemble demonstration with an hour-long workshop. It was educating and entertaining at the same time.

At Newcastle University the students provided their own compositions for the Band, who performed them whilst the Bandmaster provided a workshop on composing and arranging for a military band. The experience was clearly quite new for the students who seem generally to have had more experience composing and arranging for orchestral ensembles.

The response from the students from all three universities has already proved to be highly positive with projects planned to link in directly with academic studies.  Indeed, in the spring, we will be working with composers and conductors from Newcastle University to select students for performance in front of their peers, very exciting for all involved.

Remembrance Time

Birmingham Remembrance Day

Birmingham Remembrance Day

As ever at this time of year the band have been involved with a number of Remembrance events, including a series of concerts arranged in aid of both ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Royal British Legion. The concerts have been narrated by Alisdair Hutton, the voice of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, featured vocal soloists, choirs (including the original WAGS Choir, Catterick Garrison), standard bearers, cadets and pipers.  The culmination of the concerts was on Saturday 1oth November with a spectacular Festival of Remembrance held in the magnificent splendour of Durham Cathedral.  As the last post sounded and the piper played a lament thousands of poppies fell on the Band as the assembled audience and cast sat in dignified silence to honour the fallen.

Birmingham Remembrance Day

Birmingham Remembrance Day

Bright and early the following morning the Band were en route to Birmingham to take part in the city’s Remembrance parade.  This is something of a diary change for the band who normally take part in the parade in nearby York. When we arrived we found that we were to be sharing the musical workload with a local Salvation Army Band and a band from the local Fire and Rescue Services, which gave the band a brief chance to appreciate the musical efforts of others amidst the bright sunshine of this crisp November morning.

The Band in Barnsley

The Band in Barnsley


Tuesday 13th saw the band travel to Barnsley in South Yorkshire to perform in support of The Light Dragoons who were welcomed to the city following their recent deployment to Afghanistan.  A warm Yorkshire welcome was afforded to the Regiment as the temperature of the Band was lifted somewhat negotiating the steep terrain!

With our feet back in our very own North Yorkshire on Wednesday 15th November, the Band took part in the Royal Gun Salute in York to celebrate the birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales.  There are six such salutes every year and the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band generally perform at them all whilst in station.

As I write, and with no let up in tempo, we are travelling on a very full bus to Cambrai, France, where we will be participating in a number of remembrance events with The Royal Tank Regiment, one of our affiliated Regiments.

Historical steps: Sandhurst and speed marching

LCpl Damian Dunphy

LCpl Damian Dunphy

Lance Corporal Damian Dunphy is a trombonist with the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band (HC&C Band) based in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Prior to joining the HC&C Band on its formation in 2006 he was a member of the King’s Division Waterloo Band, and prior to that the Regimental Band of the Green Howards.

Relocaton, relocation

The Band have recently been relocated from our native North Yorkshire down to the sunny Surrey, where we have been employed as the residential Band for the Royal Military Academy (RMA) Sandhurst.  In years gone by the Academy had its own resident band known as the RMAS Band Corps.  The Band Corps was disbanded in 1984 as part of a strategic defence review which also saw many of the Army’s then Regimental Bands reduced in size from 35 to 21 performers.  Since 1984 the resident band position at Sandhurst has been rotated amongst the bands of the Army and since 1994 the Bands of the Corps of Army Music have undertaken the task in rotation.

RMA Sandhurst is where all British Army officers are trained prior to taking up commissions within their relevant arms and Corps.  The camp comprises a number of buildings prized for their architectural beauty and the whole place has an air of history about it which give the place something of a timeless quality.

Sandhurst Old College

Sandhurst Old College

The duties of any musician as part of a residential band at Sandhurst are to support the officer cadets, both on parade and at dinner nights and social functions, all of which are imperative to provide a  grounding for the future officers of the British Army.  Your author’s first visit to Sandhurst was in 1993 when Bands served a full term (three and a half months) on each visit.  In those days the British Army had 69 Bands and could easily provide the manpower for such deployments.  As times have progressed the  deployment of the Bands of the Corps of Army Music has changed somewhat, with Bands covering shorter spells on a more frequent basis.

Tradition still going strong

The Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band have been the resident Band at Sandhurst just once before.  On that occasion in 2006 the Band was newly formed and served a seven week term at RMAS.  The seven week tour was at the end of term and the Band had the honour to perform at the Sovereign’s Parade for the graduation of Prince William, an event which gave both RMAS and the Band global media coverage.

Anyway, with our feet on the ground the Band arrived on Sunday to unload our associated freight into the “Sullivan” Band block at RMAS.  In times gone by the resident Band have spent many hours travelling between accommodation, practice facilities and messes. Fortunately these days all three are very close so unloading the equipment was a relatively simple task.  Having allocated the relevant storage spaces to the relevant departments the Band met on Monday morning for a full band rehearsal.  On this occasion the band had to organise after dinner events for the various officer’s mess engagements on the immediate calendar.  A quick look at the schedule revealed that we had a number of forthcoming dinner nights, which invariably comprise a quintet performance through the dinner followed by after dinner entertainment provided by a small marching Band with the odd cabaret item thrown in.

Prior to the creation of Regimental Military Bands the officers of a Regiment would club together to employ civilian musicians, normally around eight in number; their primary task would be to entertain the officers before, during and after dinner.  Nearly 200 years further down the line the tradition is still going strong, Bands of the Corps of Army Music still regularly perform for dinner nights in messes all across the Forces world. Whilst the after dinner music is often a matter of the personal taste of the Director of Music, the formula is probably not.  The Band march into a dimly lit room and deafen a number of unsuspecting guests in a grand twist on the Victorian concept of ‘parlour music’!

The Band normally then find an area of the room, often the darkest area to add to the complexity of producing the music, and perform a number of solo items for the utterly startled, and hopefully delighted dinner guests.  Such displays of pageantry often find favour with more relaxed and lubricated audiences; however in the stoic atmosphere of a Sandhurst dinner night it is sometimes clear that the officer cadets are unsure as to how to react.  A trait which invariably disappears upon graduation from Sandhurst!

Whilst on tour the Band also performed for the Commandant’s Sovereign’s Parade music review.  This is the process whereby the music for the end of term Sovereign’s Parade is chosen and it is held in the nearby Woolwich Hall.  There is something of a gladiatorial quality about the process as the Commandant, seated directly in front of the Band gives either the thumbs up or the thumbs down to each piece of music.  Fortunately the Band always have alternative music available so that on the odd occasion that a piece gets the thumbs down a replacement is immediately at hand.

Members of the band training for an AFT

Members of the band training for an AFT

New members

When not employed musically the Band maintained imperative admin tasks and continued training for both PFTs (Personal Fitness Tests) and AFTs (Army Fitness Tests).  For the uninitiated a PFT comprises a fixed number of press ups and sit ups and a 1.5 mile run, to be undertaken within a set time (which varies with age); an AFT is an eight mile speed march (or tab) to be completed carrying weapons and with a weighted Bergen.  Members of the Band completed both in unseasonably warm March weather, needless to say there was a run on foot treatments and blister plasters at the local supermarket during our stop at Sandhurst.

New members

New members

On return from our short tour of Sandhurst the Band were delighted to welcome a number of new members who have been posted from Bands across the Corps of Army Music to bolster our numbers.  We look forward to performing at full strength once more and hope that all new members will be very happy in beautiful North Yorkshire.

From music to military training tests (MATTs)

LCpl Damian Dunphy

LCpl Damian Dunphy

Lance Corporal Damian Dunphy is a trombonist with the Heavy Cavalry and Cambrai Band (HC&C Band) based in Catterick, North Yorkshire. Prior to joining the HC&C Band on its formation in 2006 he was a member of the King’s Division Waterloo Band, and prior to that the Regimental Band of the Green Howards.

Soldiers first

Monday 14 February saw the Band briefly putting away musical instruments and clearing one of our practice rooms for the commencement of 2 weeks’ Military Training Tests (MATTs).  Whilst the Band’s primary concern is musical and the majority of our time is focused upon musical objectives, we are at the end of the day soldiers first and have to complete annual training and tests just as everybody else in the Army has to.

The MATTs training programme generally refreshes skills not often used and sometimes introduces new skills to the unit.  As we entered practise room two on Monday morning the sight of a couple of limp resuscitation dolls were an omen that the day would be spent dealing with issues relating to first aid, in Army speak, Battlefield Combat Drills and Basic Life Support.

The pallid complexion and debilitated demeanour of the lifeless forms in front of us may well have been evidence of a particularly harrowing rehearsal, however, the presence of brand new boots soon confirmed that these were indeed training aids and not overly fatigued musicians.

The day included plenty of opportunities for the musicians to hone their skills, often through practising on each other.  I can confirm that no amount of training can impart the gentle touch that our colleagues in the National Health Service posses; and many of the Band still have the bruises to bear witness!

On Tuesday the Band undertook map reading tuition and associated classroom based exercises.   Despite the complexity of what musicians do on a daily basis magnetic north always seems to cause problems when it comes to map reading, we came to the conclusion that this was because we are generally used to the Drum Major leading the way whilst in ‘the field’!

DMaj A Smith

DMaj A Smith

Diverse package of training

Of course Bands are always in demand and for that reason on Wednesday morning, mid-training, we once more donned our ceremonials to perform in support of a parade at the All Arms Drill Wing, Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, which is something of a frequent event in the Band’s diary.  The parade gave the Band a quick chance to draw breath before Military training resumed that afternoon.

On Thursday a diverse package of training was put together starting with education on health and well-being and moving through equality and diversity training, culminating with training on security and the Geneva Convention.  For the day’s training the tuition was divided up so that many members of the Band were given the opportunity to teach.

As ever Friday was given over to Pass Out Parades at ITC Catterick, this time the Band performed in support of two parades, one of which was the largest for a number of months in terms of numbers of participants.  Fortunately the climate was more akin to a warm April day than the frozen February ones we had recently become accustomed to.

The following Monday the Band donned their CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) suits for the next phase of MATTs training.  This is an area with which the Band are more familiar as we have in the past undertaken training for our wartime role as CBRN Medical Decontamination Assistants.

This is one instance where familiarity does not breed contempt given the consequences of any error if one is exposed to a CBRN environment.  There are a number of drills to be carried out as part of the test, ranging from simple ones with little exposure to the environment, to the more unpleasant ones whereby the respirator is removed from the face.  Your author had the misfortune to be selected for one of the more potentially unpleasant ones.  However it seems every cloud has a silver lining and in this case a logistics problem beyond the Band’s control meant that the Band were unable to carry out the drills in a CS gas environment.  As you might imagine I breathed a very deep sigh of relief through my respirator!

WO2 Rigdewell, Captain Johnson, Sgt Southorn

WO2 Rigdewell, Captain Johnson, Sgt Southorn

Delicacy of ‘range stew’

Following more Military training, including weapon handling tests, the Band departed early on Friday morning for the firing ranges to take their Annual Personal Weapons Tests.  Range days are seldom conducted in warm weather and this day was no exception.  The Band were somewhat buoyed by the provision of ‘range stew’.  Range stew is a delicacy provided primarily by Military chefs in a large thermos flask, known as a Norwegian.  The contents of the stew are a closely guarded secret and it is widely believed that to give any stew a name might constrain the chef to such an extent as to render its production worthless.  On this occasion the range stew very clearly resembled a curry!  With the weapons tests in the bag and on full stomachs the Band returned weapons to the armoury before retiring for a well-earned weekend off.

With the ‘green kit’ back in our lockers the following week the instrument store re-opened as the Band resumed musical activities, this time in liaison with local musical youths.  A number of local schools’ music departments along with their students were invited to our facilities on Tuesday to participate in an open day.  They were given the chance to hear the Band perform before taking seats within the Band for a morning workshop, followed by a spot of marching band outside.

Young musicians

On Thursday, third year students from Durham University under the direction of Mr Ray Farr visited the Band with a number of symphonic wind band arrangements that  they had prepared as part of their studies.  The day provided an opportunity for the students to directly observe their work in performance and for Mr Farr and the Band to provide the odd critique on their arrangement techniques.

Both days gave the Band an opportunity to communicate with young musicians, some at school potentially considering further musical study and some at the end of their musical study considering opportunities for a musical career.  The Band regularly hold open days and workshops, and members of the Band visit music centres and universities where possible to offer advice on career opportunities.

Anybody between the ages of 17 and 36 considering a career in music can contact the Band on 01748 872278, we will ensure that you are given advice and possibly opportunities to visit a Band near to your location.

A soldier’s life is an all-encompassing one and these exercises carried the reality of it

SuT Amazu
SuT Amazu

Soldier under Training Einstein Chigozie Amazu, a recruit at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright, writes about his last week of basic training in the British Army.

Week 14

Monday.  As expected, most of the day’s activities were channelled towards the long awaited Pass Out Parade. We rehearsed arms drill, paying particular attention to presenting and grounding arms. An exciting game of basketball afterwards rounded up a rather long day. Teamwork rocks!

Tuesday.  We besieged the parade square again today and went through the whole sequence of the Pass Out Parade at least twice. I believe that our confidence towards Friday was on the increase. Then came admin to complete the day.

Wednesday. It took a game of softball to get us started for the day. Then came an epic arms drill rehearsal involving all three Platoons on the parade square. This was something major. I felt I can cope with the parade on Friday alright.

Thursday.  How nice it was to have our ‘worn-out’ kit exchanged for new ones (Army life is so cool). Pt session then got us warmed up and set for the day and another grand rehearsal at the parade square eventually put us into the best frame of mind for Friday.

Friday.  Think about gleaming leather shoes, think about synchronised swing of white gloves, and think about a band and families cheering. All roads led to the parade square today. ON this day our 14 week journey came to an official end atATC (P). Adios Amigos!


I still remember vividly being picked up at Brookwood Station with other enthusiastic lads on a bright Monday morning. I have by conditioning my mind with the fact that the next 3 months was not going to be a picnic at all, and it wasn’t.

Getting four jabs at the medical centre and being asked to march around confirmed my anticipations. I had heard a thing or two about getting inspected but I was really taken aback by the fact that we had to iron polyester shorts and even make smiley faces with white socks. I think ‘uniformity’ is the word I am looking for and there were loads of things we had to do to achieve this.

I cannot readily say that I was adequately prepared for the series of physical training I encountered here. I believe it was sheer determination and a burning desire to succeed that saw me through the TABS, assault courses, several hills, circuit training etc. It’s going to require a book to adequately write about the exercises but it took me a lot of getting used to i.e. digging shell scrapes, doing admin in the midst of a dirty environment and keeping my weapon free from rust. A soldier’s life is an all-encompassing one and these exercises carried the reality of it.

I enjoyed most of the lectures too, ranging from map reading, health and safety, Skill At Arms, Military Knowledge, IEDs BCD etc. There’s no prize in guessing that there were tests in almost all we learnt, which I am glad I was successful in. I said special prayers each time I went to the ranges because of the thought of the live round made my heart skip a bit initially but like everything else, I got used to it eventually. I believe I enjoy shooting now and I look forward to the next ACMT. I also reserve special praises for my Training Team for a job well done. They are good at what they do, feeding and accommodation was alright. My time here after the second seven weeks went like a breeze. What an experience!

My nose was streaming and my throat felt like the striker from a match box

Recruit Greenhalgh

Recruit Greenhalgh

Soldier under Training Robert Greenhalgh, a recruit at the Army Training Centre in Pirbright, writes about his experiences of basic training in the British Army.

Week 4

This week started with our weapon handling test, perhaps I could have done a little better.  I made a few mistakes but nothing that could prevent me from passing , so I was happy with the result.  Today was our first boot run and my feet were rather sore, but this was my entire fault due to me not paying attention to the section commanders telling me to tighten my boots properly and wear two pairs of socks. We also went on a DCCT range which is like a big, nearly realistic rifle range. I did a lot better than I thought I would and passed but it wasn’t a test.

Marking time… what an effort, marching on the spot, whilst bringing your thighs parallel to the ground, it took me a while to get the timings right, but managed to get it squared away.  The second DCCT session was good today. This time we fired from different firing positions, I found squatting really tough, but kneeling and standing I was fine with.

This was the first day that I have fired with live rounds. It took me a while to get used to the recoil. Luckily we got to have a second go which helped a lot with my accuracy.  Five mile run! I can definitely tell that my fitness has improved, I never would have been able to complete such a distance before my training.

We went out of camp today to do a high ropes course, which was brilliant fun. Sunday was spent sorting out my kit ready for our first nights exercise which will hopefully be awesome.

Week 5

Well what a week this has been! This week was exercise First Night which entails 2 nights and 3 days in the field.  I was really nervous as I didn’t know what to expect from a military exercise.  When we first got to the exercise area we had to dig a shell scrape, which is a hole deep up to your knees and big enough to fit 2 people in plus bergans.  This was really hard work but I felt a sense of achievement once I had completed it.  I really enjoyed learning all the drills on exercise but I don’t think I would have got through it if it wasn’t for my team mates.  When it rained moral hit the floor; it was cold, wet and muddy but we all picked each other up and got through it. 

I have really loved training so far; it’s amazing how much you can achieve.  Training is now starting to step up and it’s only going to get harder but if we all remain motivated and keep a positive attitude, I believe we can all get through anything!

That weekend we were taken off camp to study the realities of war which was really interesting. We were taken first to Westminster Abbey, which is a magnificent building with beautiful architecture, here we were given a VIP tour and saw lots of places where the civvies (general public) aren’t aloud to visit , such as where prince William and Kate were married and lots of other places.  I also found out that Sir Isaac Newton was buried there and not too far away was the founder of penicillin this I thought was very interesting. 

On the Sunday we spent half the day at Brookwood military cemetery where we paid our respects to soldiers that had fallen in previous wars to prevent us being overrun.  At the end of our tour we were aloud to roam around for a while and find a head stone that we had some sort of connection with. The only one that had any close connection with me was that of my grandmother’s maiden name, so I laid down a poppy as a sign of respect. After we had all done that we had a little service which was wonderful.

Week 6

The first day of this week was tough. We had an inspection first thing which I let myself down on by not dusting my lockers and not cleaning the bottoms of my boots, so we ended up having to have a re-show of our lockers at 21:00 hrs. 

We spent all day on the ranges that Tuesday getting our groupings from 50 and 100 meters some of my shots were pretty shocking, but I managed to pull it off in the end by getting a nice cluster all close to one another.  I can definitely tell that my shot is getting better.

Our first CBRN (chemical biological radiological and nuclear) lesson today during which we were just taught the basics like what piece of kit is and what it is used for and made out of.  Some more drill and a battle P.T lesson which was really tough, but I pulled myself through and afterwards felt amazing.

Another day at the ranges which was really good, this time we were zeroing our weapons to our eyesight so that the shots that we were firing would hit the target in the correct place as long as we aimed at the correct place. The day after we only had one lesson and this was strength and conditioning which I find really enjoyable and our instructor was a real laugh. That Sunday we had a compulsory church service which was definitely the best so far I really do think that every time we go they get better.

Week 7

This week started off well with the OC’s inspection; he walked round our section room and tested us on our knowledge of the things that we have learnt so far during our training, luckily he asked me what the marksmanship principles are, which I easily rolled off my tongue.  Afterwards we had our drill test which we failed miserably, due to everyone flapping about it, but we passed it by the Wednesday.  Before that we had our phase two visits which was brilliant and we found out a lot of information about what we will be doing and what will be expected of us.  Families’ day on the Thursday; this was nice to see my dad and after all it felt like we had been here a lifetime already.  When I walked into where we were meeting our parents, he looked up at me in shock then said that I looked like a man. After they had been shown a taster of what we do and what we have been learning, we went home for our long weekend then came back that Sunday.

Week 8

Our first weighted tab, we were only carrying 10 kilograms but my shins were on fire for the first mile or so, then they died down and it got a bit easier.

We went off on our halfway exercise the day after, a twenty minute coach journey, and then the fun began starting with a tab to our harbour area.  The exercise was a real laugh and I really enjoyed getting into all the interesting lessons. Saturday after we were back we spent hours cleaning our rifles which started to annoy me but managed to pass the inspections that they were doing on them.  Sunday was a day for us to sort out our admin.

Week 9

This week started with our Platoon Sergeant’s inspection which did not go well at all, so we had to have a reshow that night which went a lot better.  That afternoon we were on the DCCT range again but this time it was a bit different because we were scored by a point system, this I managed to get third in, which was a real achievement.

Tuesday was a fun day; we had to test our respirators in the RTF (respirator testing facility). This was really horrible; once I had taken my mask off I had to say my name, rank and number which I managed to do but then the NCO started asking me what my favourite colour was. By this time I had run out of breath so had to inhale, as soon as I did the CS gas hit me it was like I was breathing fire when I inhaled but I held it and it cooled down but then I had to inhale again. After my third breath my eyes were watering, my nose was streaming and my throat felt like the striker from a match box, so I had to get out. Once the fresh air hit my lungs it made everything worse, but only for a short time.  Some people were heaving which we all found hilarious, some even thought they had gone blind and were running around like headless chickens which was even funnier.

Ranges all day today this time live rounds which is a lot better than those ‘air rifles’ on the DCCT. We were firing from 100 meters in all the positions 200 meters in all the positions and 300 meters but only in the prone position.  We also got to work down in the butts too which was different, because it was the same points system that we used on the DCCT, so we got scores. Mine was miles better on the DCCT.

Friday was the assault course which was really tough but we had a really good time.

Week 10

This week we had our adventurous training which was absolutely awesome. The group that I was in was called India, luckily I was with some people that I got along with. The first two days we had our hill walking. The scenery in south Wales(Brecon Beacons) was breathtaking. We walked quite a few kilometres before we finally set up camp for the night. It would have been a lot easier if it wasn’t so damn hot, but still we all managed to cope. Waking up to the views of the hills really was spectacular then some wild horses decided to come over to us to investigate. The next day our group went caving which was by far the most exciting thing I have ever done and would love to do it again. Some of the gaps we had to squeeze through were quite small, but we all managed.

On our last day my group had climbing and abseiling. The routes that we had to do weren’t too tough apart from one which only had about six hand holds to get to the top, so I ended up using my elbow and jammed it into a crack just above my head and heaved myself up, then finally reached the top with burning fingers and limbs. That night we were meant to travel back to Pirbright but the coaches showed up at the wrong place so we stayed another night then went back to Pirbright the following day. Then we were off home for our two week summer leave which was definitely needed.