Home' Advance In Review : Advance in Review June 2015 Contents featured works such as Poet and Peasant Overture, Peer
Gynt Suite and The Chocolate Soldier. Later, when Yorke
took over as bandmaster, he remarked that “Band music
is very popular and broadcasts excellently. Our object is
to keep our programmes bright and attractive without
descending to mere rubbish.” (Courier-Mail, Brisbane,
Tuesday 3 September 1935)
Light and bright pieces were generally played and
broadcast, though more serious works were also
broadcast at least once a week to cater to the tastes
of others. Military marches, music from musicals and
overtures were well received.
The band included many respected local musicians,
including percussionist Lou Tutschka, who served in
the RAAF during the war as part of the No. 1 Mobile
Entertainment Party, and was also timpanist in the
Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
1951 marked the end of an era. Their final concert
received a standing ovation from its audience of 1500,
with a teary-eyed Yorke delivering a popular encore of
God save the Queen and Auld Lang Syne. Budget cuts
and, according to the ABC, the inability to offer what was
completely needed of a service or military band, led to
Just as one proud musical institution was closing,
another one was being recruited for, and was about to
open its wings to the public. In 1952, with the help of a
gift of the ABC National Military Band’s library, the RAAF
Central Band was officially formed, under the baton of
Flight Lieutenant. L. Hicks, becoming the Air Force’s first
Story by Fiona Hickie
Fiona Hickie is an ex-member of the Air Command Band
in Sydney and current member of the Australian Army
Band-Tasmania. Fiona is a school teacher, plays oboe
and piano. She lives in Hobart with husband Steve and
children Alex and Jane.
On a recent Air Force Band trip to RAAF
Base East Sale, I had the opportunity to
meet Mr Hugh Davies, Band Master of the
Sale City Band. During our conversations,
Hugh mentioned to me that he had served
as a trumpeter with the RAAF Central Band
from 1975-1981. Previous to this, Hugh was
cornet/trumpet player in the Australian
Army Band from 1969 to 1975 posted to the
Southern Command/3rd Military District
Band. During his time at RAAF Central
Band, he undertook a unique posting to the
newly independent island nation of Kiribati.
The Republic of Kiribati is located in the
central Pacific Ocean. The nation comprises
33 atolls and reef islands and one raised
phosphate coral island, Banaba. Their
spread straddles the equator and the
International Date Line. The permanent
population is just over 100,000 (2011), half
of whom live on Tarawa Atoll.
What follows is a transcript of my interview
with Hugh on the 20th March of this year.
BRENDON: How did you find yourself being
posted to Kiribati to form the National
HUGH: In January 1979 I was called into
Squadron Leader Mitchell’s Office. Our
Commanding Officer Squadron Leader
Mitchell said to me “How would you like
to go to the Gilbert Islands?” I said “yeah,
that’s terrific, but where are they?” He
told me about it and said that there was a
request for Defence Aid to help establish a
new Police Band for the country.
I finally flew to the Gilbert Islands on 1 June
1979. After staying in Nauru for a day I flew
to the main Island called Tarawa. Most
of the government infrastructure was on
Tarawa. My posting was for six months.
The Gilbert Islands were actually preparing
for their independence from Britain at
the time. Independence Day was to be
on the 12 July 1979. Most of the Police
Force were over on another Island called
Banaba (Ocean Island). That’s where there
was a lot of mining for phosphate. Most of
the police were stationed there because
there was a bit of an uprising leading up to
So I sailed to Banaba to stay for about a week
during June, to recruit some policemen to
learn the instruments. About 18 or 20
policemen volunteered to join the band and
so we sailed back to Tarawa together and I
started to teach them. Independence Day
came on the 12 July, and the new country
celebrated the country’s new name of The
Republic of Kiribati.
There was a brass band already established
from an outer island called Butaritari. They
were a band started many years ago by
some French missionaries. The Butaritari
band played at the Independence Ceremony
as the Police band was not yet operational.
None of the bandsmen had ever marched.
It was my job to not only teach them the
music, but to also show them how to march.
So we got independence out of the way and
then the Country became known as Kiribati.
One of the first “play outs” would be to place
the band on the back of a police truck and
we would travel around the villages playing.
On one of these trips, we were caught in a
tropical shower. The rain came down and all
the glue in the instrument cases just gave
way...... ..the cases were useless.
The Island Policemen were terrific. All
the members of the band were regular
Policemen however it ran as a full-time-
band for the first five months while I was
there. Rehearsals lasted for the whole day,
which was very difficult as the tropical heat
sapped our energy. The new bandsmen
loved their music. They were really good
natural musicians and great singers. All I
had to do was teach them how to read music
and how to get the sounds out of the brass
instruments. By the end of my time there
they had a good set of songs, though not too
complicated. I took a lot of music suitable
for learner musicians with me, and by the
end of my time there they were playing the
music pretty well. They used to go to the
schools and villages and demonstrate their
instruments and play the music. The locals
loved it. When we marched, the crowds
would follow us wherever we went.
BRENDON: So it was a great time to be in
Kiribati during Independence?
HUGH: Yes, it was thrill to be there right on
the stroke of midnight. The old British Flag
for the “Gilbert Islands” came down and
we played “God Save the Queen”. The new
Kiribati Flag went up and the Gilbert Islands
became the Republic of Kiribati. Princess
Anne attended, officially handing over to
Kiribati their Independence.
BRENDON: What about the ceremonial
music and the National Anthem?
HUGH: There was a new National Anthem
called Kunan Kiribati which was composed
by a local man. It is a very good National
BRENDON: Did you have to arrange that for
the brass band?
HUGH: Yes, it was originally just a piece of
sheet music. I arranged it for the Police
Band and I think you will also find in your
an Interview with
Passing on the baton (The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 7 December 1951).
Captain H. E. Adkins.
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