1956 Remembrance Parade
Michael J.O.N. Sealy1952–56 Cornwallis
1956, our parents had served and suffered in the Second World War, our grandparents’ memories of the First War were still vivid and now a Third World War was more than just a possibility. Two years’ National Service after leaving school was mandatory and Cranbrook School still had an O.T.C. (now named C.C.F., for Combined Cadet Force), and known to us as ‘Cor’. Ours was af liated to the Royal West Kent Regiment, ‘the Buffs’. Our Cor included
a ‘ fe and drum corps’ which had two public outings each year: Speech Day and Remembrance Day. The Drums led the parade followed by the platoons of Infantry, Signals and RAF.

A great deal of preparation was involved as, in addition to learning the music we had to get used to playing the awkward instruments on the march. The Drum Major controlled the march using the mace, an elaborate ve foot long stick, decorated with silver chain and an ornate silver head. The handling of the mace was very important as it gave signals to the band behind to start, stop and change direction as shouted commands would not be heard. The Drum Major set the tone for the parade, marching with a good deal of swagger. His moment of truth came when he was expected to throw the mace into the air for a couple of turns and catch it safely without breaking stride, or dropping the mace
There was a lot of work involved in getting uniforms ready for parade. Creases in the rough serge uniform had to be knife sharp and needed rubbing with soap on the inside of the crease before ironing. Belts and gaiters were scrubbed with khaki blanco and then of course there were the boots! It was a work of art to get the rough surface of the heavy army issue boots to the appearance of patent leather on the heels and toe caps. The surface was covered with a thick layer of black polish, which was then set alight and attacked with a stick of black ‘heel ball’ to iron out the bumps. Then more polish was applied mixed with spit and polished off with a soft cloth (hence the term) until the required surface was obtained. The Drums had an extra chore as their belts and gaiters were of white leather and the instruments had to be polished too. Those carrying ri es on parade (WW1 Lee-En elds with webbing straps) had to have the wooden and brass parts shining.

The morning of the great day arrived – I can never remember a wet one – and the ‘Cor’ formed up in platoons in front of Big School. The Commanding Of cer, Major Lampard, started the proceedings – ‘Paraaade Shun!’ and 150 right hand boots slammed into the tarmac, more or less together. The C.O. then gave the second of his three commands for the day – ‘Carry on Sa’ Major’.

A nod to the Drum Major who raised his mace – ‘Drums. Dru---ms Ready! The Buffs!’ (regimental march of the Royal West Kents). ‘By the centre, two three beat rolls, Quiiiick – Wait for it, wait for it!’ (as the unwary swayed forward like trees in a gale), ‘March!’ And we were off! Step small down the slope to the road, through the gates and right wheel onto the main road through the town. The squeaking fes and thumping drums bravely echoing and re-echoing as we passed through the narrow main street. Left wheel at the Church gates and on up the long hill to the War Memorial.

It was a long pull up the hill to the waiting clergy, standing with vestments blowing like ags in the breeze, and our repertoire and breath were beginning to run low. The drummers’ grip on their sticks was weakening and occasionally there was a cry of ‘stick down’, or ‘stick over’ if the tenor drummer’s stick bounced out of his hand and into the air! As bass fes, we were in the last rank of the band and so we had to keep on the lookout for these mishaps, scooping up the fallen sticks and tapping the shoulder of the man in front who passed it up the line to its red-faced owner.

The Service of Remembrance at the Memorial is always an emotional occasion. The laying of the wreath, the sounding of the ‘Last Post’, ‘They shall grow not old as we...’, and the two minutes silence. Much to remember and ponder over. And then we were off again, marching down the hill, with the band silent for a while except for the crunching of marching boots and the lead side drummer tapping a beat on the left foot to keep us in time. Later on a few more tunes and we swung up through the main school gates and the nal command of the day – ‘Parade – Di-smiss!’

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