The Squadronaires
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During W.W.II many musicians, as well as others from all walks of life, found themselves in uniform. In an attempt to entertain themselves and their fellows, some formed into Military Dance Bands. They took on service oriented names, and some became very popular. One such group, 'The Squadronaires', became the best known. As the name suggests the band was made up of members of The R.A.F. and were originally drawn from the sidemen of (Bert) Ambrose's Band. For most of the war up to 1945, the line-up consisted of:

Tommy McQuater, Archie Craig, Clinton French (trumpets);
George Chisholm, Eric Breeze (trombones);
Tommy Bradbury, Harry Lewis, Jimmy Durrant, Andy McDevitt, Cliff Townshend (father of Peter Townshend of The Who) (saxes);
Ronnie Aldrich (piano);
Sid Colin (guitar);
Arthur Maden (bass and manager);
Jock Cummings (drums);
Jimmy Miller (leader, vocals)
In 1945, Jimmy Watson (trumpet) replaced Clinton "Froggy" ffrench;
Monty Levy (alto) replaced Harry Lewis (husband of Vera Lynne!).

The Squadronaires became a household name, with tunes like "There's Something in the Air" and "South Rampart". Besides playing at dances and concerts for servicemen and women, the Squadronaires broadcast on the BBC and recorded on the Decca label. Of the first orchestra's first broadcasts in January 1941 , one critic in the Melody Maker was to write 'Any of you lucky enough to hear this airing will, I am sure will agree... that this is the greatest dance band performance that has ever been broadcast this side of the Atlantic. The band was to receive many similar accolades throughout it's existence.

Here's another photo of the Squadronaires with Sam Costa 2nd from the left and George Chisholm 4th from left.

The Squadronaires: From left to right, Jimmy Miller who was the elected leader and vocalist, Tommy Bradbury (tenor Sax) , Cliff Townshend,  George Chisholm, Andy McDevitt, Tommy McQuater.  Standing at the back are Ronnie Aldrich, possibly Jock Cummings, then Jimmy Durant. Front row again, unknown band member is in front of Ronnie Aldrich, next to him  is Sid Colin [identification thanks to Rachel Jardine, his grand niece], Monty Levy, Eric Breeze, Arthur Madden (bass) and little Archie Craig. (Names contributed by Les Johnston, a friend of Cliff Townshend.)

After D-Day the Squadronaires went abroad to entertain service personnel engaged in the North-west Europe campaign. On demob, the Squadronaires' members formed a civilian band of the same name. The Squadronaires remained together under Pianist Ronnie Aldrich until 1964 when, with the advent of the 'new music', dance and swing orchestras became unpopular with the masses.

AND THEN ? .... Some years later, due to the undoubted brilliant groundwork by Syd Lawrence, the style of Big Band music began to regain popularity. The (new) Squadronaires Orchestra was formed under the leadership of saxophonist Harry Bence and worked as a 'modern style' band. Following the death of Harry Bence in 1997 the orchestra was once again reformed under the leadership of Trumpet player/Arranger Greg Francis and the orchestra became part of the United Services Organisation, the U.S.O is concerned with the heritage aspect of its orchestras which includes the Memphis Belle Swing Orchestra.

Compiled from various online sources.



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