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
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.
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.