A brief history of the Essex Police Band based on recollections from Jon Waddington and written by Graham Hurrell in his own inimitable light-hearted style.
The Origin of a Species.
In the beginning, there was Essex County Constabulary and in it, a gaping void and the void was without form and was fairly silent. Then from the void came Essex Police Musical Society and a Dance Band. And the dance band was pretty good, but it was not Essex Police Band.
The dance band was formed from Traffic Officers whose services were required, in the main, to entertain at the Traffic Department’s social functions. A sign of those austere times being that these functions were cheerily carried out in an old wooden hut on the current headquarters site. Battered old second hand seats from the clapped out buses of the Eastern National Bus Company served for furniture. It should be added that the CID were represented in this Dance Band ensemble by Alan Cook, an accomplished trumpeter.
With the inevitable march of 1960's progress the wooden hut was demolished to make way for the current building that houses the Headquarters assembly rooms. With nowhere to hold their socials the Traffic Department decamped to Fords Social club at Warley and the dance band followed. After some 18 months the assembly rooms were complete and, at the inaugural Traffic Department Christmas Social, the dance band augmented by a contingent of buskers got together and put on such an impressive show that Alan Cook, the trumpeter, conceived the idea of forming a permanent band from serving officers. He met with three other founding fathers, Ken Baker, George White and Jerry Barrell to discuss what to do. Following this and subsequent meetings an ‘advert’ was issued in ‘Force Orders’ that a Police Brass Band was to be formed and officers were invited to respond.
Jerry Barrell and George White, being members of local Brass Bands used their contacts, and local knowledge, to locate a supply of old disused, redundant instruments. These were found in the archives of the defunct Witham British Legion Band, the Chelmsford Brotherhood Band and, somewhat oddly, in the Eastern Counties Regional Hospital at Colchester.
It came to pass then on a chilly February evening in 1966, with a bizarre collection of acquired, begged and borrowed, mismatched, out of tune instruments and a heap of mumped music, Bill Hymers, the bandmaster of Chelmsford Silver Band, conducted an enthusiastic assortment of the good, the bad and the terribly out of practice, in the first Essex County Constabulary rendering of Slaidburn. Beneath a starry February night sky, 1966,The Essex Police Band was born.
From what is euphemistically described ‘a shaky start’, by the now ageing witnesses to this nascent event, this band of dubious musical merit began to improve. A permanent practice room was established in the Chief Constable’s Billiard room and from there the rousing sound of Slaidburn was later joined by the equally rousing sounds of The Chieftan, Sobre Las Olas, Gold and Silver Waltz, All in the April Evening and Eventide.
Within 6 months, the summer of 1966, with it's growing repertoire, the Essex Police Band played it’s first gig; On the Essex Constabulary Headquarters lawn.
Other early, memorable, gigs included a fete in Mistley where the band found itself playing at the same time as ‘The Dagenham Girl Pipers’ and later at a memorial service for Officers DC Wombwell, DS Head and PC Fox, the victims of the Shepherds Bush murders.
A roll call of those early players would include John Waddington, Charlie Wood, Bob Storrey, Harry Rossiter, Tom Morrison, David White, George White, Gill White, Dennis White, Sid Green, Bill Blake, Jerry Barrel, Alan Cook, Bill Mann, and Wilf Kennedy.
They were soon joined by John Coleman, Ken Cole, Harry Ratcliff, Byron Baston, Graham Wood, John Poston, Mick Spalding, and Peter Skinner.
The band would have been formed for the sheer fun and joy of playing music together with like minded men and women - and as a partial antidote to the rigors and constraints of daily Policing. The contingencies of modern policing mean that, these days, only a handful of the players are serving officers; the remainder being, Police support staff, retired officers or civilians. What has remained though is an ethos of fun, laughter, comradeship and commitment that would have begun in February 1966 and has not stopped yet.
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