The History of the RAF Music Services Association

The seeds of the RAF Music Services Association can be traced back to 1978 and a dinner marking the retirement of Wing Commander Roy Davies. The guests included ex-members of RAF Central Band, and such was the success of the occasion it was felt it should become an annual event. Over time the numbers attending grew, but the real impetus came in 1986 and the official launch of the first official history of music in the Royal Air Force, Music in the Air, at RAF Uxbridge, then the home of the RAF Music Services. Among the many ex-members of the Music Services who attended were a number who had gone on to become celebrities, such as Steve Race, George Chisholm and Denis Matthews.

The success of the day as a reunion led to the formation of an official RAF project to form an Association, and Sqn Ldr Ian Kendrick volunteered to lead the organisation and form a committee. The Ministry of Defence granted permission for the Association to use the title Royal Air Force Music Services Association, and its inauguration was marked on 26th January 1987 with a service at Westminster Abbey. The first edition of the Association magazine, The Blue and the Gold was produced in spring 1987.

The progressive downsizing of the Service has led in time to the organisation being passed to a committee of civilians. The Association retains close ties to the RAF Music Services, however – a representative from Headquarters Music Services sits on the committee as liaison officer, and the Service offers valuable support for the annual reunion, providing the use of their facilities and a concert by one of the current RAF Bands.

Today the Association has over 300 members, not only in the UK but wherever RAF musicians have settled, in places as diverse as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, the USA, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Spain (including the Canary Islands), and Cyprus. As well as ex-members of the Music Services, the Association welcomes the many RAF servicemen and women who played with the RAF Voluntary Bands in their spare time. All members receive The Blue and the Gold which is still published twice yearly, and an invitation to the annual reunion, which usually alternates between RAF Northolt, the home of RAF Central Band and the RAF Regiment Band, and RAF Cranwell, where the Band of the RAF College and the Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force are based.