|Bandmaster Sylvester Henning - 1938-1943|
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Dedicated at Boscombe and converted while a young lad, Sylvester Henning was well established in Army principles when his musical career started. He was an accomplished pianist, possessing many certificates, and was constantly in demand as an accompanist. His Salvationism and musical ability soon marked him out as a leader and on the retirement of his father-in-law, Bandmaster Walker, he was made bandmaster, after serving 3 years as deputy. In November 1938 he took the band to Dorchester prison where they gave a musical programme much appreciated by the inmates, and in April, 1939 conducted a weekend campaign at Leicester Central - the only such campaign to be made under his leadership.
Preparations were soon under way for the band's second broadcast on 25th April in the Alexandra Hall, Bournemouth. The bandmaster decided upon a Real Army programme which opened with the march Victorious featuring Chris Haye's trombone solo Battle Cry and a cornet duet Lover of the Lord, played by the Walker brothers - Harold and Norman. Great and Glorious, Blessing Glory and Honour, A Sunbeam and The Old Rugged Cross completed the programme, which earned for the band a fee of 12 guineas.
A printed card was given to each bandsmen warning aginst possible pitfalls in the music and advising of uniform to be worn. The bandmaster added Be calm and do not overblow. This is your great opportunity - take it. The advice was heeded, and the resultant broadcast was very well received, with many letters sent complimenting the band on their wonderful playing, tone and execution.
A member of the Territorials, Sylvester Henning was called up for full time military service at the outbreak of war in September 1939. While undergoing training in Britain he was able to get home for weekends fairly frequently and to lead the band as normal, but soon after the completion of training he was sent to India to serve with the Royal Artillery.
When not on military duty, Bombadier Henning took a prominent part in Salvation Army activities wherever he happened to be stationed. On arrival at Poona, he assisted with the corps band there, and later at Calcutta he became bandmaster of the seventen strong Calcutta Servicemen's band, While serving overseas tragedy was to befall him because in 1943, at the age of 34, he drowned in the Chindwin River, Burma.
This sad loss was greatly felt at Boscombe, where he was such a popular figure. He was held in high esteem by the bandsmen and soldiery of the corps, and his ability as a composer was much praised by Sir Dan Godfrey and others prominent in the music world. From the commencement of his short term as bandmaster he accepted and put into effect Bandmaster Walker's motto First things first, and under his leadership the band rose to a high standard spiritually and musically.
Following Bandmaster Hennings departure to India, Songster Leader William Walker once more took over responsibility for the band. By December 1940 21 of his handsmen had left the corps to serve with HM forces, each one being presented on his departure with a New Testament.
Letters were regularly sent to them by their much-revered Band Sergeant Guy Hewitt, and by Percy Cutler, who proved during these years to be a most enthusiastic and energetic band secretary. He also took a conscientious interest in all the visiting servicemen and was able to record the names of over 250 who played with the band during the War years. They came not only from the British Isles, but also from Canada, Australia, Newfoundland, New Zealand and the USA. Some were aircrew stationed nearby; others came to receive training and equipment before going into battle.
At Boscombe an instrument was always found for such reinforcements, and it was not unusual to have a band of 40 on duty. This constant stream of servicemen supported the enthusiastic group of young bandsmen, still awaiting their call up papers, plus the local stalwarts, many of whom were too old for military call up, serving instead as ARP wardens.
One serviceman who transferred to this area was Songster Leader Brindley Boon, who, in January 1941, was posted as radar operator to RAF Sopley. Upon linkinq up with the corps he was immediately welcomed into the band and from time to time acted as guest conductor.
Fortunate indeed are Salvationists whose war duties take them within reach of Boscombe Citadel, for a very comradely welcome awaits them. Instruments are immediately found, the bandsmen gladly giving theirs up if all the spare ones are in use, and the rations are shared with visitors who hail from all parts of the country and the Dominions. Songster Leader Brindley Boon (Chalk Farm), who travels many miles to get to the meetings using bicycle, bus and foot, conducted the band through several items, including some of the latest journals, with such excellent results that it was difficult to believe that very little practise had been possible, and that many of the men had received almost all their training in other bands, some of them thousands of miles away.
Amongst many impressions left by the weekend were the brilliant playing of the cornet section, in which were found Bandmaster H. Otter from Bristol Citadel, and J. Strike from South Shields Central and that master of instrument Deputy Bandmaster Harold Walker, who is still capable of making faultless renderings of the most difficult solos; the glorious singing of band, songsters and congregation; and the energy and enthusiasm of those two veteran 'Rinkers' Phil Catelinet sen. and George Manning. The former gave a brilliant exhibition of drumming in the afternoon march.
With Southampton being a popular target for enemy bombings, Boscombe became the divisional centre and setting for the weekly central holiness meetings, periodical festivals, and other special events. The band took its turn to participate in all such events and a number of visits to other corps were carried out. Openair meetings continued much as in pre-war days, and the Sunday evening openair at Salisbury Road never failed to attract a large congregation, many of whom followed the band on its march back to the citadel.
Sunday meetings there were always crowded, with overflows having to be accommodated on occasions in the YP hall. Bandsmen were privileged to share many sacred moments at this time - putting aside the anxieties of war and rejoicing over the many who sought and found a Saviour. The visit of General Carpenter in December, 1940 alone resulted in 47 seekers, and later campaigns by Mrs. Bramwell Booth, Major Allister Smith and the Marechale also had great impact.
In November 1943, having already faced the tragedy of Bandmaster Henning's death, the band was dealt another severe blow with the sudden Promotion to Glory of Songster Leader William Walker. Brindley Boon stepped in to act as band instructor/conductor, and continued to serve in this capacity until spring 1914 when he was posted to Wales. When RAF commitments prevented his attendance, Deputy Bandmaster Harold Walker took charge of the band and following Brindley Boon's departure, this became a permanent arrangement until the war's end.
Although never at ease with a baton, and suffering immense frustration at being unable to extract from others the virtuoso playing of which he himself was capable, Harold Walker managed to maintain the band at a high standard. Much credit must be given to the Deputy for his musical and spiritual leadership of the band during the war, which resulted in Herbert Mountain being able to take over a thoroughly proficient unit in July 1945.
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