The Royal Marines Band Service is the musical wing of the Royal Navy. It currently consists of five Bands and its headquarters is the Royal Marines School of Music at HMS Nelson in Portsmouth dockyard.
Without doubt, groups of musicians existed in the Service before 1767, when Royal Marines Divisional Bands were formed at the naval dockyard-bases of Chatham, Plymouth and Portsmouth and the naval gathering-point of Deal in the Downs, and Marine bands (along with professional bands paid for by captains) provided music on board ship before and during battles of the Napoleonic Wars (eg during the long sail into action at the Battle of Trafalgar). The modern history of the Service, though, begins late in the 19th century, when the task of forming a Royal Naval School of Music to provide Bands for the Royal Navy was assigned to the Marines, with the School being founded in 1903. From then on the Band Service became an integral part of the Corps. Its original home was Eastney Barracks Portsmouth; where it remained until 1930 when it was transferred to the Royal Marines Depot, Deal.
After the outbreak of World War II, it moved to Malvern, then it divided with the Junior Wing moving to the Isle of Man and the Senior Wing to Scarborough before reuniting at Burford in 1946 and finally returning to Deal in 1950. The amalgamation of the Divisional Bands with the Royal Naval School of Music to form today's Royal Marines Band Service also took place in 1950 when the headquarters and training establishment were re-named the Royal Marines School of Music.
At aprox 8.20am on the 22nd of September 1989, the Royal Marines School of Music at South Barracks,Deal was bombed by the IRA, this resulted in the death of 11 bandsmen including musician Robert Simmonds and the injury of 22 other marines. The memorial garden is situated in the grounds of the old barracks where the bomb went off. This was built in rememberence of the 11 that died and was then restored after an arson attack a number of years ago. Every year the families and friends of those that died join together at the garden to pay their respects and lay flowers in a memorial service. In 1995 the School of Music was moved to HMS Nelson in the Portsmouth dockyard.
Today all Royal Marines Bands are required to provide every imaginable musical ensemble including orchestras and dance bands. To achieve this, most musicians, except solo specialists, are required to attain an average standard on both a string and a wind instrument. As a result of this special amalgam of mediocrity, Royal Marines musicians are regarded as jack of all trades in the military musical world. The Corps of Drums receive an equally thorough training and pride themselves on maintaining the highest standards of drill, bugling and drumming. Their glittering presence at the front of all Royal Marines Bands on the march gives the bands a visual impact that is second to none.
The Royal Marines School of Music is where the exacting process of producing military musicians and buglers worthy of the Royal Marines begins. Through a very productive link with the University of Portsmouth, Royal Marines Musicians can now attain civilian qualifications linked to each stage of their training and professional promotion courses. Male and female students, aged between 18 and 28, are trained in all aspects of military music. They are taught by professors of the highest calibre that include musicians from the top London and provincial orchestras. The students are also drilled in all aspects of military ceremonial in order to ensure that the worldwide reputation enjoyed by the Royal Marines Band Service for both its music and precision marching is maintained. At the School of Music the future of the Band Service, based upon the experience of the past and the professionalism of the present, is forged; here the young instrumentalist is tempered and honed to the sharpest edge before taking his or her place in one of the five Royal Marines Bands.
As their careers progress, Musicians and Buglers return to the Royal Marines School of Music to undergo further musical training to qualify them for higher rank. This culminates in a place on the Student Bandmasters' Course that is widely recognised as one of the most demanding courses of its type. Students study all the main music disciplines; the orchestral and contemporary wind band repertoire and they work with renowned figures from the world of music.