CELEBRATING YOUR PROJECTS
Alan Crosby discovers the delights of the Jerome Gatehouse Collection – a treasure trove of military band material collected over one man’s lifetime
The Jerome Gatehouse Collection celebrating military bands
Many of us have enjoyed listening to and watching military or police bands. They are an important feature of most state occasions, fetes and civic festivals, sporting events and, of course, military displays of all sorts. Bands such as these, or their smaller informal predecessors, have been around for hundreds of years – for instance, the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ is a well-known figure in old folk tales and traditional ballads, and drums and pipes gathered and rallied troops in battles long ago. And in the 21st century, despite the transformation of military technology, this traditional element flourishes and enjoys popularity across the world.
A huge personal archive
In his late teens, Jerome Gatehouse, born in 1945 in Cwm, a small mining village near Newport in South Wales, became a passionate enthusiast for military and police bands and their music. He explored their history, focusing originally on British bands but from the mid-1960s onwards expanding the scope of his project and covering the world, researching, photographing and collecting artefacts. He developed links with bands in many countries, and became the international expert on the subject.
Jerome amassed a huge archive of information on their origins and history, and researched and wrote the history of quite a number of bands, many of them subsequently have disbanded. Tragically, he died suddenly in 1994 and since then his collection of over 40,000 items has been cared for and developed by his widow, Anne. After a series of attempts to find it a home (at one point including the possibility of the collection going to the United States) it is now run by a charitable trust and for the moment is based at Hoskins Street in Newport, although it is intended that a more permanent home will be created where the collection can be properly displayed.
The collection is being catalogued and the archive, covering the whole of the 20th century, has been listed and recognised by The National Archives. It is very wide-ranging – there are more than 4,000 programmes from military events where bands played a prominent role, almost 19,000 photographs, 2,000-plus historic musical recordings, over 2,000 files of information about bands worldwide, 150 videos and DVDs, and numerous models, copies of magazines, and a wide array of books.
Now the Jerome Gatehouse Collection Trust is beginning to progress further research into the subject and to make the collection and its resources available for educational use. As part of that goal it is exploring the role of military bands during the First World War, and seeking biographical information and stories about the boys and men who served in military bands during that conflict.
It’s familiar (in a general sense) that many boys, some as young as 14, joined the army and served as drummers and other musicians in military bands, going to the front and often demonstrating great heroism – but their stories have rarely been told and recorded in detail, so this is an interesting new perspective on the history and experience of that bloody conflict.
Bandsmen had a more mundane but even more vital role to play on the front line, as they very often served as stretcher-bearers, carrying the wounded back from the lines to receive medical treatment.
The Trust is also encouraging other research – for example, it has been considering the place of women in military and police bands. This dimension to the subject has scarcely even been mentioned in most published works, and there’s plenty of scope for contributions from family members or indeed the participants themselves to fill out their stories. If you have forebears who served as military or police bandsmen – or if you did so yourself – the Jerome Gatehouse Collection Trust would love to hear from you.
Jerome became the international expert on military and police bands
Above,bove Jerome Gatehouse Gatehouse, left left, on a visit to the Edinburgh Tattoo with his father