A few months ago, the band was reaching crisis point. Valves had dropped off some of their bugles. Others were dented – which made playing in harmony something of a challenge when performing at major events in front of royalty.
So an SOS went out for funding. And, thanks to the wonderful generosity of sponsors, more than £6,000 was raised in no time at all.
“The response far exceeded our expectations and we are so grateful,” said 2nd Lieutenant Scott Bunker, the Bandmaster.
“Our old instruments really had passed their sell-by date. Some were old stock. There were others we imported from India which didn’t stand the test of time. Now the sound we make will be much smoother and at exactly the right pitch.”
Representatives of the sponsors presented the bugles to individual members of the band during ceremonies at Jellalabad House, Taunton. The supporters included the Fairfield Trust; the Medlock Trust; The Stand Club, Taunton; and Mrs Pauline Hanna, who donated a bugle in memory of her late husband Bill, a former Somerset Light Infantry Major.
The band is drawn from two of Somerset’s 34 ACF detachments – Frome and Uphill, in Weston-super-Mare.
As Colonel Paul Richardson, Somerset ACF Commandant, reminded the youngsters, the military history of the bugle dates as far back as the Napoleonic Wars, when the instrument was used to communicate battlefield orders. Buglers also reacted rapidly by marching at a quickened pace – which explains why Somerset’s Silver Bugles Band still operate at ‘light infantry pace.’
Scott Bunker, now 47, has been with the Uphill platoon since he was a 12-year-old cadet. He says it’s rare these days for youngsters to join who already play a musical instrument – or can read music. But they learn quickly.
“Not all our cadets are necessarily great achievers at school,” he added. “But through their involvement with the band we can see their confidence grow to a point where they feel a massive sense of achievement.”
Scott’s 16-year-old daughter Rosie, a pupil at Churchill Sixth Form College, is the band’s Serjeant Bugle Major. “I joined as soon as I could at the age of 12 to do something a bit different to my friends – and it’s been brilliant,” she said.
“It’s not just about learning to play the instrument. We do a lot of practice to make sure we get it right when we are performing at important occasions.”
The ACF is one of the country’s largest voluntary youth organisations, with 41,000 cadets aged from 12 to 18 across the UK. For more information about Somerset ACF, call 01823 284486 or go to www.armycadets.com/county/somerset.