“A small group of us was playing at a luncheon for Her Royal Highness and she was laughing so much she had her elbows on the table wiping tears from her eyes!” recalls Splash Project Leader Paul Luford, a former Colour Sergeant and trombonist in the Royal Marines Band Service.
At the the time Paul was part of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland. “Our tuba player was dressed in a snorkel mask with flippers and every time he played a low note would put the bell of his instrument over Prince Philip’s head. Then he started tapping his flipper. All his antics had her in stitches.
“The following day we had to fly out to Hong Kong and as soon as we arrived at our digs, we were passed a message that the Queen had made the order for us to ‘splice the mainbrace’, a recently ceased tradition within the Royal Navy which permitted the daily rum ration. It was her way of thanking us for the entertainment the day before.”
Given their ideal transferable skills, can-do attitude and penchant for humour, service personnel make ideal Project Leaders and Splash Projects currently has around 50 former members of the Armed Forces on the books.
Paul Luford, who has been a Project Leader on various Splash Projects, most recently with ESSCA and IE business schools in France, recalls another time when her Majesty couldn’t help but laugh…
“We’d been playing at the Royal Tournament at Earls Court, and because our band was the last to play every evening, we were the last ones to use the showers. Myself and a fellow bandsman were dressed only in towels and were on our way to the shower block when we were shouted at by a Sergeant Major, but it was too late, because the Rolls Royce carrying the Queen and Prince Philip suddenly appeared driving slowly past us. Her Majesty couldn’t help but giggle at the sight of us!”
Both Paul and fellow Splash Project Leader Gary Halsey, a former Colour Sergeant and principal trombonist for the Royal Marines Band Service, have met all senior members of the Royal family on numerous occasions during their 30+ years of service each, and describe them all, particularly the late Queen, as “very hardworking” and committed to their support of the Armed Forces.
“We would regularly see members of the Royal Family,” said Gary. “I saw the Queen several times on Parade, she was a wonderful woman. I saw Prince Charles while aboard HMS Illustrious during the Falklands, and Prince Andrew when he returned from the Falklands on HMS Invincible. I first met Prince Edward at the Royal Marines School of Music at Deal.”
Gary is currently a member of the Salamanca Band and Bugles of The Rifles based at the home of 6 Rifles at Wyvern Barracks, Exeter, which performed as part of the Queen’s funeral occasion in London, without Gary who was on a Splash Project in Spain at the time.
“I played at the funeral of the Queen Mother so it would have been an honour to have played at the Queen’s funeral,” he added. “I went to collect the band from London after they performed and brought them back to Devon, so I am pleased I was able to support the band in a small way.”