In an already historic year for the Royal Air Force, August saw the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, under the direction of Flight Lieutenant Chris I’Anson, travel to Amiens to provide a vital role in the centenary commemoration of the Battle of Amiens and the commencement of the Hundred Days Offensive.
In their efforts, the musicians of the Royal Air Force were joined inside the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral by musicians of the Australian, Canadian, French and United States militaries together with the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. On this, Flight Lieutenant I’Anson commented;
“It was a remarkable experience working together with musicians from many of the nations involved in the Battle of Amiens 100 years ago. The incredible musicianship and professionalism of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain only added to the privilege of being part of such a poignant and moving commemoration.”
Similarly, in attendance were representatives of each of the participating nations, including notably His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, The Right Honourable Theresa May MP, and former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Joachim Gauck. The significance of the commemoration was highlighted in a reading by His Royal Highness in which he stated:
“It is entirely fitting [therefore] that today, that same international coalition has returned to Amiens with our former enemy in peace and partnership.”
During the service, the International Military Band led by the Central Band of the Royal Air Force performed a number of varied but poignant works from Martin Ellerby’s Mass of St Thomas Aquinas, to John Williams Hymn to the Fallen, and Evening Hymn and Sunset arranged by Wing Commander (retired) Barrie Hingley. Many of these intermittent but moving performances were accompanied by readings given by international serving personnel of extracts from memoirs, diary entries, and letters from the battle itself.
In his letter acknowledging the band's contribution to the event, the British Defence Attaché in Paris, Brigadier Robert Thomson wrote;
“Inside and outside of the cathedral, the music was exceptional, balancing tradition and modernity in a way that would have delighted the Riflemen and Aviators of 1918... We Brits were very proud of the way you led the musical tributes to the warriors of yesteryear.”
Article written by Senior Aircraftwoman Sabina Heywood