The Voluntary Bands of the Royal Air Force have participated in the ancient tradition of military music for nearly a century. In 1918, when the Royal Air Force fledged from the union of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Flying Corps, musicians of those two services, augmented by fresh recruits to the young RAF, came together to form the first RAF Voluntary Bands. Soon, many an RAF station boasted its own band and as the Second World War drew thousands more people into uniform, the number of RAF bases – and voluntary bands – increased both at home and overseas.
1990 saw the formation of the Royal Air Force Voluntary Band Association, one of the welcome results being increased cooperation and collaboration among the bands. For the first time, joint ventures such as the recent concert at Peterborough Cathedral with the Central Band of the Royal Air Force could be organised, to the great delight of audiences and musicians alike.
Today’s RAF Voluntary Bands are led by experienced Voluntary Band Instructors, skilled professionals who are the only paid members of the bands; other bandsmen and women are willing volunteers. They may be RAF or other Service personnel, family members or civilians – and anyone may apply to join. It’s a wonderful way of spending spare time, enjoying the company of like-minded enthusiasts and improving musical skills.
The last 2 years has been a busy period for all of the RAF Voluntary Bands who have covered hundreds of local events as well as participating in the biennial Massed Voluntary Bands Concert and the RAF100 parade in London. For 2019, plans are under way for a Massed Voluntary Bands concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall on 7 July.