Royal Air Force
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A Musican’s Life by Bob Blundell

My father was born on 22 April 1900, the youngest son of William Blundell and Agatha Coutts, Who were respectively, the head gardener and the children’s governess at the big house, viz Ince Blundell Hall, Lancashire. Agatha, who, incidentally I never met, as she had died before my birth, was one of the early female graduates of the Uiversity of Edinburgh. Amongst other subjects that she studied at Edinburgh was music, at which she excelled.

It was she who taught my father to read music and play the flute, and schooled him in the rudiments of harmony and composition. At the age of 14 he joined the 1st the King’s Regiment as a bandboy in the regimental band. During WW1 the band was not deployed in Europe, but later became part of the occupying forces billeted at a small town in Germany called Troisdorf, which will be familiar to those who served at R.A.F Wahn and is now the site of Cologne/Bonn airport. During this period he had progressed to bandsman and was, at that time, the principal flute soloist. Their stay in the Rheinland was brief and they were soon redeployed to Bantry in County Cork, Ireland

On 15th February 1921 the band, after some engagements in Cork City and it’s environs, were to return to Bantry by train. On the way the train pick up, at Kinsale Junction, a large detachment of Essex Regiment troops, who were being re-assigned. The Cork to Bandon railway passed through some very remote area along it’s journey, and at a station called Upton the I.R.A. had laid an ambush. As the train drew in it was met by a hail of small arms fire, raking the whole train. As a result of the fire fight 6 civilians on the train were killed, 3 of the I.R.A. were killed and sereral British soldiers badly wounded.

During the action my father received a bullet to the left leg about 6 inches above the knee, severing an artery and shattering the bone. Due to the remoteness of the location and the distance from medical facilities, by the time his wound was attended to the situation had become grave, he had lost a great deal of blood and it was feared he would not survive. Happily he did, although his left leg was amputated above the knee.

He was subsequently discharged from the army with a prosthetic limb and a disability pension. He continued to work as a jobbing musician, playing with several small bands and hotel palm court orchestras throughout the 20’s and 30’s. At the commencement of WW2, He had a small orchestra of his own playing at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. All this ceased at the beginning of hostilities and he moved to London. As the war progressed and the emergency lessened. Public entertainment recommenced and musicians were at a premium, so my father was recruited into the B.B.C. Initially playing in the Welsh Orchestra, then the Scottish Orchestra, and finally the Symphony Orchastra, with whom he played for many years under such conductors as : Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Malcolm Sargent. He ceased his professional career in the early 60’s, but was asked to remain at the B.B.C. to re-organise it’s sheet music library which had become shambolic over years of neglect. That task completed he retired in the mid 60,s.
Quite a journey for a gardeners’ son.

Bob Blundell 17th