Sylvester Henning

Bandmaster Sylvester Henning

1938 to 1943

Dedicated at Boscombe and converted while a young lad, Sylvester Henning was well established in Army principles when his musical career started. He was an accomplished pianist, possessing many certificates, and was constantly in demand as an accompanist. His Salvationism and musical ability soon marked him out as a leader and on the retirement of his father-in-law, Bandmaster Walker, he was made bandmaster, after serving 3 years as deputy. In November 1938 he took the band to Dorchester prison where they gave a musical programme much appreciated by the inmates, and in April, 1939 conducted a weekend campaign at Leicester Central - the only such campaign to be made under his leadership.

Preparations were soon under way for the band's second broadcast on 25th April in the Alexandra Hall, Bournemouth. The bandmaster decided upon a Real Army programme which opened with the march Victorious featuring Chris Haye's trombone solo Battle Cry and a cornet duet Lover of the Lord, played by the Walker brothers - Harold and Norman. Great and Glorious, Blessing Glory and Honour, A Sunbeam and The Old Rugged Cross completed the programme, which earned for the band a fee of 12 guineas.

A printed card was given to each bandsmen warning against possible pitfalls in the music and advising of uniform to be worn. The bandmaster added Be calm and do not overblow. This is your great opportunity - take it. The advice was heeded, and the resultant broadcast was very well received, with many letters sent complimenting the band on their wonderful playing, tone and execution.

Band 1939

A member of the Territorials, Sylvester Henning was called up for full time military service at the outbreak of war in September 1939. While undergoing training in Britain he was able to get home for weekends fairly frequently and to lead the band as normal, but soon after the completion of training he was sent to India to serve with the Royal Artillery.

When not on military duty, Bombardier Henning took a prominent part in Salvation Army activities wherever he happened to be stationed. On arrival at Poona, he assisted with the corps band there, and later at Calcutta he became bandmaster of the seventeen strong Calcutta Servicemen's band, While serving overseas tragedy was to befall him because in 1943, at the age of 34, he drowned in the Chindwin River, Burma.

This sad loss was greatly felt at Boscombe, where he was such a popular figure. He was held in high esteem by the bandsmen and soldiery of the corps, and his ability as a composer was much praised by Sir Dan Godfrey and others prominent in the music world. From the commencement of his short term as bandmaster he accepted and put into effect Bandmaster Walker's motto First things first, and under his leadership the band rose to a high standard spiritually and musically.

Band 1944

In November 1943, having already faced the tragedy of Bandmaster Henning's death, the band was dealt another severe blow with the sudden Promotion to Glory of Songster Leader William Walker. Brindley Boon stepped in to act as band instructor/conductor, and continued to serve in this capacity until spring 1914 when he was posted to Wales. When RAF commitments prevented his attendance, Deputy Bandmaster Harold Walker took charge of the band and following Brindley Boon's departure, this became a permanent arrangement until the war's end.

Although never at ease with a baton, and suffering immense frustration at being unable to extract from others the virtuoso playing of which he himself was capable, Harold Walker managed to maintain the band at a high standard. Much credit must be given to the Deputy for his musical and spiritual leadership of the band during the war, which resulted in Herbert Mountain being able to take over a thoroughly proficient unit in July 1945.

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