Ipswich: RAF bands pay tribute to the Dambusters generation at the Regent

The RAF in Concert, celebrating the Dambusters generation on Wednesday. Photo: SAC Andy Holmes

The RAF in Concert, celebrating the Dambusters generation on Wednesday. Photo: SAC Andy Holmes - Credit: RAF

Seventy years have passed since 617 Squadron carried out one of the most daring and dangerous raids of the Second World War, attacking the Ruhr dams in Germany’s industrial heartland.

The Squadronaires will be performing. Photo SAC Andy Holmes

The Squadronaires will be performing. Photo SAC Andy Holmes - Credit: MOD- SAC Andy Holmes

This Wednesday, the Central Band of the RAF and the big band sound of the legendary Squadronaires pay tribute to the now legendary Dambusters and the unbeatable British bulldog spirit of the era.

RAF in Concert soloist Matt Walker

RAF in Concert soloist Matt Walker - Credit: Archant

Encore! A Salute to the Dambusters Generation will feature classic wartime film themes like The Dambusters March, Bridge On The River Kwai and Gone with the Wind alongside greats from Gershwin, Porter and 1940s big band numbers made famous by entertainers such as the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller.

“We have a lot of fun and all the audiences go out with a big smile on their face, which is what it’s all about,” says the RAF’s principal director of music, Wing Commander Duncan Stubbs.

“We go off theme a little bit I suppose, but we like to justify it (in terms of) entertainment and fun value, because we do a tribute to the violinist Andre Rieu. There’s a little bit of dressing up goes on, I don’t want to spoil it too much but there’s a wig involved and swaying,” he laughs.

“(Then there’s) a little bit of quietening down, a little more of a remembrance aspect of what it was like in the early war years then we bring it back up with Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, We’ll Meet Again, audience singing, Pomp and Circumstance… all good traditional stuff to finish off.”

Staged in support of the RAF Charitable Trust, the programme also features a newly-commissioned Dambusters tribute called March Barnes Wallis, named after the aircraft designer who invented the bouncing bombs.

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It’s by renowned composer Nigel Hess, who has written theme music for TV programmes like Wycliffe, Dangerfield and Ladies in Lavender.

“There’s always an element of uncertainty, of risk; you’re quite never exactly sure what you’re going to get. In this particular case I went round to Nigel’s house and he played the initial sort of sketch of the piece of music on the piano.

“Straightaway, he smiled and said ‘are you liking that’? It’s absolutely captures the spirit of it… there’s even a passage about two thirds of the way through where you’ve got the musical effect of the bouncing bomb and even the dam bursting as well. It’s a successful piece; we had a lot of fun working with it.”

The concert is compered by BBC Radio Two broadcaster Alan Dedicoat, the voice of the balls on the National Lottery and the voice of Strictly Come Dancing.

“We take the mickey out of him furiously to be perfectly honest but he gives as good as he gets,” says Wg Cdr Stubbs. “We have a really good time, we work hard on the music and it’s a fun evening to be at.”

Also playing a vital role at the Ipswich Regent show will be Cadets from 188 (Ipswich) Sqn, who are representing the Air Cadet Organisation, one of the main beneficiaries of the annual concert tour.

They will be selling programmes and flags and meeting and greeting the audience.

Fight Lieutenant Peter Coles, officer commanding 188 Sqn, says: “The squadron has helped out whenever the concert tour has come to Ipswich and our cadets really enjoy it - especially as they get to watch the second half of the performance.

“They compete to see who can sell the most programmes and it’s a great opportunity to let the public see the cadets as part of the RAF family.”

Dedicoat adds it’s fitting the next generation, exemplified by the young cadets, are paying their own tribute to the legendary Dambusters by giving up their time to help make the RAF in Concert show a success.

“I have no doubt they will carry out their roles with aplomb and serve as a great advertisement for the Air Cadet Organisation.”

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