Drumming up support after more than four decades

A STRONG sense of cameraderie and a good rhythm have kept the Essex Corps of Drums going for over 40 years. But as membership is falling, the band s slow decline is only halted by a group of stubborn individuals who just can t help it. Having played at Ba

A STRONG sense of cameraderie and a good rhythm have kept the Essex Corps of Drums going for over 40 years.

But as membership is falling, the band's slow decline is only halted by a group of stubborn individuals who just can't help it.

Having played at Barking Carnival in the 1970s and 80s, at family history theatres, the British Legion in Dagenham, Dagenham Parish Church, memorial services and military funerals, and having led the pilgrimage for Dunkirk Veterans' Association, the organisation's rich history has kept members proud.

It still has several Barking and Dagenham members.


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Drum Major and Secretary Mick Chapman, 60, from Rainham, is an original member and he remembers the formation of the band back in 1965.

He said: "We were members of the 4/5th Battalion of the Essex Regiment (TA). That was desponded with in 1969.

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"But we were not going to let it go. We used to be in the Spotted Dick at the back and were raising money for instruments.

"From there it moved to the hall of the British Legion in Ilford.

"It's very difficult to find venues to play in for eight drummers.

He said they used to be based in the borough for around six years, until they moved to Rush Green in 2006.

In the four decades that span Mr Chapman's eventful drumming career, one occasion particularly stuck to memory.

During a Jack Cornwall Victoria Cross Parade in honour of the 16-year-old East London hero killed in the First World War, a slight distraction led to mayhem among the strict formation of the marching band.

Mr Chapman said: "That was on a very warm June morning in the 1970s.

"We were going down Manor Park in Ilford when a skimpily dressed woman was in the crowd.

"The young lads were rather distracted. One half went around the one way, the other went down the other direction.

"It was 10.30 in the morning so she must have just jumped out of bed, and not put much clothing on."

Memories may be rich and eventful, but membership numbers are dwindling and it is proving very difficult to get young people to join. At the moment, there are only 11 members.

Mr Chapman said: "Not a lot of people are coming out of the Armed Forces, and young people want to sit in front of their computers or they need to study these days.

"With the various wars going in Iraq and Afghanistan, anything that mimics the armed forces - people are very much against that.

He added: "It's just a sign of the times. But we're too stubborn to give up."

"I do a lot of work - it's just a case of trying to keep an old tradition going and it's a way of preserving something that's almost gone.

"Where would our carnival have been without it?

For him, the band is an important part of community life.

He also stressed the importance of the band's ethos and said: "It's like playing in a football team. It's a team effort."

To Mr Chapman and his fellow band members, a strong sense of comradeship of the armed forces, where everybody pulls together, is part of this ethos.

Anyone wishing to join the Essex Corps of Drums should contact Mr Chapman on (01708) 520948 or e-mail essexdrums@chapman33.fsnet.co.uk

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