13th Bromley Boys' Brigade.
Many will recognise the name of the 13th Bromley Boys’ Brigade or perhaps its now famous marching band ‘The Pacemakers Drum & Bugle Corps’. How did it all begin, where did the name come from and what are we doing now?
The Company started life back in 1948, originally as the 13th Chislehurst & District. It was only when in 1965 the Greater London Boroughs changed their boundaries and the old Chislehurst & District became the new Bromley Battalion that the13th Bromley Company appeared for the very first time.
The Band itself began in the early 1950's playing the traditional Boys’ Brigade Bb Bugle. The Company minutes of the 17th April 1952 recorded that Lieutenant Ron Eden, who had previously been a member of the Orpington Silver Band, agreed to commence bugle lessons for Company members. On the 9th May 1952 six new bugles were purchased at a total cost of £23 7s 0d which was regarded as very satisfactory. Two new side drums were purchased on 22nd January 1953 for £18 and the first band subscriptions were introduced at 3d (old pence) per week, for each member.
It was not until February 1953 that the Band made it’s very first appearance at the monthly Church Parade and on the 12th May 1955 Band Master Ron Eden presented a Silver Bugle to commemorate the Band's success in it's first ever Battalion Band Competition. The late 1950's & early 60's saw the Company and The Band grow in both numbers and standard, taking part in many local and London District Boys' Brigade Competitions: The Daily Telegraph Shield, Two Section Drill (which we actually won on one occasion), London Cross Country, Gymnastics and of course The Devonshire Cup Bugle Band competition. Seeing the 73rd London Bugle Band during their heyday and thinking, if only we could aspire to their level of musical ability. For many years we never progressed past the qualifying rounds in the South Eastern Zone. In those days the 73rd & 4th London Bands dominated the London bugle band scene, not only in our corner of south east London but for the whole of the London District. Nevertheless we kept returning year after year, for Ron had set the foundation for what was to follow.
At the tender ages of 20 & 19 respectively Lieutenant Andrew Shaw and I stepped in after Ron had retired and under Andrew’s leadership and enthusiasm standards where raised again. In those early years our aim was to be the best Boys' Brigade Band in London. After many unsuccessful attempts we finally won the Devonshire Cup at the Royal Albert Hall in 1974 and in 1975 attained one of the highest ever recorded marks.
By this time we were already participating in independent band competitions, entering our local Kent Youth Band Championships in 1971. It required a totally new concept of drill routines and musical ability and much to everyone's amazement the Band won that first contest.
The Spring of 1974 saw the 'Charge of the Boys' Brigade', as it was reported by the local newspaper, when 90 Boys from The 13th Bromley participated in the making of a National Boys' Brigade recruiting film called 'The Pacemakers'. To our surprise at the following band competition the boy’s parents unveiled a large blue banner with the words “The Pacemakers Drum & Bugle Corps”. This was how the name first became associated with us and it has remained right up until the present day. That same year and again in 1975 and 1977 we performed at The Boys' Brigade London District Display in the Royal Albert Hall. The 77 show was reported as one of the 'Finest Performance ever seen' by a Bb Bugle Band. The actual sound recording from this performance have been preserved and is available to download from The Pacemakers own website: http://www.thepacemakers.co.uk
In 1976 we turned our attention to the Boys' Brigade National Band Championships at Stafford and won the Webb Ivory Trophy for the best UK National Bb Bugle Band five years in a row between 1976 & 1980. In 1977 we participated in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Celebrations in Windsor Great Park and the Jubilee Parade in Central London. By this time our Girls’ Brigade Company (1st St Mary Cray) had become an integral part of the Band as the Colour Guard and at the end of the 1970's we became one of the founder members of Drum Corps UK achieving 6th place in the first ever Drum Corps UK Finals at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
Marching into the 1980’s saw major changes when we switched from our traditional Bb Bugles to American G Valve Bugles. It was also the year in which we performed in the EMI film 'The Mirror Cracked' with international film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak, Angela Lansbury, Geraldine Chaplin, Edward Fox and Tony Curtis. For this we had to revert back to our old Bb Bugles and BB uniforms of the 1950's era in which the film was set.
Time-out from the film set for some souvenir photographs with Kim Novak was regarded as absolutely essential.
In 1989 The Pacemakers horn line played the fanfare for the Royal World Charity Film Premiere ‘Return of the Musketeers’ at the "Odeon" Leicester Square, in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of York and again in 1990 for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at the re-opening of the Imperial War Museum in London.
Success continued during the 1990's at the Boys' Brigade National Marching Band Championships, twice becoming Supreme Champions. We reached both the BYBA finals at Birmingham National Indoor Arena and the British Marching Band Championships at Wembley in 1990 and 1995. We also gained promotion to the BYBA Premier class in 1995. At the end of the 1990's the girls from our Girls' Brigade Company had now become full playing members.
In 1998 we held a 50th Birthday Party for the Company inviting many past and present members. It was an evening to be remembered and rekindled many old friendships. By 2002 the Band was now being led by three young Company Officers who had all joined the Band at 12 years of age; Stuart, Kieran and Ian and with their enthusiasm and leadership we became The Boys' Brigade National Supreme Champions for the third time in 2003.
2006 saw continued success at the London and National BB Band Championships again winning both the Indoor Open Class Championship and Outdoor Showcase Finals as undefeated National Champions since 2001. With fund raising and donations we bought brand new band uniforms, our first in ten years.
In 2009 we were invited to participate in the Drum Corps United Kingdom Finals as part of the 30 years celebration since the organisations inception, being the only UK Drum Corps still active from the original corps membership of 1980. This subsequently has lead to a resurgency and now regular participation in the DCUK Championships. In 2015 The Pacemakers won their very first DCUK 'A' Class Championships and were runners-up in the inaugural Drum Line Battle. 2019 saw the Corps attain their highest ever recorded score in over 40 years and DCUK 'A' Class Champions for the third time.
During the past seven decades the list of achievements and events have been too numerous to mention them all. We run several sections according to age: Anchor Boys, Junior, Company and Senior Sections all based at the Temple United Reformed Church, St Mary Cray. Together with our Girls’ Brigade we hold both a Junior and Company Camp (which dates back to 1971) every summer. We still take part in many Brigade competitions, Athletics, Swimming, Ten Pin Bowling, Football team etc. It’s been a very exciting time and through it all we are still very proud to be a traditional BB Company representing The Boys’ Brigade.
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Lieutenant Ray Westbrook