The Squadronaires

The Squadronaires

Infobox Musical artist
Name = The Squadronaires

Img_capt =
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = group_or_band
Origin = England
Instrument =
Genre = Big Band, jazz
Years_active = 1939–present
Label = Various
Associated_acts =
Current_members =
Past_members =

The Squadronaires was a Royal Air Force band which began and performed in England during and after World War II. The official title of the band was "The Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra", but it was always known by the more popular title "The Squadronaires".


In 1939 the Royal Air Force implemented a plan to raise morale and entertain the troups during wartime, and The Squadronaires was one of the bands organized as a result. The band drew from some of the best musicians of the day. It became a popular jazz band and likely the best known of the English military dance bands of the time, with hits like "There's Something in the Air" and "South Rampart Street Parade." The Squadronaires played at dances and concerts for service personnel and also broadcast on the BBC and recorded on the Decca label. The orchestra's first broadcast took place in January 1941. After D-Day, the Squadronaires went on to entertain service personnel engaged in the Northwest European campaign but had to return to England because of military operations. After demobilization, the members formed a civilian band of the same name. Ronnie Aldrich had been the arranger and co-piano player, but in 1950 he took over as bandleader, and the band was then billed as Ronnie Aldrich and The Squadronaires. The touring season of 1951 was the busiest period of activity the band had ever experienced. In 1952, The Squadronaires began a regular summer engagement at The Palace Ballroom in Douglas, Isle of Man which continued for about ten years. The Squadronaires continued to work together under Ronnie Aldrich until 1964 when rock music replaced jazz as the popular music of choice.


Many of the members formerly played as side men in Bert Ambrose’s band, and during the war, the members consisted of:

Leader: Jimmy Miller

Manager: Arthur Maden

Trumpet: Tommy McQuater, Archie Craig, Clinton French

Trombone: George Chisholm, Eric Breeze

Saxophones: Tommy Bradbury, Harry Lewis, Jimmy Durrant, Andy McDevitt, Cliff Townshend

Piano: Ronnie Aldrich

Guitar: Sid Colin

Bass: Arthur Maden

Drums: Jock Cummings

Vocals: Jimmy Miller, Joan Regan [ [ The Squadronaires ] ]

After the war, Jimmy Watson replaced Clinton "Froggy" French on trumpet, and Monty Levy replaced Harry Lewis (husband of Vera Lynn) on alto sax.

Band revival

In 1985 a new big band orchestra was organized under the title "The Royal Air Force Squadronaires." Many original members of the band were contacted and several were present at the official launch of the new band at Headquarters Music Services, RAF Uxbridge, on 8 January 1987. Original band leader Jimmy Miller conducted the band’s theme tune, "There’s Something in the Air."

Since then the band recorded "Big Band Spectacular" and a second album "Swing Squadron". To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force, the Squadronaires produced an album entitled "Squads Away" in 1993, and in January, 2002, they recorded "Flying Home". Recordings from the original band are also available as reissues.

Under band leader Sgt. Jamie Deighton the band has played in Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London and for HRH the Prince of Wales at Highgrove House supporting Pop Idol winner Will Young. They performed at the 2004 Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance, also backing Will Young.

In August 2004 the band performed at the Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival, and appeared on television as part of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The band performs the majority of its concerts for charity, and in 2004 completed an eight-date tour of the South East to raise money for The Royal Air Forces Association. [ [ British Big Bands Database Plus - Page 1 'S' Bands ] ]

The Civilian Squadronaires

In light of the decision of Ronnie Aldrich to disband the orchestra in 1964, nothing much happened with the Squadronaires Orchestra. At some later time, bandleader Harry Bence approached Ronnie, asking if he could re-form the orchestra. Harry subsequently reformed the 'New' Squadronaires, and ran the band as a commercial unit until his death in 1997. Following Harry Bence's death, the future of the civilian band was in some doubt. Musical Arranger and Trumpet player Greg Francis, then approached Mrs Mary Aldrich (Ronnie's widow) asking if he could obtain her permission to re-form the 'New Squadronaires' as a tribute to the original wartime Dance Band. Greg wanted to present the band 'as it was then' - with young players, dressed in RAF uniform, but most importantly, playing the music of the era. Mary Aldrich was delighted to offer her kind support in this. And so, the civilian 'New Squadronaires Orchestra' was re-formed in September 1997. It played its inaugural concert at the Villa Marina IOM, where the original band had performed for 11 years during the 50's and 60's. The New Squadronaires Orchestra has since played at thousands of military and non military events, including many of the RAF stations in the UK. It has played at the RAF Museum in Hendon, at Duxford and other airshows, and at the Imperial War Museum in London. Not only this but, the New Squadronaires has played its part in RAF recruitment. In 2002, the orchestra played (in the pouring rain - as they might have during the war!) alongside the RAF recruitment exhibition in Blackpool - the very town where the Squadronaires played their first date in 1940! The orchestra was resident at the Blackpool Tower ballroom for 2 years - 2001/2002, and has remained popular with the many big band enthusiasts and holidaymakers.In 1997, along with the relaunch of the orchestra, a new CD was issued, featuring transcriptions of some of the original Squadronaires music. The parts were actually thrown on a bonfire by ex-leader Ronnie Aldrich in 1964, and so, it was necessary for Greg Francis, who is owner of the registered trade mark name (The New Squadronaires Orchestra) to transcribe many of the original titles from the existing recordings. The CD features amongst other top professional musicians, ex Syd Lawrence saxophonists Norman Brown and Andy Taylor, and also features Greg Francis himself, playing the trumpet features. You can find out much more about the New Squadronaires Orchestra on the USO website


* [ The Royal Air Force Squadronaires]

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