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The Squadronaires

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Biography

Not long after Great Britain's entry into the Second World War, the Royal Air Force Music Services began recruiting seasoned entertainers to serve in dance bands that were assigned to RAF stations where they fulfilled common military duties during the day and changed into band uniforms at night to provide Armed Forces personnel with uplifting jazz and pop music. Rather than waiting for conscription, instrumentalists from bands like the Heralds of Swing and the Bert Ambrose Orchestra were soon showing up at RAF Uxbridge where (after basic training at Morecombe) they eventually became players in the Royal Air Force Dance Orchestra, popularly known as the Squadronaires and informally referred to as "the Squads". This highly acclaimed ensemble was directed by vocalist and pianist Jimmy Miller, with trumpeters Archie Craig and Tommy McQuater, trombonists Eric Breeze and George Chisholm, reed players Andy McDevitt, Jimmy Durrant, Harry Lewis, and Tom Bradbury, and a rhythm section of pianist Ronnie Aldrich, guitarist Sid Collin, bassist Arthur Madden, and drummer Jock Cummings. The Squads (whose theme song was "There's Something in the Air") made gramophone records, performed over BBC radio, and toured extensively, often finding themselves in newly liberated territory or in close proximity to the front lines. Legend has it, in fact, that they were required to beat a hasty retreat during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. After the war, as one by one most of the Squadronaires withdrew from active service, a civilian version of the Squads was formed under the leadership of Ronnie Aldrich and continued to enjoy enormous popularity, staying together until the early '60s. In 1985, a revived Royal Air Force Squadronaires began to coalesce, and in January 1987, this orchestra was inaugurated at RAF Uxbridge under the leadership of Sergeant Jimmy Miller, with several of the original members in attendance. The new Squads have released several excellent albums (Big Band Spectacular, Swing Squadron, Squads Away, and Flying Home), have played at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London, and have embraced the original mission of the WWII band by entertaining British military personnel wherever they are stationed today. ~ arwulf arwulf
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