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29 March 2018

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RAF 100

The Royal Air Force was formed on 1 April 1918. By the second world war it had massively expanded so in 1941 the Air Ministry sent a set of records to every RAF station entitled Music for Service Occasions.

1PD41 Royal Air Force Music for Service Occassions itunes

In December 1941 the Air Ministry issued a set of special recordings by service personnel. They were divided into three sections:
Programme for a Guest Night
Sunday Evening
This is the first time since the original release that all these recordings have been reissued together.


1. God Save the King; Land of Hope and Glory (Edward Elgar)

2. Trumpet Calls of the RAF

Here is a series of trumpet calls which are most commonly used on R.A.F. stations. However it may seem curious that what must be the most popular call "Come to the cook-house door boys" has been omitted. In the working of an R.A.F. station, however, it is rarely possible for all personnel to eat at the same time and this call is, therefore, not normally used.

  • Royal Air Force Call

    This should preface every other call. For example, if an alarm were sounded in an area where there were units of other services within earshot, the R.A.F. call, preceding the alarm call, makes it clear as for whom the alarm is intended.

  • General Parade

    This is the assembly call and is used on all appropriate occasions, ceremonial or otherwise.

  • Markers

    When a parade is ordered, markers take up their positions indicating where the airmen and airwomen are to fall in.

  • Advance

    Detachments march on to their markers when this call is sounded.

  • Reveille

    This is sounded every morning and marks the start of the day's activities.

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  • Alarm

    This call means that everyone must drop all other duties and fall in at the station assembly point.

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  • Carry On

    This cancels the alarm

  • Retreat

    In peacetime this call means that duties for the day are ended.

  • Guard Salute

    This is sounded on the change of guard. The old guard sounds it on the arrival of the new guard and the new guard repeats it after taking over their duties as the old guard marches away. It is sounded to "present arms".

  • Last Post

    This is a warning for everyone to be in their quarters. The R.A.F. version differs from those of the other services in that the last phrase sinks instead of continuing higher. The reason for this is that all R.A.F. calls are sounded on a trumpet which will not reach the high notes of a bugle.

  • Lights Out

    This is sounded fifteen minutes after the "Last Post"

3. Royal Air Force March (Henry Walford Davies)

This was specially composed in 1918 by Walford Davies, Master of the Kings Musick, when he was Musical Director of the RAF. It is the official march past, and is used on every ceremonial occasion.

4. General Salute; Duke of York March (Traditional)

The general salute is given on all occasions when officers of Air rank are present on parade. "The Duke of York" is generally played while an Air Officer is inspecting a guard of honour or a parade.

5. Fall in and Fly March (Noel Gay)

Noel Gay, the composer, obviously had the R.A.F. in mind when he wrote this quick-march. It is played in strict march tempo for use on parade.

6. The Lad from London Town March (Rudolph O'Donnell)

This march is the work of the Musical Director at the time of recording, Rudolph O'Donnell. He was one of three sons of bandmaster Percy O'Donnell. All three sons followed their father's profession, but Rudolph had the distinction of being the only one to serve in all three armed services.

His musicians nicknamed him "two gun Pete" as a result of his conducting style of beating time with his index fingers. He rarely used a baton

Although he may not have been a great conductor, O'Donnell was successful in persuading the Air Ministry that he needed to augment the 81 members of the Central Band with young skilled musicians that would enable small units to disperse to camps at home and abroad. O'Donnell explained: "These camps will be isolated far from normal amusement. Music must always play a vital part in national life. I need at least a thousand professional musicians." Newspaper adverts resulted in 980 musicians reporting to R.A.F. Uxbridge.

The high quality of these musicians gave O'Donnell the idea of forming a symphony orchestra and by June 1940 an orchestra with 32 string players and with wind players drawn from the Central Band had started playing.

National Anthems of Allied Squadrons

These are the national anthems of the squadrons of Allied units serving with the R.A.F. at home and are played on many occasions, such as visits of distinguished Allied officers to R.A.F. stations or at guest nights.

7. Belgium - La Brabançonne

No. 349 Squadron was formed by Belgian personal at Ikeja, West Africa on 10 November 1942, but did not become operational until it was reformed in 1943 with the Supermarine Spitfire V and became operational at R.A.F. Digby. In early 1944 it began to train as a fighter-bomber unit and then operated in this role in occupied Europe.

No. 350 Squadron, the first Royal Air Force squadron to be formed by Belgian personnel, was brought into existence at R.A.F. Valley in November 1941. The squadron operated the Supermarine Spitfire at first on convoy protection duties over the Irish sea. In April 1942 the squadron moved to R.A.F. Debden and carried out offensive operations over France. The squadron moved to Belgium in December 1944 to provide offensive patrols over the battlefield including patrols in the Berlin area.

8. Czechoslovakia - Kde domov můj?

No. 310 Squadron was the first R.A.F. squadron crewed by foreign nationals, in this case escaped Czechoslovakian pilots. It was first formed on 10 July 1940 at R.A.F. Duxford, equipped with Hawker Hurricane I fighters and with experienced pilots the squadron was operational in only a month and became involved in the Battle of Britain as part of the Duxford 'Big Wing'. 37½ victories were claimed during the battle.

9. France - La Marseillaise

The R.A.F. Free French Squadrons consisted of :

No. 340 Squadron formed in November 1941. During the war, 340 French pilots flew 7,845 sorties and over 10,000 flight hours. They claimed 37 enemy aircraft destroyed with 5 more 'probable' and over 500 vehicles and locomotives. Thirty of the squadron's pilots were killed and 6 became prisoners of war. Many more were injured, some seriously. For its gallant actions, 340 Squadron was awarded the French Croix de la Liberation.

No. 341 Squadron was formed in 1942 with personnel who had been operating in the Western Desert alongside various R.A.F. fighter squadrons. After covering the Allied landings in France in June 1944, the Squadron moved from Tangmere to Sommervieu (B8 airfield) in Normandy on 19 August and arrived in Belgium in September. Armed reconnaissance sweeps over Germany were directed mainly at enemy communications for the rest of the war.

Nos. 346 and 347 Squadrons were Free French heavy bomber squadrons flying HP Halifaxes. They formed part of the R.A.F. main bomber force until the end of the war, when they returned to the Armee de l'Air on 27 November 1945.

10. Netherlands - Het Wilhelmus

The R.A.F. had three squadrons formed of Dutch personnel:

No. 320 Squadron was Formed on 1 June 1940 at Pembroke Dock as part of Coastal Command, after officers of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service flew form the Netherlands in eight Fokker T.VIIIW twin-engine patrol seaplanes. The squadron flew coastal and anti-submarine patrols in the Fokkers until they became unserviceable due to lack of spares and were re-equipped with Ansons in August 1940 and supplemented in October with Hudsons. Due to insufficient personnel, the squadron absorbed No. 321 (Netherlands) Squadron on 18 January 1941. The squadron was passed to the control of the Dutch Naval Aviation Service (Marine Luchtvaart Dienst) on 2 August 1945, keeping the same squadron number No. 320 Squadron MLD. The squadron was disbanded in 2005, due to budget cuts.

No. 321 Squadron was formed on 1 June 1940 at Pembroke Dock, the squadron moved to R.A.F. Carew Cheriton on 28 July 1940 and became operational. The squadron flew coastal and anti-submarine patrols with Avro Anson's until the squadron was disbanded, due to lack of personnel, and merged with No. 320 Squadron on 18 January 1941. The squadron was re-activated at Trincomalee, Sri Lanka on 15 August 1942 with PBY Catalina's from personnel of the Royal Netherlands Naval Air Service who escaped to Ceylon. After the Japanese surrender, relief flights and supply drops to thousands of internees in the POW camps were flown to Java and Sumatra, and in October the squadron moved to its new base near Batavia, where the squadron passed to the control of the Dutch Naval Aviation Service on 8 December 1945, keeping the same squadron number No. 321 Squadron MLD. The 321 squadron was disbanded in 2005, due to budget cuts.

No. 322 Squadron of the Royal Air Force was formed from the Dutch personnel of No. 167 Squadron R.A.F. on 12 June 1943 at R.A.F. Woodvale. From 20th June to the 21st of July 1944, equipped with Spitfire Mk XIVs, the squadron was tasked with intercepting the V-1 Flying Bomb "doodle-bug" missiles launched from the Dutch and French coasts towards London. Flying Officer Brugwal was the most outstanding pilot on these 'anti-diver' patrols, claiming five of the missiles in one day (the 8th of July). The squadron total was 108½ destroyed. On 7 October 1945 the squadron disbanded as part of the RAF, but the Squadron number was afterwards revived for a unit of the Royal Netherlands Air Force (KLu) in recognition of the squadron's wartime record.

11. Norway - Ja, vi elsker dette landet

In July 1941 No. 331 squadron was formed at R.A.F. Catterick using Norwegian personnel. The following year No 332 squadron was formed with Norwegian pilots and joined No 331 squadron at R.A.F. North Weald.

Following the end of the war, the wing flew to Norway and on September 21, 1945 control passed to the re-formed Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF).

12. Poland - Mazurek Dąbrowskiego

The Polish Air Forces (Polskie Siły Powietrzne) was formed in France and the United Kingdom during World War II. The core of the Polish air units fighting alongside the allies were experienced veterans of Invasion of Poland of 1939 and they contributed to the Allied victory in the Battle of Britain and most World War II air operations. A total of 145 Polish personnel served in the R.A.F. during the Battle of Britain, which was the largest non-British contribution. By the end of the war, around 19,400 Poles were serving in the RAF.

13. USA - The Star-Spangled Banner

This anthem was played in recognition of the three Eagle Squadrons formed with volunteers from the USA.

Charles Sweeny, a wealthy businessman living in London, began recruiting American citizens to fight as a US volunteer detachment in the French Air force. With the fall of France a dozen of these recruits joined the RAF. Sweeny's efforts were also co-ordinated in Canada by World War I air ace Billy Bishop and artist Clayton Knight. By the time the USA entered the war in December 1941, they had processed and approved 6,700 applications from Americans to join the RCAF or RAF. Sweeny and his rich society contacts bore the cost (over $100,000) of processing and bringing the US trainees to the UK for training.

The first Eagle Squadron (No. 71) was formed in September 1940, and became operational for defensive duties on 5 February 1941. The three Eagle Squadrons were numbered 71, 121, and 133. Of the thousands that volunteered, 244 Americans served with the three Eagle Squadrons.

No. 71 Squadron based at North Weald soon established a high reputation, and numerous air kill claims were made in RAF fighter sweeps over the continent during the summer and autumn of 1941.

No.121 Squadron were formed at RAF Kirton-in-Lindsey in May 1941, flying Hurricanes on coastal convoy escort duties. On 15 September 1941 it destroyed its first German aircraft.

No. 133 Squadron was the last Eagle unit to be formed. It became part of the famed RAF Biggin Hill Wing.

The Dieppe Raid was the only occasion that all three Eagle Squadrons saw action operating together. Through to the end of September 1942, the squadrons claimed to have destroyed 73½ German planes while 77 American and 5 British members were killed. 71 Squadron claimed 41 kills, 121 Squadron 18 kills, and 133 squadron 14½ kills. On 29 September 1942, the three squadrons were officially turned over by the RAF to the fledgling Eighth Air Force of the USAAF and became the 4th Fighter Group.

Guest Night programme

The R.A.F. Orchestra starts with "The Roast Beef of Old England " which is traditionally a signal for going into meals. It's followed by a lively march "It's in the Air" which we may assume would be played while the company are taking their seats. After a selection of music suitable for playing during the dinner, guests take matters into their own hands and close the proceedings with a number of rousing choruses.

The names of some of the players in the RAF Orchestra read like a musicians' Who's Who: David Martin was leader, Dennis Brain, first horn, Gareth Morris, first flute, William Waterhouse, bassoon, with rank-and-file string players, Harry Blech, Frederick Grinke and Leonard Hirsch.

By the time these recordings were made the daily routine at R.A.F. Uxbridge for members of the R.A.F. Orchestra and Central Band enabled them to take on other engagements in nearby London. The following year many of the players were recruited to form Sidney Beer's National Symphony Orchestra

14. Roast beef of old England (Traditional)

15. It's in the Air (Harry Parr-Davies)

16. España waltz op. 236 (Émile Waldteufel)

17. Madama Butterfly: orchestral selection(Giacomo Puccini)

18. Song of Loyalty (Eric Coates)

19. Over to You (Eric Coates)

20. A Sentimental Sea Shanty (Percy Fletcher)

21. Festival of Empire (John Mackenzie Rogan)

22. Choruses:

  • She'll be comin' round the mountain
  • I've got sixpence
  • Bless 'em all
  • Here comes the RAF
  • Fed up and far from home
  • Roll out the barrel

Sunday Evening

23 Fight the Good Fight (William Boyd)

24 Abide with me (William Henry Monk)

Avro Lancaster fly past from the Beulah Sound Effects Library

avro lancaster fly past

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