1979 Melbourne Military Tattoo

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It all started out with Sunday morning band practices at Empire Stadium. It seemed to rain every Sunday which was not very good. The practices started at 11 am and not end until about 4 pm, marching all the time which was very tiring. Time flew by and it was finally the last week before we were to leave. Everyone was running around making sure their name was on everything they own, and also making sure they didn’t forget their instruments, flags or in my case batons. It wouldn’t be very good if the band arrived in Australia with only half the equipment needed.

The day finally arrived and after we said all out goodbyes we were on our way. The flight was really long and tiring, but boy was it fun. We stopped in L.A., Hawaii, Fiji and Sidney. After a short stop in Sidney we flew on to Melbourne. The sights on the way took us over mountains and we really enjoyed the Sidney Opera House from the air. It was so clear out and the sky was the most gorgeous shade of blue I had ever seen. When we arrived in Melbourne we were all taken to our houses and given the rest of the day off to rest. Practices would start the next morning.

The band was to stay in Melbourne for three weeks, the last two weeks being performances. The first week was mainly practices and site seeing. After the first week the fun really started. We were performing in the Melbourne Military Tattoo. Opening night we were a big success. All the rest of the nights were equally impressive. When the two weeks were over we all complained because we didn’t want to go home. Melbourne was very beautiful with hot temperatures, blue skies and lots of scenic areas to visit. The people we all met in Australia were very pleasant. I wrote to many for a long time afterwards. We were all feeling very down on the plane ride home until our plane got hijacked.

When we were boarding the plane in Sidney for the final leg of our journey there was an announcement that a man was holding a woman at gunpoint inside our plane. Luckily he hadn’t waited until we were all on board. We had to wait for hours for the event to resolve. During the first three hour stand-off the gunman hurt his hostage and she had to be taken to hospital but he remained on board. TV cameras and fire engines were all over the place and of course policemen. Finally , the police went in after him after waiting for six hours. There was a rumor that he had a bomb. We kids found it all very exciting. The policemen went in and shot the hijacker and he was taken to the hospital. An hour later we able to board our plane. Apparently there had been no bomb but they had to check any way to be sure. We saw a stain on the rug when we entered and they had to take out two seats.

ABOVE: Many thanks to Stacey Henderson for the photos and write-up on her memories of Melbourne.

ABOVE and BELOW: THE TATTOO

The arena had an aura of pageantry and tradition, steeped in color and heavy with emotion and nostalgia. Against a backdrop of the Melbourne night and a replica of a castle keep, the first Melbourne military tattoo is played. And even though it has run only a couple of nights, it is already being ranked as the equal of the Edinburgh event. Troops and bands from Britain, Brunei, Canada, New Zealand and Australia drill, march and play with precision. The Brunei regiment plays a special march written for the tattoo by its musical directors. Altogether, 800 people take part in the program, which lasts nearly two hours. A spectacular fireworks display on opening night will be repeated on the final night, April 1. The display includes a mock battle, the flight of a flock of fiery doves and a star which bursts across a low trajectory above the MCC. The tattoo could rank with the Melbourne Cup and Moomba as one of the city’s great tourist attractions, its director, Mr. John Howell predicted yesterday. “With it we have the opportunity for the city to have an annual attraction that will bring in millions of tourist dollars,” he said. “This is a trial year – we are bound to make mistakes, but it is a spectacle that cannot be seen elsewhere except in Scotland.” Mr. Howell said next year it was planned to bring in 3000 Japanese tourists to Australia to see the tattoo.

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ABOVE: As the performance nears its end, the troops and bands combine for a grand finale. About 800 performers from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Brunei and Australia took part in the tattoo.