Beating the drum for King Island

Published on LSMUSN Svetlana Yaroslavskaya (author)

Location(s): Queenstown

Topic(s): Royal Australian Navy Band, Centenary of Anzac, Anzac Day

The Royal Australian Navy performs in Queenstown, Tasmania, on Anzac Day 2016. (photo: Unknown)
The Royal Australian Navy performs in Queenstown, Tasmania, on Anzac Day 2016.

The Royal Australian Navy Band Tasmania will be representing the Australian Defence Force at King Island, off the north-west coast of Tasmania, for Anzac Day this year.

It will be the first time any service band has visited the small island, despite Tasmania’s – and King Island’s – history of contribution to the Australian Defence Force.

Tasmania has traditionally provided a high number of serving members for the defence force per capita of population since Federation.

Bandmaster Chief Petty Officer Musician Mark Ham said King Island currently boasted two serving members in the Navy and that its contribution in the First World War did not go unnoticed.

“In 1914, King Island’s population was around 1000, and of those, 170 men enlisted. This represented the greatest enlisted population per capita in the entire Commonwealth,” Chief Petty Officer Ham said.

“The importance of this was reflected by Winston Churchill’s personal letter of gratitude he wrote to King Island on completion of the Great War.

Unfortunately out of those 170 men, 29 paid the supreme sacrifice.”

With a complement of 14, the Tasmanian Band is the smallest of the Navy’s six bands. The band is made up of two permanent Navy members and the remainder reservists from varied civilian employment.

This diverse and knowledgeable group brings a vast array of abilities and talents that enhance not only the band’s performance, but also the wider skills of the Navy.

“Enthusiasm and support of the band’s visit from the King Islanders has been amazing,” Chief Petty Officer Ham said.

“In addition to completing our Anzac Day duties, we’re looking forward to help raise funds for various charities on the island and even providing some tuition for local musicians.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for us, in light of the Centenary of Anzac, that we can further acknowledge the past and present contributions of the King Island residents,” Chief Petty Officer Ham said.