The History Of Marching Bands

The Beginning - 1935

A group of young people from the Canal Street area of Derby decided to form their own Carnival Band after watching other bands performing in the Derby area.

The first meeting was held in 1935 at the Victoria Inn, Midland Place. At this meeting they decided that the style of the uniform should be similar to that of a Naval Officer and that the name of the band should be the "Derby Midshipmen Carnival Band".

In the beginning the instruments played comprised of drums, bugles and kazoos, the band performed for many charitable organisations who raised money for local Derby hospitals. The band's first professional engagement came in 1935 when the Manager of the Old Coliseum Picture House asked them to advertise the film "The Fleets in Port Again". The band charged £2.00 for this engagement, but when the manager of the picture house found out that the money was going towards the purchase of new uniforms he immediately increased it to £20.00 and the cheque was made payable direct to Smiths of Drewry Lane.

The band's first contest was on 18th June 1936 at Belper Carnival, not managing to get within the top three places did not dishearten the band as there first win was not far away. On 27th August at Lime Grove Carnival the Midshipmen won 1st place along with the Marching Prize and the Gold Medal for best Drum-major (Miss J Peachy).

In 1939 the band split up because of the war. The instruments were kept by the members in their various homes to reduce the risk of them being lost in bombing raids. In 1947 the drums and trumpets came out of the cellars, and as soon as clothing coupons were abolished, the band was able to have new uniforms.

The 1950's to 1980's

Since 1947 the band had been steadily improving their standards and in 1961 the ‘Middies’ were the first Carnival Band to win the Carnival Band Secretaries League (CBSL) Triple Championship. (This was an amalgamation of 3 contests, the SouthEast Midlands, the Midlands County’s and the League Championships).

In 1971 the band were responsible for reincarnating the old Derby Carnival and organised Derby’s most colourful occasion until 1976. Also during this time the Middies were the only band to march on Plymouth Hoe.

In 1975 the Derby Midshipman Carnival Band was one of the founder members of the Carnival Band Association and the band were undefeated for the first two years.

Then 1984 the band changed its uniform from the style of the British Midshipmen to that based on the style of the French Naval dress of the 1800’s period. The 1980's up to the present day

Currently, there are approximately 30 performing members and the instruments played within the band cover a wide range of Brass, Woodwind and Percussion.

The band entertains the public in Carnivals, Parades and Main Arena Events, providing intricate music and marching displays which are changed each year.

During the years the band has won almost every major trophy at numerous contests and championships.

Since 1990 the Derby Midshipmen Band have entered over 100 contests. 'The Middies' have never been out of the top three places having obtained 83% of these in first place. The Middies currently have 21 consecutive 1st place wins spanning back from 2004 to 2012. This record has earned them the reputation of being one of the most successful and professional marching bands in the UK.

As a band the Derby Midshipmen are constantly looking to improve year on year and find new challenges to rise too. At the start of 2011 the band left the MDBA to find newer and bigger contests to push the band further. 2011 saw the band enter their first contest under BYBA rules. The Brass Explosion Show at Stafford Rangers FC Stadium hosted 22 Bands competing in 6 classes, from Cadet through Junior, Division 3, Division 2, Division 1 to Associate Division (for bands with no age restrictions). The Derby Midshipmen took 1st Place in the Associate Division, followed by Spirit of Coventry in 2nd place and Tallaght (Dublin) Vikings in 3rd Place.

Other successes were:

  • 1st Place Winners 2011 & 2012 Associate Division Brass Explosion (Stafford)
  • 2012 BYBA National Championships Winners (Associate Division)
  • CBSL & MDBA Champions Undefeated Since 2001
  • Amber Valley Champions (Horsley Woodhouse) undefeated Since 2000
  • Midlands Counties Champions (Newton, Derbyshire) 2004, 2005, 2006 & 2008
  • South East Midlands Counties Champions Runners-Up (Lowestoft) 2000, 2001, 2002 & Champions 2003

The band has also been invited to some very prestigious venues in recent years which include:

  • Epsom Derby Day
  • Wembley Football Stadium
  • Donnington & Croft-on-Tees race tracks
  • London Arena
  • Edinburgh Festival Cavalcade
  • National Festival and Boat Show (Inland Waterways)
  • Bathgate Procession & John Newland Festival

In 2001 The Derby Midshipmen Band gained its status as a Registered Charity (No. 1088782) helping its work raising money for local and national charities by performing in concerts and cabarets.

The band’s displays lasted, on average, 15 – 20 minutes and to gain the full effect of the bands intricate marching displays a minimum arena size of 70 x 50 yards was required.