There’s a special celebration of the music of the big band musician at this year’s Gloucestershire Vintage & Country Extravaganza show.
The Gloucestershire Vintage & Country Extravaganza is taking place at South Cerney Airfield, Cirencester on 2-4 August 2019. This year’s show will pay a special tribute to famous big band musician Glenn Miller to tie in with the 75th anniversary of Glenn Miller performing in Cirencester.
To mark the occasion an American flag will be raised in honour of Glenn Miller in the main arena after the military vehicle procession featuring 130+ machines led by several veterans, the Mayor of Gloucester Colin Organ and over 50+ 1940s swing Lindy Hop dancers. The Royal British Legion Poppy Parachute Display Team, made up of serving and former members of the Army, to support and raise awareness of the Armed Forces charities will make a decent into the arena on all three days of the event at 2pm. The show is also providing Free Admission for WWII Veterans and several other service charities will be on site raising money and awareness of their respective causes.
Glenn Miller - As Time Goes By . . .
On August 7 1944 American Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force and its leader - the world-famous Captain, later Major Glenn Miller descended in to the county to provide a morale booster to the thousands of casualties, mostly post Normandy D-Day soldiers and the staff of the local hospitals.
The band arrived aboard three C-53 Skytrooper aircraft at RAF South Cerney from the RAF station at Twinwood Farm in Bedfordshire. Glenn Miller accompanied the band to conduct the main section of the ensemble in Cirencester. However, his string section remained in Bedford to broadcast their regular Monday night concert for the BBC.
According to the band’s official records and itinerary, from RAF South Cerney they made their way to Cirencester to play for the patients and staff of the 192nd U.S. General hospital in Cirencester Park, on the site now occupied by Cirencester Deer Park School and Cirencester College. There is nothing in the official records, but it is believed that on the same day part of the band went to Cheltenham to play for the 110th U.S. General Hospital at Ullenwood.
During the afternoon the band, conducted by Glenn Miller, played on a grassy area somewhere between Queen Anne’s monument and Windsor Walk to 3,500 military personnel doctors, nurses and injured serviceman. Following this they split into smaller groups to tour the hospital wards to entertain the bed-ridden patients, sign autographs and cheer up their fellow countrymen. Later in the day Glenn Miller conducted another big concert with the whole ensemble to a further 4,000 military personnel, patients and local residents where an area was roped off to provide room for dancing!
The band later returned to the Mess at RAF South Cerney for dinner before flying back to Twinwood. Evidently it was dark by the time they left South Cerney and the pilots of the C-53s lost their way, causing them to arrive late back at base. During his brief but active stay in Cirencester Glenn Miller spent his down time at the US Officers’ Quarters in The Shrubbery, Victoria Road, next to the Grammar School.
One witness to the events of 7 August 1944 was, the late, Sergeant Walter Collier. Walter was in charge of the switch board and teleprinter at the 15th US Hospital Centre at Stratton House. He said that that it was a fine sunny day and that Glenn was a very agile conductor, but also had the bearing of an officer and a gentleman, with his gold rimmed glasses and light sun tan.
Little was Walter, and the rest of the world to know, that just over four months later Major Glenn Miller was to disappear when the aircraft which he was reported to have been travelling on went missing on a flight from England to France.
This visit to Cirencester Park according to all known official records was to be his one and only to Cirencester. Although Glenn Miller himself did not survive the war, his band and orchestra did, as did his characteristic musical arrangements. Members of his family have kept alive the sound that he cultivated and his music continues to live on.
PHOTO CREDIT: Thank you to Peter Grace at the Cirencester Living Memory Association
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