Bandsmen from Mansfield are set for a prestigious honour – playing at one of the most famous memorials to soldiers killed in the First World War.
In the year that marks the centenary of the signing of the Armistice and the end of the war, Mansfield District Corps Of Drums are to perform at the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres, Belgium, on Good Friday.
Paul Clarke, band officer, whose son Ryan, a teacher, is bandmaster, said: “This is a huge honour for us.
“For any military bandsman, it is the pinnacle of what you can achieve. It will be an unforgettable experience.
“We had to apply for permission and go through various organisations, but we had support from many local dignitaries, including former MP Sir Alan Meale and councillors, Mansfield District Council and Mansfield Business Improvement District, and we have now been given the go-ahead by the Last Post Association.
“We are going out there to enjoy playing, but there is a solemn reason behind it also – to honour and remember the thousands of soldiers from the Mansfield area who went to fight for their country but never came home.”
The memorial is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the battles of Ypres – some 90,000 have no known graves.
The band’s performance will be the highlight of a four-day tour of the First World War battlefields of the Western Front over the Easter weekend.
It also reflects the strong reputation the band has forged since it was formed in 2012.
It currently has 20 members, ranging from aged 14 to a 72-year-old Army veteran.
Paul said: “We play at the Remembrance Parades at Mansfield Woodhouse and Pleasley Vale and also at the annual Armed Forces parade in Mansfield town centre.
“We play traditional marching music and not just drums, but also bugles, cornets and flutes.
“We have found marching bands enthuse people and raise their spirits. They have a tremendous uplifting effect on the community and make people proud.
“It’s great to have youngsters with us. They learn not only musical ability but also respect for the past, their elders and the local community.”
Corps members are all volunteers, so the band relies on grants from various organisations to meet their overheads, such as transport costs.
It is currently in the middle of a fundraising campaign to pay for new uniforms, which will cost in excess of £4,000.
Shoppers can back the campaign as part of a scheme at Asda in Mansfield Woodhouse – the band is one of three groups selected for Asda’s Community Champion initiative.
Every time shoppers spend a certain amount of money at the store, they receive a token which can be put in one of three boxes relating to the groups.
Paul said: “If our box receives the most tokens, we could win up to £500, which would help us achieve our target.”