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David Payne
David Payne

KEEN family tree researcher David Payne has found a musical link to his past.

The genealogist from Hartlepool has even shared some old pages of the Northern Daily Mail from 1895, to tell us more about the West Hartlepool Old Operatic Band.

He also shared news that his great uncle Thomas Henry Payne was a member who played the tenor horn.

David adds: “He was a talented brass band member.

“They once played in London as part of a massed band concert at which the conductor was Sir Alfred Sullivan.

“The Northern Daily Mail also reported on several occasions that they played at Ward Jackson Park in front of a crowd of thousands. Perhaps your readers may have their own stories about the band.”

Although it does not exist any more, the band was certainly going strong in the Second World War when it kept people’s spirits high.

One report said that in 1940 it was known as the Home Guard Band. The Home Guard was formed in 1940 to defend Britain against the threat of invasion.

Most men were away fighting so the Home Guard was formed from men considered either too young or old for war, or they were working in reserved occupations such as the shipyards.

The members of the West Hartlepool Old Operatic Band all volunteerd to join the Home Guard, and their conductor in 1940 was a Sgt Major William H. Saunders. Earlier in its career, which began in the 1850s, it was one of the most prominent bands in the North East with members as old as 85.

It was also known by many other names including the 4th Durham Artillery, West Hartlepool 4th Durham Artillery, West Hartlepool Old Operatic Silver, and Wst Hartlepool Operatic Brass Band.

Did any members of your family play in the band? Let us know more. Contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377, or email