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Listen to the SA Navy Band
Victory at sea

The Early Years

The First Permanent Force Band of the Union Defence Force (later known as the South African Defence Force) was established in 1934. After much negotiation, the South African Marine Band was established in Pretoria in 1954. The band officially became know as the South African Navy Band in December of that year. In May 1955 the band transferred to Simon’s Town.

The SA Navy and Marine Band on the march 1954

The band’s first big performance was in May 1955 where they participated at the Union Day Festival, held in Cape Town. (South Africa became a Republic in 1961.) The SA Marines was disbanded and the Navy Band was transferred to Youngsfield under the command of the Coast Guard.

In 1957 the South African Navy took over the harbour in Simon’s Town from the Royal Navy. The Band then moved to the Recreational Hall in East Dockyard, Simon’s Town. The Old African Station Club was their next headquarters before they moved to Cable Hill. These premises are still being utilised by the Navy Band.

'The “Father” of the South African Navy Band was a Mr R.S. (Steel) Downey'

The “Father” of the South African Navy Band was a Mr R.S. (Steel) Downey. He was the founding member of the Navy Band and Officer Commanding until his retirement in 1958. Mr Downey died in September 1976.

One of the Navy Band’s first prestigious occasions was performing on board SAS GOOD HOPE in 1956, playing music for the Governor General of South Africa, Mr and Mrs E.G. Jansen who were sailing to Madagascar.

During the 1960s the band was doing on average of between 220-240 engagements and travelling in excess of 32,000 kilometres a year.

Opening of Parliament 1972

The foundation having been laid, and the Navy Band firmly established, Commander John Imrie retired in January 1973 with 38 years of outstanding service in the South African Defence Force (as it was then known). The way was paved for his successor … Lieutenant Commander Ron Marlow.


The Bass Drum
is the largest
and deepest
of the

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revision date: Tuesday, March 09, 2010

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