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