R.A.F. Padgate (Cheshire)

Were you there? Did you play in the band?

Over the last few years, RAF Padgate has cropped up in various jazz correspondence, and as it was located in the NW near Warrington, I thought it time I brought some of it together. 

09/10/06 - 

Ian Christie was already in the Mulligan band band when I was a raw recruit in the RAF doing square-bashing at RAF Padgate, near Warrington, in January-February 1956. This band was booked for one of our Thursday dances there. It included Melly even then (I once backed George Melly in the 60s or 70s, in a Manchester band that included two internationally known greats: trombonist Ken Wray and clarinetist Randy Colville, at a Cheshire Jazz club. Unfortunately, Melly was a bit disappointed, and rightfully so, because our bandleader [someone we didn't normally play with, who had put together a band of top musicians (I'm not including myself here) but who was a hopeless trumpet player himself] had not done any homework on what Melly was going to sing. So we were all totally unprepared for his songs. We got through by our sheer professionalism; some of us remembered his Mulligan days. I was playing mainly tenor sax., soprano, bass clarinet and flute then. When Mulligan was at RAF Padgate, I was just learning the clarinet then, so Christie was like a shining star to me, in 1956, doing the seemingly impossible. 

John Westwood might be interested to know that I did my recruit training at RAF Padgate, whereas he might have been 'kitted out' there, before RAF Cardington (Beds.) took on that role, or that might have been his permanent posting. I got kitted out at Cardington, and ended up 9 miles away at RAF Henlow Camp, later, for the remainder of  my national service.

I was in one of the billets behind the first row (i.e. left of the band below), in 2 Flight, A-Squadron, I think. We had yellow disks behind our cap-badges, too (berets only, not on "cheese-cutter"). I was at Padgate three years after John, second week in January 1956, just kitted out the week before at Cardington.

Joe Silmon


My RU was also Cardington where I played in the station band during my first week, and from there on to Padgate for my 8 weeks training. This was mainly because at that time I was able to play Dixieland jazz, as before doing my National Service I had been running my own bands - The Skymasters & The Tor Valley Jazzmen and knew most of the Harry Gold, Sid Phillips arrangements also the big band arrangements of the 40s. The leader of the band was a guy called Allan (Ali) Johnson and I played next to the lead Trumpet who was named Joe Siney and came from Wigan. The drummer was called Corporal Cornell, all of these guys were permanent staff We use to play every Wednesday at the Camp Ballroom at Houghton Green when there was double-decker buses for the local ladies to attend. At the end of the dance I was smuggled out aboard the bus with the other band members and used to go to a place called "Maggies" for eggs & bacon. I was stationed at RAF Padgate for 8 weeks in August 1953 at which time I was the only recruit playing with the regular station Dance band. The attached is the 1953 Station Band I am in the back playing trumpet somewhere. I was in No 1 Flight"A" Squadron, seem to remember a yellow plastic disc which fitted behind the cap badge. During my stay I was the camp bugler and have played for colours many time on the big parade ground. A few years ago when travelling up to the Lake district I did a detour around to Warrington to try and find Padgate, but got completely lost only to be told by a native that it no longer existed?? I still play a lot around the Bristol Area and on occasions may travel down towards Cornwall or across Oxford way but never seem to get up Northwards.  I wonder if any of the members are around?? 

Graham H. Leavey (Bugleboy).

Original Padgate Station Band 1953

30/11/07 - 

I went to Padgate for kitting out in September 48, then to West Kirby for 8 weeks basic training, then back to Padgate to do a PFS Stats. course. During the time at WK I got to play snare drum with the station band. Pat Hawes (who played piano with the Jellyroll Kings during the time I was in John's band) was there at the same time. Since there was no piano in the marching band he took on the bass drum - the leopard skin clashed quite violently with his then-very-blonde hair! But strictly RAF March-Past and all that; certainly no jazz!  While back at Padgate I got out to 'do' the clubs in Manchester, Sheffield and even Leeds on occasion. Great fun, and a further story which is much too long for here.I wasn't too happy to then be posted down to Bentwaters to run the PFS returns for 226OCU. No music in that area at all! Never did like East Anglia much. But wasn't there for long; an opportunity cropped up at Fighter Command HQ Bentley Priory (only 3 miles from my home!) and so I got back into the London scene. Again another story too long... etc.

John Westwood

04/06/10 - Hello Fred -- I was at Padgate in early 1956, and spent my two months of square-bashing in 'Band Flight'. I was bound for the RAF Music Service after passing out, so I was accepted on clarinet in a brass band!

I saw a mention of Mick Mulligan's band visiting, and Mick came while I was there too. I had been sitting in with him at the Wood Green Jazz Club a few weeks earlier, so was encouraged to sit in -- Ian Christie mumbled about having a duff reed, and disappeared to the bar, so I played much of the evening.

As you can imagine, 'one of our lads' up there playing with 'them' met with general approval and did me no harm at all! Esprit-de-corps?

Here's a photo of the Voluntary Band in my time.

Chris Hughes


Hi Fred, Its a strange old world now after all these years I final solve the puzzle and find another of my musician friends from the past move to new pastures in 2012. Thanks for your help in searching for Joe Siney, another Padgate chum, who died on Boxing Day. Maybe there are some musicians out there who new him.

Graham Leavey (Bugleboy).

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