More than a musician

When you think of the Royal Marines Band you think of world class music – what you might not think of is the critical role they play on operations.

While music is at the very heart of why musicians join the Royal Marines Band Service these talented men and women are more than a musician.

They have a vital operational role providing medical support to Royal Navy deployed hospital care at sea and on land based operations.

This role is unique to the Royal Marines Band Service who already have a busy schedule delivering in excess of 1600 musical performances a year - as well as rehearsals, musical and military training.

The band's operational role

Ready to deploy at 5 days-notice, a team of musicians is always on standby to move on board RFA Argus, The Royal Navy’s Primary Casualty Receiving Facility (PCRF), to provide medical support to those saving lives at sea.

Working as stretcher bearers, first aiders and hospital runners, a team of musicians from The Bands of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood and Scotland rotate as the lead band supporting the PCRF.

Their job starts the moment a patient arrives by helicopter or sea boat with the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) safely transferring them from flight deck through initial assessment, triage and into the Emergency Department.

Musicians from Plymouth and CTCRM Band also have an operational role carrying out Casualty Decontamination in support to Commando Forward Surgical Group.

In order to maintain the skills needed to carry out these roles the musicians take part in annual training exercises including Exercise Medical Endeavour on board RFA Argus at sea.

Solo Clarinet Simon Topper

Flute, piccolo and saxophone Lizzie Merrell

solo cornet  Pete Gibson

Exercise Medical Endeavour

Operating a hospital at sea is a challenge and in the same way every ships company is trained to respond to situations the medics that run the PCRF are too.

The 250 medical experts, mainly in the Royal Navy, including reservists with some Army and RAF personnel are put through their paces in challenging scenarios to ensure both clinical skills and hospital set up meet the high standards expected.

Volunteers are used as casualties with specialist make up depicting terrible injuries with different issues which the team must work to resolve.

The musicians work as part of this huge team to test their ability to support both the MERT and hospital wards.

They must become efficient at safely transferring patients through their journey on board - from arrival by helicopter or sea boat into the initial assessment bay, triage, emergency department and onward to theatre or wards as required.

RFA Argus as a Primary Casualty Receiving Facility (PCRF)

Set up to the same standards as any NHS hospital, the PCRF inside the ship looks just like a hospital - there’s an Emergency Department, theatre, radiology, labs and wards - only it’s on a ship and the patients arrive by helicopter or sea boat.

Able to receive casualties in the event of maritime accident or attack and from land in support of Royal Marine or Tri-Service operations, the hospital facility ensures casualties are treated and stable before moving them to the UK for longer term rehabilitation.

A highly skilled team of 250 serving Royal Navy doctors, nurses and medical assistants, based in NHS hospitals across the UK are permanently on call to bring the hospital to life.

RFA Argus is also an aviation training ship that works with the Royal Navy across the world as well as being home to the specialist PCRF supporting defence-wide operations across the globe.

Without the Royal Marines Band we couldn’t do our job, they are an absolutely vital component.

Lt Cdr Jules Despres Team leader Maritime Medical Emergency Response Team, RFA Argus


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