Royal Marines musicians’ 100th birthday tribute to Kenneth, the Corps’ own Captain Tom

Royal Marines musicians today sent birthday greetings to centenarian Kenneth Essex, the Band Service’s very own ‘Captain Tom’.

Kenneth reaches the milestone age after completing a ten-kilometre walk for charity, knocking 1,000 metres off the distance each day for the past ten days.

The World War 2 veteran marked out 500 metres outside his home in Muswell Hill, determined to help Moorfields Eye Hospital in London where he’s receiving treatment for macular degeneration, by completing two laps daily in the run-up to his birthday, reaching the finishing line yesterday.

A trained musician pre-war, Kenneth spent six years in the Corps during the nation’s darkest hours.

He added wind instruments and the alto saxophone to the viola while serving with the marines, not to mention service aboard cruisers HMS Euryalus and Belfast which included the Malta convoy run.

When the war ended, Kenneth was demobbed and resumed his musical career as a professional viola player.

And you will have heard him play – even if you don’t recognise his name because Kenneth has performed on a string of hit songs, theme tunes and soundtracks.

No doubt like many who read Kenneth’s story, we were humbled and touched. He’s such an inspiration both musically, in the career he had both during and post war, but again now whilst in a challenging personal situation; which typifies the spirit of his generation.

Bandmaster Warrant Officer 1st Class Si Tripp

Such as The Beatles’ timeless Yesterday. The theme tune to legendary sitcom Fawlty Towers and the incidental music on the long-running Last of the Summer Wine. A solo on the Oscar-nominated/Bafta-winning movie The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Kenneth was in the Eurovision orchestra when Abba won with Waterloo. And his viola playing can be heard on tracks by world-famous artists such as Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, the Bee Gees and Barbra Streisand.

“No doubt like many who read Kenneth’s story, we were humbled and touched,” said Bandmaster Warrant Officer 1st Class Si Tripp. “He’s such an inspiration both musically, in the career he had both during and post war, but again now whilst in a challenging personal situation; which typifies the spirit of his generation.

“From his modern counterparts in the Royal Marines Band Service, we send our warmest birthday wishes and the very best of luck in his 10k challenge. We can only hope to live up to his standards and achievements in our own lives and careers!”

As with Captain Sir Tom Moore, Kenneth has smashed his original fundraising target (£1k, then £2,500, then £5k, £10k) and is now set on hitting £15,000 (with under £4k to go). 

You can support his efforts at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kenneth-Essex