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Air Force Band Helps Musician Live His Dream

Royal New Zealand Air Force Band drummer Corporal Jeremy Richardson is in Italy marking the 75th anniversary of the Battles of Cassino.

16 May 2019


Lower Hutt-born Corporal Jeremy Richardson is living the musician’s dream, seeing the world with New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) musicians, as well as playing gigs in bars nationwide.

Corporal Richardson is a member of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) Band, which tours a different part of New Zealand each year and provides musicians for international events the NZDF attends, such as this week’s commemorations in Italy marking the 75th anniversary of the Battles of Cassino.

“It’s an awesome opportunity to represent New Zealand in Europe and pay my respects to the soldiers who were my age, and younger, who gave their lives for us,” Corporal Richardson, 23, said.

He joined the RNZAF Band as a Reservist drummer in 2013 and credits it with his decision to study music after finishing his secondary education at Hutt Valley High School.

“I started a BA in Psychology and while I was doing that I was playing in the Air Force band and I was lucky enough to go on a trip to Malaysia for the Malaysian Tattoo with them,” he said.

“There were players in the band who were doing music full-time and had gone to Jazz School, so I was inspired to try it full-time. I could see that it could be done.”

He applied for Jazz School at Victoria University and spent the next three years working towards his Batchelor of Music in Jazz Performance.

“Being in the Air Force Band while doing that was awesome because I was studying music while having a job in music,” he said.

That job involves two practices a week, one where he runs the seven-strong drum line and the other with the full 60-member band practising for concerts, tours and parades.

Outside of his Air Force band commitments Corporal Richardson is a full-time musician, playing at Wellington venues such as Rogue and Vagabond, San Fran and Meow. His music ranges from jazz to funk to reggae.

He believes music is all about capturing the mood: sometimes it is joyful and at other times – such as Cassino, and at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in France, where he played in 2017 – it is sombre and reflective.

“I want to try to understand and appreciate how hard it was for them, and the ultimate sacrifice that they made for the life we have today,” he said. “I really feel for those people in New Zealand who lost relations over here – they really deserve our love and respect.

“I’ve been pretty blessed and feel very privileged to go on these trips. It’s an amazing experience.”

Editors’ note: The Battles of Cassino, in which the 2nd New Zealand Division participated from 15-26 March 1944, were among the most gruelling of the Second World War. The division suffered more than 1600 casualties, including 343 deaths, and soldiers described fighting through a maze of rubble, in appalling weather, as “absolute hell”.

Cassino fell in May 1944 to British and Polish troops, with support from New Zealand artillery.

The 28 (Māori) Battalion played a crucial part in the Battles of Cassino. It was the only New Zealand battalion able to cross the flooded Rapido River and start an assault on the town’s well-defended railway station. Soldiers seized positions in and around it but were forced to withdraw when German troops counterattacked. More than 150 of the 28 (Māori) Battalion soldiers were killed, wounded or captured in the battle for the railway station.


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