ARMED with the conductor’s baton, retired sailor Eric Greenleaf looks right at home in front of the Royal Marines School of Music band.
The 93-year-old is himself a former member of the Royal Naval School of Music.
He, along with seven other veterans of the Battle of the Atlantic, was invited to Portsmouth Naval Base yesterday to meet members of the Royal Marines band service.
In a couple of weeks, they will be guests of honour at the South Coast Proms, a weekend military music extravaganza.
Eric, from Plymouth, said: ‘I never expected anything like this.
‘It was a lovely day and I really enjoyed it all.
‘Conducting the band was absolutely brilliant. I will never forget it.’
Eric joined the Royal Naval School of Music at 14 as a clarinet and viola player.
He spent nine hours adrift, having been sunk on an Australian ship.
The 93-year-old also saw action in the Pacific and Korean War.
The eight veterans were treated yesterday to a preview of a piece of music composed in their honour.
They were played an excerpt of the Battle of the Atlantic Suite, which was penned to mark the battle’s 70th anniversary this year.
It will be performed by the massed bands of Royal Marines at the Proms on July 5 and July 6 at Whale Island, Portsmouth.
At the end of the tour, the veterans were presented with their complimentary tickets to the Proms by the Royal Navy’s fleet commander, Vice-Admiral Philip Jones.
Len Chivers, 88, of King Charles Street in Old Portsmouth, served on board HMS Queen Elizabeth in 1941.
He said: ‘It is a really good thing, what they have done for us here.
‘Just to be able to come in here and look around and meet them was a real treat. We are all very grateful.’
Thousands of people are expected to enjoy a picnic in the grounds of the Royal Navy’s HMS Excellent, while enjoying a stunning programme of music.
There will also be an aerobatic display and a performance from the Military Wives Choir.
Tickets for the South Coast Prom can be bought from the box office on (023) 9231 2007 or online at southcoastproms.com.