I was with Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group for four years as solo double bassist and librarian. One of the reasons I left was that I had received a lucrative offer from the Philharmonia Orchestra. I had not seen Ben for several years but one day in the early ‘sixties I was phoned by the London Symphony Orchestra to ask if I would play at a performance of the War Requiem at the ruins of Coventry Cathedral and also record the War Requiem with Britten himself conducting.
I gladly accepted, because in WWII I was in an infantry regiment, the 7th. Royal Warwicks based in Coventry, and before we left for France in 1940 we laid up our colours in the Cathedral.
After being discharged from the Army in 1940 I went back to my home in Leamington Spa, about ten miles away from Coventry, and I well remember the Luftwaffe’s blitz on Coventry. That night searchlights lit up the sky and there was the roar of the ack-ack guns and the German bombs whistling down. My sister went to Coventry driving an ambulance and had some awful tales to tell.
When I arrived for the concert I was shocked to see the remains of what had once been a glorious cathedral. There were some blocks of Warwickshire red sandstone with weeds sprouting around them and not much more: I was deeply affected.