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Military bands break up thanks to spending cuts

Wednesday 25 Apr 2012 6:06 p.m.

By Adam Ray

The members of the Seventh Battalion Band had special reason to pause and remember in Wellington.

They're one of seven military bands being axed under defence spending cuts.

The Seventh Battalion's ceremonial beating the retreat marks the end to Anzac Day. It's also the end for the band.

“This is the job to be done,” says Pvt Paula Hay of the band. “Anzac Day is our busiest day of the year, but its also tinged with sadness.”

The Wellington and Hawke’s Bay Battalion Band has been part of Anzac Day for 80 years. It has being axed in June along with six other reserve bands because of defence spending cuts.

They're only part-timers, but these musicians are still soldiers. They won't criticise top brass.

“I guess we have to accept decisions that have been made and get on with it,” says bandmaster Rick Henderson.

The Defence Force rejected a plea from the Battalion to merge the more expensive full-time military bands and keep the cheaper part-timers. Because it chose to keep all three full-time bands it will save less than $1 million.

The public won't see or hear so much from military bands. State ceremonies and events will be a priority.

“We lead the Wellington Christmas Parade,” says Pvt Hay. “We do charter parades, like the Blossom Festival and the Art Deco Festival.”

Today is a test for the emotions and energy of the band. They were up at 4am for the dawn service and went to Johnsonville RSA where some members were given army service awards.

Band members are still hoping to play next Anzac Day. However, they know they won't be marching as a military band.

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