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Battle of Britain Piano





 

THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN BABY GRAND PIANO

The Royal United Services Institute of Regina is the proud custodian of what has fondly become known as the "Battle of Britain Baby Grand Piano."

In 2008, when the local unit of the Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans organization,  who were in possession of the piano, closed their doors in Regina, their president and executive chose the RUSI of Regina  to give the piano a suitable home. The piano had been in storage for a period of time in the ANAVETS temporary location and arrived at the RUSIR Mess in a disassembled state.

It wasn't long, however, that the members of the RUSIR had the piano reassembled and placed in a choice location in the Members Lounge. Polished with luster-restoring wax the finish was restored, the piano tuned by a professional piano tuner and is presently a focal point of the Mess.

On special occasions throughout the year the Battle of Britain piano is played by selected pianists for the entertainment of our membership and guests and still maintains the wonderful, rich tones that once entertained British and Canadian Officers during World War II.

WHY THE "BATTLE OF BRITAIN" BABY GRAND PIANO ?

Manufactured in Montreal by Willis & Company Limited, originally a sewing machine manufacturer, the piano is all Canadian. Probably built before the Second World War, the piano was purchased by the Canadian Forces sometime after the declaration of war,  and shipped overseas  to "The Army & Navy Club," a British Officers' Club,  in the Charing Cross section of London at 36-39 Pall Mall.

Here the story becomes somewhat muddled. Some say the piano was purchased by family members of RCAF airmen deployed to Great Britain and transported overseas by the Canadian Forces. However, a plaque on the side of the piano states it was "Donated by Canadian Forces to "The Army & Navy Club. Charing Cross, London."

On 7 October 1943 The Army & Navy Club was set ablaze by incendiary bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe  and the piano was severely burned. Again the story becomes muddled. Some say the Brits, knowing how much the Airmen of the RCAF enjoyed the piano and would gather around it to sing songs of home, caused the charred instrument to be restored. Others aren't certain that the piano was ever damaged and there is no indication in the history of The Army & Navy Club,( www.armynavyclub.co.uk/ )  that the club was ever hit during the Battle of Britain by Nazi bombs.

Whatever the truth, the piano was certainly in the club during the Battle of Britain, remembered fondly by Canadian Airmen serving in London at the time. Another fact, simply by the piano's presence in the RUSIR/ROM, it came back home and is still being  enjoyed by members of Canada's military.