Air Force Band History

The Air Force Band was formed in 2008 following the amalgamation of the RAAF Central Band and the Air Command Band.

With a heritage that goes back to the earliest days of the Air Force, the Band continues to provide the finest standard of musical entertainment and ceremonial support that has made it famous for over 85 years.

The Air Force Band is currently conducted by:
Commanding Officer / Music Director: SQNLDR Mathew Shelley

A short history of music in the Air Force

On 16 March 1916, Number One Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC) sailed from Port Melbourne onboard the Liner Orsova, arriving in Egypt in April of that year. The contingent included musically talented airmen who went to war with their instruments. In the Egyptian desert, a concert party and camp orchestra were formed for the Squadron’s entertainment.

The Flying Kangaroos and The Gee WhizzersSimilar entertainment troupes were formed at various AFC bases during the war. Particularly famous in England during 1918 and 1919 were The Flying Kangaroos and The Gee Whizzers from the AFC training bases at Leighterton and Minchinhampton.

Soon after the creation of an independent Royal Australian Air Force, a part-time RAAF Band was formed in February 1923 at the Air Force’s birth place, Point Cook. Significant amongst its early activities was its role as official band for all ceremonies and grand public military review for the opening of Parliament House in Canberra in 1927. The band moved to Laverton during World War Two.

In 1932, a part-time brass band was established at RAAF Base Richmond. It was appropriately known as the RAAF Richmond Band.

The two RAAF Bases, Laverton and Richmond, continued to be home to part-time brass bands until full-time military bands, including woodwind instruments, were formed in the two locations. The RAAF Central Band was formed in 1952 at Laverton and the Air Command Band (originally known as the RAAF Number One Regional Band) was formed at Richmond in 1969, both bands enjoying reputations for musical excellence. The two bands were amalgamated into one band in 2008, their proud histories providing a strong foundation for today’s Air Force Band.

Air Force Band highlights include ceremonial support for the presentation of the original Queen’s Colour for the RAAF in 1952; support for much of the 1954 Royal Tour; duty as the official band for the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne; ceremonial support and morale boosting concerts in 1969 for Australian troops deployed to Vietnam and Malaysia; award of a Gold Record in 1975 for Thirty Smash Hits of the War Years; concerts in support of the 2000 Sydney Olympics; numerous international tattoos and tournaments, and the ANZAC Day commemorations around Australia, in Europe and on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey.

In recent years Air Force musicians have regularly deployed to the Australian Defence Force’s areas of operation, performing music in support of Australian and multi-national forces, East Timor, The Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

2012 marks sixty years since the establishment of a full-time, professional music mustering in the Air Force, and a new direction in Air Force music excellence under the command of Squadron Leader Mathew Shelley.