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.: More of the Hu Chi Tau Band

Backstage with the Hu Chi Tau BandBetween 1935 and 1939, the Hu Chi Tau Band managed to appear on radio stations no less than four hundred times, often playing accompaniment for other artistes such as vaudeville comedian Big Tommony Tonky and mime artist Leuf Le Feu.

Such was their popularity that during one impromptu gig performed on the dockside in Liverpool, they had to be whisked away by police after a crowd of passengers from a trans-Atlantic liner threatened to tear them limb from limb in efforts to secure a piece of clothing from the trio.

When war broke out, all three did their patriotic duty and volunteered to fight, signing up with the British Army on the first day of hostilities. In keeping with the times, all were sent for basic training, where their talents were spotted. They became part of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s personal retinue. Their job was to provide musical tunes as the backdrop to his travelling drag revue – a motley collection of criminals and hangers-on who’d somehow managed to wangle themselves a place far from the front lines.

This came to an abrupt end in December 1939 when police in London raided a vice den in Kensington and arrested all present – including the Field Marshal, his secretary, mistress, transvestite dancers and the Hu Chi Tau Band.

Few charges were ever brought as the government stepped in to prevent a morale-sapping scandal from engulfing the nation, and the band was given an honourable discharge and sent back to the Isle of Man, where they resumed their season at the Creg-ny-Mallaughinagh theatre.

Here, they found themselves surrounded by foreign nationals who’d been interned in camps such as Howstrake at the start of the war. The internees were mostly Italian and German, with a smattering of Norwegian, French and Tongan. The rich mixture of musical influences this provided is evident in their musical output at the time.

But while they appreciated their newfound fans, they were also sampling the delights of foreign pleasures. Rumours of drug-taking were rife, and the Hu Chi Tau Band’s backstage parties were said by some to have assumed the proportions of Dionysian orgies of free sex and opium smoking.

As word of this filtered around the Isle of Man, servicemen from the RAF base in Jurby began sneaking out of their barracks to see the band for themselves. Eventually, the commanding officer found out and he ordered the military police to take action.

And so, in 1943, armed soldiers entered the theatre and found a frightful scene. Recently released military files contain the reports of the operation leader, Colonel Jim “Bastard” McFrancken. In his words:

"Upon entering the premises, I was struck by an odd odour which one of my men quickly identified as oriental hashish mixed with French perfume and Opium from Cathay.

"As ordered, we conducted a full search and executed on the spot any man found to be wearing undergarments suited to women or any man engaged in unnatural practices. They yammered and screamed, but we did our duty by God. That evening, we dug graves for 87 men –though I prefer to think of them as wretched beasts that crawled upon the land as an affront to Her Majesty the Queen."

Inevitably, this all but finished the career of the Hu Chi Tau Band.

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Written at 16:41 by G
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