George LloydThis evening I had a most entertaining and at times moving supper with Frank Renton, a musician (a distinguished trumpet player), conductor and broadcaster and host for the past fifteen years of BBC Radio 2’s programme, Listen to the Band, and fellow British composer and musician Nigel Clark. A good friend, Nigel (his blog is here) has plotted a collaborative project for the three of us and a group of Belgian musicians, about which I shall write more in a subsequent post, but this evening was more one long extended sequence of anecdotes and reminiscences. I sat enthralled, for Frank and Nigel seemed to have met and/or worked with most British post-war composers and musicians. One I knew less about was George Lloyd, like Renton and Clarke a soldier musician early in life and in many ways a tragic figure. Frank told the extraordinary story of the wartime experience which was to tinge his work with a tragic tone for ever afterwards (his Royal Parks Suite, for example). As his wiki entry describes it, “Lloyd served in World War II with the Royal Marines as a bandsman. On board the cruiser HMS Trinidad on Arctic convoys he was one of the Bandsmen manning the Transmitting Station, which was situated deep in the hull of the ship. In 1942, the ship fired a faulty torpedo which travelled in a circular track and hit the ship, fracturing a large fuel oil tank. Many of Lloyd’s shipmates were drowned in the fuel oil, and he was the last man to escape from the compartment. He suffered severe mental trauma.” Of all the ghastly ways that ghastly war created for people to die, drowning in engine oil must have been particularly attrocious – thirty-two men dead, and all from the absurdity of a faulty torpedo. The ship, HMS Trinidad  somehow managed to survive the incident, only to suffer an enemy attack as it limped home (losing another sixty-three men, including twenty survivors from another sunken ship). She was scuttled by her escort north of North Cape. During a long convalesence, recovering from this trauma, Lloyd (picture) wrote his Fourth Symphony, entitled “The Arctic” and which he prefaced with the description “… a world of darkness, storms, strange colours and a far-away peacefulness”.