Jim Brackley was one of five brothers, he was born
at Seaforth Nr Liverpool on the 3rd of March 1915 and was christened James
Anthony. He joined the Lancashire Fusiliers on the 27th May 1930 aged
almost 15years and 3 months and was duly posted as a Band boy to the 2nd
Battalion of the Regiment. He told me in one of his sayings it was always
easy to remember when he became a man of 18 on the 3rd of the 3rd, 33.
He was soon posted to India returning in 1934 via Palestine were there
was trouble in that area. During this time he had the good fortune to
have a good win on the Football Pools and purchased his own Silver Plated
Trombone, which will figure again shortly in his story. He went to the
Military School of Music at Kneller Hall and had to return after 6 months
when WW2 broke out and he was called to active service at Dunkirk. All
Bands having been disbanded at this period, he left his beloved trombone
with two sisters who ran a cafe in Tourcoing and they buried it in its
case in their garden until after the war. He eventually received his trombone
back on the 3rd March 1947 which just happened to be his 32nd birthday.
It now has pride of place in the Lancashire Fusiliers Museum. The bands
had been allowed to reform in 1941 and Jim was issued with a service instrument
for the time being. Jim once again toured all over the North West of England,
raising moral and with a dry sense of humour told me he had played at
Gigg Lane, Burnden Park, Maine Road ,etc, not football of course but Beating
The Retreat in the Band, and then again off to India until after the war.
On his return to England Jim continued to play with the 2nd Battalion
Band until it was disbanded in 1949. He left his beloved Lancashire Fusiliers
to further his musical career along with a few of his colleagues and joined
the Band of the Royal Corps of Signals.
On behalf of Jim's family I thank you all for coming.
THE 75th anniversary of Dunkirk has brought back memories for one family of the remarkable story of a Bury bandsman's travelling trombone and how he was eventually reunited with the instrument seven years later.
As the Germans started their offensive in May 1940, Lancashire Fusilier Jimmy Brackley, who was serving with the 2nd Battalion XX, was forced to leave his beloved trombone with two elderly sisters who ran a cafe in France.
After the war, to his horror, Bandsman Brackley discovered he had lost the address of the sisters. However, thanks to some tenacious detective work, the instrument finally turned up on his 32nd birthday in 1947, and the story was subsequently featured in the Bury Times.
Today, the trombone and the accompanying velvet-lined case are in the possession of Bury's Fusilier Museum. His family decided to donate the instrument after Mr Brackley's death in 2004, at the age of 89.
Prior to Dunkirk and before joining
a stretcher party, Bandsman Brackley took his silver plated trombone into
a Tourcoing cafe and asked the two Lecomte sisters, the cafe owners, to
look after the instrument until he returned. They buried the trombone
nearby for safekeeping.
After bitter fighting, the Lancashire Fusiliers were ordered to fall back and on his way to the Dunkirk beaches, Bandsman Brackley dashed into the cafe for a final look at the trombone which he had owned for six years.
In 1946, after the end of the war, his thoughts turned to being reunited with the instrument and he sought the help of the resettlement advice office of the Ministry of Labour in Bury. To complicate matters, he had lost a diary containing the address of the sisters. The Ministry called in the French master from Bury Grammar School to act as a translator. The French Police eventually traced the sisters and transport was organised.
In January 1947, a letter from Lille Police said the instrument was on its way via Antwerp. And more than seven weeks later, the trombone finally turned up at Manchester Docks and Mr Brackley had to pay more than £2 in carriage costs.
Daughter, Mrs Josephine Saile, who still has the original Bury Times cutting featuring the story, said: "The trombone was very special to my dad. Before the war, when he was in India, he won a lottery and had enough money to buy the decent silver instrument to replace the one he had. He had joined the Royal Signals as a boy bandsman at the age of 15 and later the Lancashire Fusiliers. He went on to become band sergeant major."
Mr Brackley, a father of five, served with the army for 34 years and was staff instructor at the Drill Hall in Bury on his retirement.
Mrs Saile, who lives in Rossendale, added: "On the 50th anniversary of Dunkirk he gave an interview to Radio Lancs about the trombone and then appeared on television. It's an amazing and quirky story about the trombone which became a prisoner of war. My dad was brave and a real gentleman."
* The Dunkirk evacuation, between
May 27 and June 4, 1940, saw more than 338,000 Allied soldiers rescued
from the beaches by a fleet of more than 800 boats after they were virtually
surrounded by advancing German troops. The flotilla included numerous
pleasure craft and fishing boats.
Philip Maher Fusilier museum research and archive officer checks out Jim's Trombone