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Army Skills

Dave Barnes

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat


Dave Barnes, 41, knew what he wanted to do when he left school from the moment his uncle, the Drum Major at Kneller Hall, told him about life as an Army musician.

Dave was 16 and doing a GCSE in music; he lived in Lancashire and knew he didn’t want to go to work in a factory, he wanted a full-time music career, and his uncle had shown him how to do it. Once he’d got through training, he found himself playing in the Royal Engineers band at Chatham House. 

Dave enjoyed 16 years of travelling the world, playing the flute and piano in all sorts of extraordinary places and in front of all kinds of people, ranging from soldiers to royalty. After 16 years, Dave decided to come back to Kneller Hall and give something back to the Army Music community, so he became an instructor and was eventually appointed Drum Major, like his uncle before him.

After 22 years, Dave left the Army to pursue his dream of becoming a professional singer and musician in the entertainment business, and has since appeared on The Voice, mentored by Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs.

Fast forward to February 2020, at 33 weeks pregnant, Dave’s fiancée Dawn was rushed to hospital with complications. Following an emergency caesarean, their beautiful baby daughter was born. Dawn, who had previously served in the Royal Army Medical Corps before transferring to the Queens Alexandra's Nursing Corps where she gained her nursing degree, is now a Ward Sister at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.

When they were all safely home, Dave and Dawn decided to write a song for the NHS to thank them for all their care. In eight days with the cooperation of many folk in the music business, and current and former soldiers -including BGT Winner, and Chelsea Pensioner, Colin Thackeray they released their fund raising single, “We Applaud You” on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

He told us: “The Army teaches you mental resilience and gives you the will to carry on: it gave me so many skills and gave me confidence in my abilities. They say you are only as good as your last performance. But we all have bad days, so I focus on my successes.”

“I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.”