An Historic Silver Mounted Ivory Conductor's Baton

Maker: 
Ebenezer Newman
Dated: 
1916
Dimensions: 
15 3/4 in, (39.4 cm)
Weight: 
0

The tapering ivory stem in 2 sections which screw together. The silver handle engraved with leafy scrolls on a lined ground, the central mounts with similar decoration and with oval cartouche inscribed "Given to Capt. Powell R.A.F by Sir Godfrey Paine 1918". The narrow end with silver tip and with matching engraving. Complete with original red velvet-lined case.

Price: 
1850 GBP

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The importance of this Baton is not only that it is amongst the earliest items to be engraved with the initials R.A.F for the newly formed Royal Air Force (1918) but also for the two names engraved upon it: “Capt. Powell” and “Sir Godfrey Paine”.

The Baton has a remarkable history and has highlighted the lives and careers of 2 hugely charismatic individuals. Claude Forbes Powell (1881-1959) was a conductor, composer, singer and teacher but from a historic perspective he is most notable for being the conductor of the first band of the newly formed RAF in 1918. Dr Walford Davies was given the task of being the Organising Director of Music and was soon elevated to the rank of Major. In June 1918 he interviewed a number of candidates for the role of Officer Commanding Music School and Captain Powell was duly installed. Walford and his team proposed setting up a school with 50 instructors, this was rapidly set in place by July and named The Royal Air Force School of Music. It was situated in Fitzjohns Avenue in Hampstead, London and was staffed by 2 officers and 3 SNCO’s but Powell left the RAF as soon as the war ended so this Baton was presumably presented by Sir Godfrey Paine in recognition of Powell’s success. Before the war he had tried to establish a municipally funded travelling orchestra which had some success in Hampstead but in 1919 Powell set up The Guildford Symphony Orchestra which flourished under his leadership for several decades attracting such distinguished guest conductors as: Sir Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Adrian Boult, Arthur Bliss and Charles Groves. During the 1920’s Powell was also involved in a variety of other activities. For professional engagements he dropped the “e” from the end of Claude and taught singing at the Rogers’ Studios at 60 Berners Street, London W.1. He also conducted The St. Albans Symphony Orchestra in 1927 in a series of 4 concerts. During this period he also ran the County School of Music, Guildford, Ltd and conducted works by Thomas Dunhill, brother to Alfred Dunhill. We have not managed (yet) to find out anything about his marriage except that he had at least one son called Peter who went on to become a successful musical Impresario in his own right forming The Seagull Players in Leeds and later ran The Players’ Theatre in London. Peter married the actress Jean Anderson in 1934; she had grown up in Guildford and wanted to be a concert violinist eventually playing for the Guildford Symphony Orchestra under Claude Powell before embarking on a very successful acting career. Claude Powell’s other activities included conducting the Guildford Choral Society, The Shalford ( a village just south of Guildford) Choral Society, The Merrow ( another village to the east of Guildford) Choral Society, The Guildford Military Band and The Claud Powell Light Opera Company Ltd. (founded 1935).

Godfrey Marshall Paine (1871-1932) had a distinguished career in the Navy and Air Force. At the age of 14 he joined the Royal Navy as a midshipman rising to Lieutenant on HMS Renown and First Lieutenant aboard HMS Hogue. By 1903 he was a Commander and in 1909 he was appointed Officer Commanding the Third Destroyer Flotilla. Following this he commanded HMS Actaeon in 1911 and it was at this period that he took an interest in naval aviation. Just 3 years later, in 1912, Paine was appointed first commandant of the Central Flying School at Upavon having just learned to fly earlier that year; The school trained pilots for both the military and naval wings. In 1917 he became 5th Sea Lord of the Admiralty and Director of the Royal Naval Air Service and the following year on 12th March he was awarded the K.C.B. By 1919 he was an Air Vice Marshall and his last appointment was as Inspector-General of the R.A.F. At the time he presented the Baton to Captain Powell in 1918 he was part of the Air Council as Master General of Personnel.

The maker Ebenezer Newman is recorded in “The Directory of Gold and silversmiths” Vol. I by John Culme, page 344, as specialist gold and silver stick mounters.