Tributes paid to Hucknall music legend Eric Coates

.Eric Coates ne plaque
.Eric Coates ne plaque

There can be few people who do not know the iconic music that accompanied the 1955 Dambusters film.

It has been engrained in the minds of thousands of people, helping to tell the story of 617 Squadron as the brave airman launched the so-called bouncing bomb raid on the dams of the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

That music will have been played a lot again this week, as people mark the 70th anniversary of the Dambusters mission during the Second World War.

It will be with a sense of pride that people in Hucknall will hear the Dambusters March, for it was a son of the town, Eric Coates, who composed the music.

He was the son of a respected doctor who went on to become famous as a composer of light music.

And even though Eric died in 1957, his light music compositions are still popular today. Not only is the Dambusters music famous, so too is his By the Sleepy Lagoon, which is better known as the signature theme to the radio programme Desert Island Discs.

A society formed in Hucknall five years ago now boasts around 300 supporters from around the world, and includes names such as Sir Michael Parkinson and Alan Titchmarsh as supporters.

Society chairman Geoff Sheldon said: “The music that he wrote suited people’s tastes at the time and caught the national mood. He was regularly asked to perform and write music.”

The society, whose website is, is hoping to put on a showing of the film, which was distributed by Associated British-Pathé and starred starred Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd.

In a letter to the Dispatch this week, Mavis Ellis of Mansfield Road, Papplewick, writes: “Television has revived the Dambusters film, starring Richard Todd and Michael Redgrave, so regularly that the men and the exploits of 617 Squadron have become the stuff of legend, and the film has immortalised too the name of Eric Coates, the Hucknall-born composer.”

The popularity of the composer is shown by the fact that there will soon be a seven disc box set of his works, some of which was never released in the UK.

According to the society, it has taken a music enthusiast more than two years to gather the work.

Many reviews of his work and life say that Eric Coates was one of the most most important composers of “symphonic light music” in the first half of the 20th century, with some even saying he is the “Uncrowned King of Light Music”.

With the work of the society, and the continuing popularity of the Dambusters film and its music, the name of Hucknall’s Eric Coates will continue to be known throughout the world.