Coates Eric: Dambusters March

Eric Coates was born in Nottinghamshire in 1886. As an instrumentalist, he studied violin, then viola, holding the position of Principal Viola with the Henry Wood Queen`s Hall Orchestra in 1912. He went on to specialise in the field of light music, achieving much of his fame through the medium of radio. He has been described as “an outstanding exponent of agreeable light music”. Who could argue with that?

Is there anybody, of a certain age, that cannot hum the march from this famous classic film released in 1954 – one of the most memorable film scores for a remarkable film? For anybody who is not familiar with the story, the film recounts, in dramatised documentary form, an accurate account of a real-life action by the RAF in 1943, when three dams in Germany were destroyed by the Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb.

Coates’ theme appears five times, first over the opening titles and, variously, throughout the film. This is one of the all-time great themes, deeply melodic, uplifting, heroic with a light-hearted central section, yet filled with a noble dignity of almost Elgarian proportions.