Vivian Dunn was the architect and builder of the highly professional Royal Marines Band Service of the present day.
Few musicians can claim, as Dunn could, to have been linked in some way with their chosen profession in every decade of the 20th century. He was born in its first decade, on Christmas Eve 1908, within earshot of his father's band room in Jabalpur, India; Dunn senior, then bandmaster of the Second Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps, was later to become Director of Music of the Royal Horse Guards. In the century's last decade, as recently as June 1994, Vivian Dunn was to be seen conducting the Central Band of the Royal Air Force in one of his own compositions.
Dunn's musical education began studying the piano with his mother, followed by choral studies in Winchester. In 1923 he attended the Konservatorium der Musik in Cologne, while the family was in Germany with the Army of the Rhine, and on returning to England two years later he went to the Royal Academy of Music. Further musical experience came as a violinist under Sir Henry Wood with the Queen's Hall Promenade Orchestra, and then as a founder member of the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Sir Adrian Boult.
In 1931, aged 22, Dunn was commissioned as Lieutenant Royal Marines and appointed Director of Music, Portsmouth Division of the Corps. This appointment also carried with it the responsibility of directing the Royal Marines Band serving in the Royal Yacht. In 1947 he joined HMS Vanguard for a royal tour in South Africa, and in 1949 took part in a band tour of Canada and the United States.
His appointment as Principal Director of Music of the Royal Marines, the subsequent promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, and election as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music were all achieved in 1953. Later in the Coronation year, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh embarked in SS Gothic for a world-wide tour of the Commonwealth, for which Dunn directed the accompanying Royal Marines Band. At the conclusion of the tour the Queen appointed him CVO, and in 1960 appointed him OBE. Dunn retired in 1968 as the professional head of the Royal Marines Band Service after 38 years' service. In January 1969 he became the only military musician ever to receive the Order of Knighthood in the Royal Victorian Order.
Throughout his "retirement", Dunn continued to further the cause of orchestral, military and light music. In 1969 he received an EMI Golden Disc award as a result of the sale of over one million Royal Marines Bands records. He was a guest conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conducted bands and orchestras at several universities in Canada and the US. In 1976 he assisted in the foundation of the International Military Music Society. In 1988 he was installed as the Master of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, the first military musician to receive such an honour.
More than 60 musical compositions and arrangements bear the name "F. Vivian Dunn", including the score of the epic film Cockleshell Heroes.