Goodbye to well-loved Arthur

Arthur Kimpton Butler.
Arthur Kimpton Butler.

A Scarborough music teacher and military musician has died aged 92 following a short illness.

Arthur Kimpton Butler, who was affectionately known as Kim, was born in Portsmouth in 1920, the younger of two boys to Leonard and Florence Butler.

Unsurprisingly, given the location and era, his parents signed both Kim and his brother Leonard up for service in the Royal Marines as band cadets. In 1934 when Kim was only 14, he entered the Royal Naval School of Music where he spent the next three years before being assigned to his first ship, HMS Dorsetshire. As part of the Far East Fleet he then spent two years travelling the world until the outbreak of World War II found the Dorsetshire reassigned to convoy protection duty in the North Atlantic.

Like all bandsmen he was assigned gunnery duty and quickly saw action during the famous hunt for the Bismarck in which the Dorsetshire fired the final torpedo salvo. His ship was then sent to the Far East and saw action in the defence of Singapore. During their attempted escape the Dorsetshire was sunk by Japanese bombers and Kim spent several days clinging to a rope in the Indian Ocean before being picked up safely by the naval destroyer Paladin and taken to South Africa. Unfortunately his brother Leonard was killed a few months earlier when his own ship, HMS Repulse, was sunk by Japanese bombers off the coast of Malaysia.

After the war, making light of his experience, Kim reflected that he always regretted losing a very good saxophone when the ship went down and that the Navy had never seen fit to reimburse him.

By comparison he served out the rest of the war uneventfully on various ships and finished up on the aircraft carrier HMS Formidable off the coast of Japan.

Following the war he remained in the Marines and rose to the rank of band master, conducting many ceremonial events at which the royal family and other dignitaries from around the world were present. It was around this time that he met his wife, Mary Kate O’Shea, a Naval nurse, and they were soon married. Unfortunately he had been assigned to lead the Australian Marine Band at this time and headed off for Australia leaving his new wife to follow on behind on the ‘slow boat’. Eventually they connected again and while they were still posted in Australia, had their first child, Michael. Three other children – Ann, Rory and Katherine – followed.

After leaving Australia they spent several years in Singapore before Kim passed on the opportunity to lead the Hong Kong Police Band and left the service in 1961. He followed his passion and became a music teacher, settling in Scarborough and devoting his time to young musicians as the peripatetic music teacher for North Yorkshire until his retirement in 1985. He was an accomplished musician on several instruments but favoured the violin. He led the Scarborough Orchestra at many events and also played for the local pantomimes in Malton. He looked back fondly on his time as a teacher and the many students he had chance to see develop under his tutoring.