Military Base Concert Strikes a Chord for ‘Show of Hands’ Star

Military Base Concert Strikes a Chord for ‘Show of Hands’ Star

Devon’s international folk star Steve Knightley, of the award-winning roots-acoustic duo Show of Hands, experienced a strange coincidence at the media launch of the band’s upcoming performances at Exeter’s Wyvern Barracks.
Steve had recently discovered a family connection with the 6 Rifles battalion who are based at the Barracks – his grandfather Thomas Knightley had been in the Devonshire regiment, one of the Rifles’ forerunners, during the First World War.

But he was astonished when, during the media launch in the Officers’ Mess at Wyvern Barracks, the battalion’s Commanding Officer announced that the carved wooden chair in which Steve was, by chance, sitting, had a bit of history. The chair had been made for, and used by, one of the officers who had led an important battle, the Bois des Buttes, in which Steve’s grandfather had fought. This battle will be commemorated during the concerts.

Steve said:

“It was just one of those strange circumstances that kind of makes your hair stand up on end. To think about the man who would have sat there, and the orders he would have given, and the men who would have heard those orders. It was an extraordinary coincidence.”



Steve explained that he had been performing a song he wrote about the First World War and the Battle of the Somme, ‘The Keeper’, for 15 years, without realising that he had a family connection.

And, while still seated in the historic chair, Steve was suddenly inspired to write some of the lyrics of a song he was working on, which Show of Hands will perform for the first time at the Wyvern Barracks concerts. Its title, Swift and Bold (Celer et Audax in Latin) is the motto of the Rifles regiment.

“Swift and Bold, Swift and Bold
If the heart is steady then the line will hold
When the stories are written and the tales are told
Celer et Audax, Swift and Bold.”

Show of Hands are headlining the first two of the three open-air concerts to be held at Wyvern Barracks on July 5th, 6th and 7th. These events will be the first time that the imposing metal gates of the Barracks have been opened to the public, and are aimed at showing local residents what lies behind the high, spike-topped, redbrick walls of the site. As well as music from the First and Second World War periods, there will be a commentary telling the story of the 6 Rifles battalion and its forerunners, and the part their soldiers played in the two World Wars and the more recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The concerts were the idea of 6 Rifles’ Commanding Officer, Lt Col Jon Penhale, who said:

“I’ve spoken to people outside, whether that’s the city council, the county council, businesses or employer networks, and nobody has any idea of what goes on behind the big red-brick wall of Wyvern Barracks, or even that it still functions as an Army base in 2018. So I thought, why not spin this on its head and invite people in, and showcase what the Army is good at, who we are, what we’re about, what we’ve achieved in the last 100 years, and why we’re relevant today in the 21st century.”

“The Rifles have a very rich heritage and I think in 2018, on the centenary of the end of the First World War, it’s wholly appropriate that we explain what we do today, and how it links back to the past.”

For Steve Knightley, that link is even stronger than he had suspected.


Tickets for the concerts can be bought from Eventbrite


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