Veteran of music and war shares skills with others

Old soldier Bernard Collier is sharing his musical skills with the younger generation as part of a new community orchestra in Leeds.

The 90-year-old started playing violin at the age of seven and went on to learn clarinet in a military band and played with Billy Cotton's Big Band Show in London.

He was taken prisoner during the Second World War and discovered his favourite instruments, the mandolin and the mandola, in a prisoner of war camp in Italy.

Mr Collier, the oldest member of Alwoodley Community Orchestra, said: "Music is one of the most important aspects of my life. It's got me into trouble and out of trouble and at one point it probably saved my life."

While a prisoner he accumulated a range of instruments and taught fellow prisoners to play. They performed for Italian officers, calling themselves The Mandoliers.

Only eight of the 18-strong group of POW musicians survived the war as a train they were transported in was blown up.

After the war, survivors formed a band and played to 2,000 people at Hammersmith Broadway.

Now Mr Collier, of Alwoodley, is sharing his skills with young musicians by playing the mandola, which has a slightly deeper sound than the mandolin.

Musicians are invited to turn up on a Wednesday evening.

The orchestra runs from 5pm-6pm at Alwoodley Primary School, Cranmer Rise, Alwoodley. You must be able to read music, have passed at least Grade 1 music exams and have your own instrument.

The choir runs from 6.30pm-7.30pm at Allerton Church of England Primary School, Lingfield Approach. The project has been funded by The Big Lottery.