THESE bandsmen and women were heading for the seaside, but not for a weekend of leisure. The 30-strong group of musicians from the Oxford Salvation Army were to give three concerts at Blackpool, including an outdoor one on the promenade.

They were taking with them a special letter of greeting from the Lord Mayor of Oxford, Gordon Woodward.

Mr Woodward had to get up early that morning in 1980 to make sure he caught the party before they left.

The letter he had written was a greeting from him on behalf of the city to Lieutenant Martyn Boyce, who was to be their host in Blackpool. The Boyce family had strong links with the two towns.

Martyn had been born in Oxford in 1949, starting the fourth generation of Boyce Salvationists in the city – his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents had all been members of the movement in Oxford.

He was appointed to the Blackpool South Army citadel in 1978 after spending many years as a member of the Oxford Salvation Army band.

So the weekend visit two years later was a reunion not just of old friends but of family because Martyn’s father, Harold, was among the party.

Harold continued a long family tradition when he joined the Salvation Army in 1932.

He supported it for more than 80 years, until his death aged 98 in 2015.

He worked for Oxford University Press, rising to head of the reading department, and dedicated all his spare time to Army affairs.

He was responsible for setting up its youth club and, in the 1970s, helped found its night shelter, where he would work through the night with his wife and other volunteers.

He was also a key figure in the group’s band, playing the euphonium, and in 1943, became bandmaster, after six years as deputy bandmaster.

He stepped down from the role in 1974, but carried on playing as a member. He received a Certificate of Honour from the Army for his exceptional service.

The Salvation Army began in 1865 when William Booth, a London minister, gave up the comfort of his pulpit and decided to take his message into the streets where it would reach the poor, homeless, hungry and destitute.

Regular churchgoers were appalled when these shabbily dressed, unwashed people came to join them in worship.

Booth decided to found a church especially for them – the East London Christian Mission.

In 1878, Booth’s son, Bramwell, objected when the annual report described the Christian Mission as a volunteer army.

In a flash of inspiration, Booth crossed out ‘Volunteer’ and wrote ‘Salvation’. The Salvation Army was born.