Air Specialist (Class 1) Anastasia Arnold: Royal Auxiliary Air Force Band


Anastasia Margaret Rhodes Arnold (nee Franklin) was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1971. She began to learn the flute from the early age of 6, playing throughout her school days at Wimbledon High School, before attending Trinity College of Music, London.

After graduating, she followed her keen sense of adventure, taking a job as a volunteer music teacher at Starehe Boys’ School in Nairobi, set close to one of the city’s largest slums. The school catered for over a thousand boys, many of whom were orphaned or in need. She also involved herself in the wider music scene, becoming the youngest person ever to conduct the Nairobi Orchestra.

Ana returned to the UK, but Kenya had cast its spell. After a short period working for GMTV she returned to Nairobi as Head of Music at Hillcrest Preparatory School. Here she met her future husband, Dougie, and together they moved to Diani Beach, south of Mombasa to set up a new school, Seacrest, where Ana ran the music and art departments.

After the birth of their children, Oliver and Charlotte – of whom she was fiercely proud – Ana concentrated on family life alongside peripatetic teaching and performance opportunities.

She was one of the driving forces in the formation of the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra in the mid-1990s – an orchestra that specialises in the type of light classical music that is usually referred to as ‘Palm Court Music’ or ‘Salon Music.’ She arranged much of the group’s eclectic mix of late 19th and early 20th century repertoire of operatic and light classical tunes, which mirrored Ana’s sparkling personality, sense of fun and joie de vivre.

Ana joined the Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force as a musician in September 2020, proving to be an exceptional flautist and all-round musician. In the relatively short period she served, she made a huge impact, both musically and socially, taking advantage of all opportunities afforded to her.

In January 2022, just weeks before her untimely death, Ana, alongside other members of the RAuxAF Band, took part in the special Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham Palace, which marked the 80th Anniversary of the RAF Regiment. Speaking of her time Ana said: ‘The last time I stepped onto the forecourt of Buckingham Palace was as an excited 5-year-old, chatting cheekily with the Guardsmen and being allowed a quick photo in one of their sentry boxes. Little did I know that, 45 years later, I would be marching onto these same grounds as a member of the Band of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force for the Changing of the Guard. Occasions like these and playing with some of the finest musicians in the country, make you feel part of something really special.’

In keeping with her tenacious love of life she simultaneously decided to study for a Masters’ degree with the Open University in local history rather than music. Although she was only halfway through her degree, she was posthumously awarded a post graduate diploma.

Ana was tragically involved in an off-duty motorcycle accident near Dieppe in France on the 12th February 2022. She has left a lasting impression on all within RAF Music and is sorely missed.

Squadron Leader Ted Sellers

Posted in Memorial Stones.