The Spitfire, as they were called, were a team of professional bingo players and musicians who were the mainstay of the British East Anglia, Suffolk and Norfolk regions during the second world war.
They played a number of classic songs and tunes and even recorded their own music for the films of the time.
The Spitfires were born from a desire to produce a bingo anthem, and in 1948, they formed a band called the Spitfires, which would become the backbone of the East Anglian scene for decades.
The Spitfires had the highest attendance in the whole of Suffolk at one time, according to the historian, Dr Peter Aylward, and were also the only orchestra to ever win a national competition for a bicameral bingo team.
The winning team was known as the Spit-fire Team and were coached by the pianist Peter Haines, who was later knighted in 1959.
They played songs from across the country and even managed to beat the winning bingo band in a baccarat game.
But the Spit Fire were never to win a bacchus prize or even a gold medal, because of their high profile and controversial status.
They had a reputation for being racist and homophobic and had a notorious history of sexual abuse and rape, which was the subject of a BBC documentary called The Night of the Bicameters, in which a young woman recounted how she had been sexually assaulted by a member of the team.
The BBC also reported that the team had a history of violence, particularly against women, and one woman said that in 1944 a fellow member of their bingo squad had raped her in front of her son.
It was in this context that the BBC interviewed the members of the bingo and bingo management, including the singer and guitarist Steve Tannock, who admitted to having been “in the habit of whipping boys”.
When asked about the sexual abuse claims, Tannocks said: “If it’s true, I’ve never done anything about it”.
And when asked about their history of rape, he added: “It’s all over the place, but we didn’t do anything to stop it.”
Tannock was later jailed for 18 months for rape and for inciting a riot and two other offences, including for inciting sexual assault against another woman.
The incident led to the SpitFire’s demise, which is why the BBC decided to interview the surviving members, including Hains and Tannococks, in the 1970s.
Haines was still a member when the BBC made the documentary, but his response to the BBC’s questions left the audience with more questions than answers.
He said:I had no idea that they were going to interview me.
I think it was a bit embarrassing because I’ve known them a long time and I’ve only just come out of prison and they’ve been with me.
The documentary did not interview the women who accused Tannochock of the rape and assault.
But the BBC did interview the bacchanal singer and the pianists who had led the team, who said that the sexual assaults were not just a trivial part of the band’s career.
But in their memoirs, the surviving Spitfire members say that they still felt the pain of the abuse and did not want to be identified publicly for fear of reprisals.
Hains said: I knew they were a bunch of troublemakers, and I was proud to be a part of them.
And I didn’t want to do that.
Tannochocks response to questions from the BBC: I was a child when I was abused and I’m sorry for that.
Haine also said that he was proud of the bravery of his teammates and that he had helped make it possible for the Spit Fires to become one of the best performing orchestras in the country.
And Tannosons response to BBC’s interview: I think you can’t be a true bacchante and not be a good musician, I suppose.TANNOCK was also questioned about allegations that he raped the woman in 1944, when he was 17 years old.
Hain told the BBC that the incident took place in 1944.
But when the documentary was shown, Hain admitted to the abuse, saying:It was a little bit embarrassing, and they didn’t have any information.
Hained also said in the BBC interview that he did not feel that he would have been able to tell the police or the authorities, because he was too embarrassed to talk about the incident to anyone.
The recordings also reveal a disturbing episode when Hain was invited to play on a stage with a rival band at a music festival.
He told the programme that he didn’t feel comfortable playing with the Spit fire because he thought it was “too bad” the people involved in the rivalry were white.
He also said he was not comfortable being on stage with the team because