“Army bands will be next to get their marching orders”


Here is a story that has been in the media recently, and could be considered as another warning sign of music being eradicated by the government not only in schools, but in the military too.

The Ministry of Defence is desperately looking for savings that won’t affect the frontline, so dozens of Army bands could be merged into larger groups – including the Royal Artillery Band, which was formed more than two centuries ago! Defence chiefs are thought to have earmarked at least 14 musical groups where savings can be made.

When asked his opinion about cutting the number of bands in the British Army, Alun Hughes of the British Band Instrument Company said :

“As I understand it, spending on defence is under review but currently there is no specific plan to cut the number of bands within the British Army. To be cutting the number of bands within the British Army at this time would appear to be very short- term thinking.

In comparatively recent times the bands of the British Army were restructured to be appropriate for current requirements within the Corps of Army Music.

The role that the bands play with their military duties is quite self-evident. Through music, Army Bands sustain and develop the moral significance to support State Ceremonial and the national interests of the United Kingdom in addition to their role within the individual regiments of the army.

Their role on public occasions to raise national pride is probably more important now than ever. Never has a need for national identity in the United Kingdom been more important than the future beyond Brexit. The bands of the British Army will be a very cost-effective way of establishing our future national identity beyond our relationship with the European Union.

Additionally, the musicians within the Corps of Army Music have been playing a most significant role in short term training with overseas countries outside the European Union in places such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Bosnia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Albania, Jordan and Afghanistan. This is not just training overseas musicians; this role has a significant influence as a diplomatic conduit to consolidate overseas political relationships. Future trade relationships with overseas countries will be enhanced by the role played by musicians of the British Army providing practical assistance by training musicians in overseas countries.

It also needs to be understood that the Tri Services of the British Armed Forces, Royal Air Force, Royal Marines and Army all recruit and train musicians at different stages of their careers. Eroding the structure of bands within the Armed Forces that has been established over hundreds of years will have a most negative effect on the fabric of British life. As the Army is the largest employer of professional musicians in the UK, the UK music industry should actively resist any change to the structure of military music within the armed forces”.

Below is the full article written by Deborah Haynes in The Times:

Defence cuts: Army bands will be next to get their marching orders

For almost as long as there have been soldiers there have been drum beats. The first mention of music in the Royal Artillery was a drum and fife in 1557.

Three years later the Life Guards could be seen filing behind a mounted kettledrummer and four trumpeters.

Move on a century and the drum was swapped by one regiment for the bugle to communicate orders on the battlefield. So was born what became known as the Band and Bugles of the Rifles.

Today Britain’s marching bands are better known for their world-class music and precision-perfect footsteps than battlefield drum beats.

The range of music has also evolved and bands can grasp pretty much any score put in front of them, from classical to contemporary. The number of bands has shrunk in line with the size of the army. Duties range from state ceremonial occasions to performing at weddings, funerals and concerts.

Another band review is almost finished and it is expected to recommend a further contraction. The majority of the 22 regular bands, comprising 740 soldiers playing 31 different instruments, will be merged into fewer but bigger bands within the Corps of Army Music.

The seven bands that perform ceremonial duties for the Queen and the royal family as part of the Household Division will not be affected initially nor will the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Others, such as the Royal Artillery Band, formed more than 250 years ago, and the Band of the Parachute Regiment, created after the Second World War, will probably be changed.

One defence source questioned the sense of amalgamating one of the most visible parts of the army to save relatively little money. “Bands provide the glue between the military and society,” the source said. “One band can only be in one place at a time. What are you going to do on armed forces day? Send the trumpets one way and the triangles another? It is ridiculous.”

Military sources said that the proposal would open up more career opportunities for army musicians.

There used to be a marching band attached to each regiment. They were an integral part of army life, with almost 70 dotted around the country and across the world.

Every band member is a fully trained soldier and many have been deployed on operations in a military role. Historically bandsmen were also stretcher bearers and nowadays often have medical and other support skills.

A recently retired member of 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards said that in the early 1990s he would tap his foot in time to the tune of the march whenever the regimental band practised on a Tuesday afternoon. “They used to bring that esprit de corps that is so important,” he said. “It made us feel good when deployed on ops. It was just something that added to the rich tapestry of being a part of the military.”

In the mid-1990s the regiment, like many others, lost its band after a defence review called Options for Change, which cut the number of marching bands to 36.

Questions are also being asked about why the military needs separate schools of music for the army and for the Royal Marines Band Service. Other skills common to the services, such as transport, are combined. “It is not like there is a different type of Mozart for the army and the Royal Marines,” a source said. “You might have thought that a defence school of music would make a sensible cost reduction.”

Bands facing the cut

1 Band of The Adjutant General’s Corps

2 Band of The Royal Armoured Corps

3 Royal Artillery Band

4 Corps of Royal Engineers

5 Band of the Royal Corps of Signals

6 Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland

7 Band of The Queen’s Division

8 Band of The King’s Division

9 Band of the Prince of Wales’s Division

10 Band and Bugles of The Rifles

11 Band of the Parachute Regiment

12 Band of the Army Air Corps

13 Band of the Royal Logistic Corps

14 Band of the Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

The six bands in the Household Division and the Gurkha band will be untouched