This week’s postcard is another of those fine military paintings used for postcards in the Edwardian era. This particular example being a piper of the Scots Guards:
He wears the Royal Stuart tartan, a tartan in theory reserved for the use of the monarch, although in reality used by anyone in the country who wants to and is not entitled to another, clan tartan. Our piper wears traditional piper’s clothing consisting of a kilt in the Stewart tartan with dark blue doublet. A sash in the regimental tartan is worn across this together with a bonnet on his head. The uniform has changed little in a century:
Pipers are an integral part of all Scottish regiments, providing music to march to and a sense of identity for centuries. Pipers are still a part of the Scots Guards today, although their role on the battlefield takes them away from their instruments. The regiment explains the role the pipes and drums play today on their website:
After training at Infantry Training Camp at Catterick soldiers are able to develop their musical abilities at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh. When complete, they will return to the Pipes and Drums, where the Pipe Major and the Drum Major will continue their training.
During the Falklands Conflict in 1982, the Pipes and Drums of the 2nd Battalion were deployed and operated with distinction in the Reconnaissance Platoon, and during the Gulf War in 1991, the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion were deployed (throughout the Battalion) as a Machine Gun Platoon with six members attached to each Company.
Pipers and Drummers are fully trained soldiers, so are frequently called upon to turn their hand to a combat role. On operations and exercise, Pipers and Drummers are often employed as medics, armoured vehicle drivers, weapons specialists and commanders. Through this role a young Piper or Drummer can quickly gain a number of qualifications.
More recently in Afghanistan they were part of the Commanding Officer’s tactical group operating specialist weaponry, vehicle commanders and armoured vehicle driving.
Interesting, I was a drummer in pipe bands for years but most of our pipe bands were volunteers, including serving and retired military, dependants and civilians.
The Pipe Major and often the Drum Sgt, plus the Bandmaster for the ‘spit and dribble’ band were Musicians by trade on most bases, the rest were anything from Aircrew to Supply Techs, having a Driver was good, we could get a bus a lot easier that way 🙂
We did have full bands made up of professional musicians by trade at Command level, but almost every Base had it’s own volunteer bands and although it counted as a secondary duty, your primary duty came first so we wouldn’t have been assigned to other units during hostilities, we’d just do our regular jobs. The fulltime musicians would remain musicians and perfrom the proper pomp and ceremony still put on during wartime, although they might well have been used as general labour when those duties weren’t required.
I recall one instance where our volunteer band and a professional one were playing together at a sunset ceremony and afterwards, in the Mess where the reception was being held for all ranks (except the recruits we’d been playing for) got into a heated discussion with a brass band member who decided to take that moment to try and ‘pull rank’ on me…he actually did outrank me by a little but I calmly told him “unlike a brass band, no rank is worn in a pipe band except for the Pipe Major, Drum Major and Drum Sgt. (I was the acting Drum Sgt at the time while we were waiting for a musician to become available) we are all volunteers and in this one we have two Majors, three Lt’s, a CWO, and a retired full Colonel, take your best guess where I fit in. Now then WO xxxxx, should we start over, without rank this time ?” The rest of the conversation went most pleasantly after that 😉