Corps of Drums


Corps of Drums

A Corps of Drums is a type of military band, which originated in European armies in the 16th century. The main instruments of a Corps of Drums are the drum and the flute or fife. Unlike 'full' military marching bands, Corps of Drums exist within an infantry battalion. A Drum major is the leader of a Corps of Drums. All Corps of Drums soldiers are called drummers (shortened to 'dmr') regardless of the instrument played, in a similar fashion to soldiers from the Royal Engineers being referred to as sappers.[1]

Contents

Corps of Drums in the British Army

The British Army maintains a Corps of Drums in each infantry battalion except for Scottish and Irish battalions, which have Pipes and Drums. Rifle regiments such as The Rifles and the Royal Gurkha Rifles, whose original method of fighting was not condusive to carrying a drum, instead form a bugle platoon however.

Unlike army musicians who form bands and will usually be limited to medical orderly duties in wartime, Corps of Drums drummers are principally fully trained infantry soldiers, with recruitment into the Corps of Drums coming after standard infantry training. A Corps of Drums will deploy with the rest of the battalion, and will often form specialist platoons such as assault pioneers, supporting fire or force protection.

Historically, the drum was used to convey orders during a battle, as such the Corps of Drums was a fully integrated feature of an infantry battalion. Later on when the bugle was adopted to convey orders, drummers were given bugles, but maintained their drums and flutes.

History

It is known that by the early 16th century, each Company of infantry soldiers would have a single drummer and a single fife player.[2] These two musicians would march at the head of the company, and when not providing uplifting marching tunes, they would be used by the company commander to convey orders, on and off the field of battle. The drummers would be more aptly described as signallers than musicians, as shouted orders were very hard to hear over the din of battle. Later, a bugle would become the preferred means of communication on the battlefield, and the drummers adapted, training on bugles and carrying them in battle, but retaining the drum and the title of drummer.

Drummers in the centre foreground, in their original battlefield role, close to the officer and wearing the distinctive drummers uniform described below.

As time went on, the individual drummers and fife players in each company would be organised at battalion level. They retained their role in each company in battle, but would form one body of men at the head of a battalion on the march. It was necessary to appoint a Drum Major (the equivalent of a Sergeant Major, for the drummers) to be in charge of the drummers and to organise training in the emerging discipline of military drumming while a Fife Major was to be appointed to be the principal fifer and to train future fife players. The 'Corps of Drums' would group together when not on duty with each company, and carry out various roles within the battalion, such as administering military justice and ensuring soldier's billets were secured, thus, the Corps of Drums became attached to the battalion HQ and was organised at battalion level, as opposed to individual company level.

Current role

Eventually, as the use of musical instrument on the battlefield diminished, Corps of Drums looked to fill specialist roles within the battalion while still retaining their original role for ceremonial practices.

Several different strings of logic have seen Corps of Drums employed in many varied roles. Because the Corps of Drums would often be employed in support of the battalion, in areas such as delivering mail or designating billets, they are often given the role of Assault Pioneers or Supporting Fire (machine gun) platoons. The Corps of Drums role on the battlefield was originally to signal orders, and therefore some Corps of Drums are organised into signals platoons, operating radios. Corps of Drums were also employed to march under the parley flag when officers of opposing sides would meet to discuss terms of surrender etc.. Therefore some Corps of Drums fill a liaison role.

Historical duties such as uncasing the Colours on parade and various privelages still remain in most units. Due to specialist duties and ceremonial aspects of a drummers life, a Corps of Drums will often become unofficial custodians of regimental customs and traditions.

Corps of Drums are drawn from the whole battalion, and are attached to the battalion HQ. Above the Drum Major as the head of the Corps of Drums itself, the Corps is usually answerable to the Battalion's Adjutant.

Instruments

The main instrument of a Corps of Drums is the Side drum. These were originally a rope-tension design with wide wooden hoops and a wooden shell and an animal skin head. In the British Army, this model has been continuously upgraded, with the inclusion of snares, more modern metal rod-tension and plastic heads. The current British Army 97s pattern side drum also has nylon hoops.

The side drum was increasingly decorated throughout the 19th century, until it bore the fully embellished regimental colours of the battalion, including its battle honours. As such a regiments drums are often afforded respect.[citation needed]

The second instrument of a Corps of Drums was originally the fife, but has been replaced in the modern era by a flute with keys in the British Army. There is a wide variety of flutes used by Corps of Drums ranging in pitch. The fife and later the flute has been favoured as a war-like instrument due to its shrill pitch and thus the ability to be heard above the noise of battle. Many tunes such as The British Grenadiers are traditionally played by military flutes.

The bugle replaced the drum mid-way through the 19th century as the most common means of communication on the battlefield. These duties were carried out by the battalion's Corps of Drums, and as such all drummers now carry a bugle.

As the musical role of a Corps of Drums became more ceremonial in the 19th and 20th centuries, more instruments were added to make the Corps of Drums more musically complete. A modern Corps of Drums will thus have a rank of percussion instruments usually consisting of a bass drum, tenor drums and cymbals.

Uniform

A Corps of Drums of the Duke of Wellington's regiment (since amalgamated into the Yorkshire Regiment), showing crown lace tunics, a leopard skin on the Bass Drummer, and rod tention side drums without wooden hoops, or flautists.

Drummers originally wore distinct uniforms so as to stand out on the battlefield. This usually consists of lace, used liberally all over the uniform, in varying patterns. Many early patterns consisted of a "Christmas Tree" pattern in which the chest was covered in horizontal lace decreasing in width downwards, and chevrons of lace down each sleeve. The modern infantry pattern in the British Army is of 'crown-and-inch' lace sewn over the seams down the sleeves, around the collar, and over the seams on the back of the tunic. The crown-and-inch lace itself is about half an inch thick with a repeating crown pattern. The Guards Divisions drummers have the old style "Christmas tree" pattern, with fleur-de-lis instead of crowns.

Whilst Corps of Drums in the British Army often parade in combat uniforms and other forms of dress, they will usually parade in the full dress uniform as above, and as such are one of the few formations which regularly wear full dress in the British Army.

In some regiments, it has become custom for the percussion rank to wear leopard skins over their uniform. This has the dual purpose of protecting the uniform (cymbals have to be muffled against the chest, and therefore would leave vertical marks on a bare tunic) and protecting the instruments themselves (the bass drum can be scratched by uniform buttons). Modern "leopard skins" are made from synthetic fur. Other regiments opt for a simple leather or cloth apron.

Drummers have traditionally been armed with "drummers swords", a shortsword[disambiguation needed ] with a simple brass hilt bearing the Royal Cypher. The practice of wearing swords has been discontinued by some regiments, though many still do carry the swords, whilst some use an SA80 bayonet as a modern alternative.

The Corps of Drums of the Royal Logistic Corps

The Royal Logistic Corps also maintains a 'Corps of Drums', in the form of several side drummers and is made up of Royal Logistic Corps soldiers who serve a short tour as drummers before returning to a field unit. This is not a conventional Corps of Drums, however, as it has no flautists, only drums, and comes under the command of the Band of The Royal Logistic Corps rather than as a separate entity within an infantry battalion however, the only case in the British Army. These drummers stem from drummers placed on the Royal Wagon train in 1799.[3]

Royal Marines Corps of Drums

Royal Marines Bands are led by 'Buglers', who are trained on both the side drum and the bugle as well as the Herald Fanfare Trumpet (natural trumpet), this section of the band is referred to as the Corps of Drums which since 1903 is now situated at the front of the band. Whilst similar to Army Corps of Drums, these are members of the Royal Marines Band Service (RMBS), although they retain their own rank structure. Members of the RMBS are primarily musicians, however, they also carry out secondary roles (e.g. medics, drivers, force protection etc.) when required.

RM Buglers have a similar history to Army 'drummers' in that they were used to convey orders on a ship on drums and bugles, and would then mass onshore into 'Corps of Drums', though they were still expected to work as individual soldiers,[4] also known in slang by the Royal Navy as drummers.

These drummer-buglers trace themselves back to the raising of the Royal Marines in 1664 as a Maritime Foot Regiment, with six drummers attached in its battalions.

History

Drums were, in 1664, used for the raising of the Duke of York's and Albany's Maritime Regiment of Foot, the Admiral's Regiment. The Regiment's 1,200 personnel had per company 6 snare drummers, the ancestors of the Royal Marines Bands Corps of Drums. The Holland Regiment soon came after them. They were later to be called The Buffs, the Old Buffs and Howards's Buffs.

Each time a maritime regiment, or from 1672 onward, a marine regiment is disbanded and a new one or new ones appear in it/its place, drummers come in, especially the young ones who liked playing drums and wanted to serve playing them. The 1702 formation of the Marine Regiments and Sea Service Foot Regiments saw the drummers' greatest action at Gibraltar, when they played the drums to support their regiments.

The War of Jenkin's Ear whose see into action 10 Marine Regiments plus an all-American Marine Regiment, all units whose drummers and fifers played alongside their units.

Even through part of the British Army which in the 18th century was led by the War Office, the Board of Ordnance and the Commissariat, Marines were naval units. Royal Navy officers were at one point part of the Marines. Due to two laws that regulated them and other army units as well as the reinforce the personnel of the Royal Navy, Marine drummers faced a loyalty problem for what drum calls they would have to do and for what branch and what occasion do they play drums for orders, commands and many others.

In 1755, the problem was solved. The Admiralty took over what was then called His Majesty's Marine Forces. Even through at first Royal Navy officers filed the officer ranks, with Lieutenant Colonel then thought as the highest officer rank, 1771 was when they were surprised when a Colonel's promotion happened in the HMMF for the first time.

After their formation, the HMMF's drummers and fifers of the three Marine Divisions played alongside their fellow soldiers in various landings worldwide on behalf of the Royal Navy. They joined their units in the American War of Independence, and a drummer served at James Cook's service during his sea travels.

At Adm. John Jervis's insistence, by King George III's order in 1802, the HMMF was transformed into the HMMF-Royal Marines, albeit larger than today's. Two years later, bomb vessel crews and gunners were now part of the then newly created Royal Marine Artillery. Bugles began penetrating into the RM from then on as part of the RMA sounding bugle calls.

The Royal Navy in the 19th century was short of manpower in the HMMF-RM and RMA. For this, Army units joined the HMMF-RM as replacement units, carrying not only their drummers and fifers but also buglers.

In 1855, during the units' service in the Crimean War, the HMMF-RM became the Royal Marines Light Infantry, later known as the Royal Marine Light Infantry. From then, bugles replaced drums as signalers and order beaters, but the latter would be still useful for drill by the then called drummers and buglers, and from 1867 the RMLI/RMA drummers were called buglers only, serving individually in ships and the RN's shore establishments and artillery units and massed into Corps of Drums for their units on the ground. Fifes fully declined and disappeared in usage in the Corps of Drums. By then, a Bugler playing both the drum and his bugle both to sound orders and do drum calls was a common sight in the RMLI and RMA. By the 1890s, even buglers also trained in using herald trumpets or Fanfare trumpets became commonplace.

A 1902 incident changed the buglers forever. A Coronation Review at Aldershot was due soon, and the then Sr. Bandmaster of the RMLI, Lt. George Miller, asked his fellow bandmasters to get buglers for his band for the review. The next day at a church parade, he asked 30 RMLI buglers to front the RMLI Massed Bands. They then marched to his own arrangement of Onward Christian Soldiers. Everyone was shocked by this and were amazed that the formation that he used would become a RMLI and RMA military band standard formation setup, and the precision stick drills that he made became a permanent fixture in military events where either or both the RMLI and RMA's presence were needed. Soon later, when the RM began operating the Royal Naval School of Music the next year as a training venue for future bandsmen of the RN, RMLI and RMA, they brought this formation for Royal Navy bands as well, inspiring the modern military bands of some Commonwealth countries like Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

1923 would see the buglers of the RMLI and RMA now belong to the Corps of Royal Marines, the Royal Marines of today. Seeing action at the Second World War and in battles before and after the war were the RM's brave Buglers of the new Royal Marines Band Service, even through separate from the bands themselves. The RMA and RMLI buglers' dress uniforms (dark blue trousers and tunic and red collars and trouser wells) became the Corps full dress of the bands and buglers, with the addition of a Wolseley Pith helmet as headdress and yellow shoulder cords and slashed cuffs to indicate their long history, heritage and lineage from 1664.

By 1950, the RNSoM became today's Royal Marines School of Music, and the Royal Naval Bands were dissolved. Beating Retreats by both the Royal Marine Bands and the RM Corps of Drums' Buglers began by then, with the venues at Horse Guards Parade and in Portsmouth, among others. In would be only in 1978 that the RMBS would have Buglers as well in its rosters. By the 1970s and 1980s, however only 5 RM Corps of Drums were left as the Deal Depot closed down in 1936 and the Chatham band dissolved in the 1940s, with three at RM England bases in Portsmouth, Plymouth and at the Britannia Royal Naval College (the last is now assigned at HMS Collingwood), one in the RMSoM (then in Deal) and another one in Scotland.

Today there are six RM Bands, all located in Portsmouth (HMS Nelson and the RMSoM), Fareham (HMS Collingwood), Plymouth (HMS Raleigh), Lympstone (Commando Training Centre Royal Marines)& Scotland (HMS Caledonia). All members of the RMBS are trained at the Royal Marines School of Music (HMS Nelson); Buglers' training lasts two years. Basic military skills are taught during four-months of Initial Military Training and if successful, trainee Buglers are then instructed on the bugle, drum & the natural trumpet. Musical skills are refined and supported with additional lessons in music theory and aural perception. Obviously, parade work forms a large part of the curriculum and considerable time is spent developing personal drill & bearing.

Today's RM Corps of Drums contains approximately 60 Buglers who carry out duties ranging from repatriation services (Last Post & Reveille), Mess Beatings (drum displays), Beating Retreat (marching displays) and concerts on behalf of the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy. The Corps of Drums perform for and on behalf of both the RN and the Corps.

Instruments

Like the British Army, Military Snare (Side) Drums (MSD) are the principal instrument of the Corps of Drums, however, another core instrument is the bugle. Bass drums are often used during parades and drum displays, while cymbals and single tenor drums are used during parades and ceremonies only. Herald Fanfare Trumpets (natural trumpets) are also performed on such occasions where a bugle fanfare would be inappropriate for such.

British civilian and cadet corps of drums

As well as Army and Navy/Royal Marines Corps of Drums, in the United Kingdom there are also cadet-based and civilian Corps who base their music on the military traditions of the country.[1] The Army Cadet Force use the Army style Corps (flutes/bugles, snare, bass and tenor drums, cymbals and Glockenspiels) save for those with Scottish and Irish links that have Pipe bands instead and those affiliated with the light infantry (especially the now only LI regiment The Rifles) have a Corps of Drums without the fifes while using only bugles. Those Corps of the Combined Cadet Force, Royal Marines Volunteer Cadet Corps and the Sea Cadet Corps use the RN/RM naval and ship style Corps (Snare drums/Bugles, Bass and Tenor drums, cymbals and glockenspiels) and are attached to the main band. Another example of a military style CoD is that of the Royal British Legion, whose bands are modeled on the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Band Service.

Civilian Corps are also formatted after their respective services, with Corps patterned after those of the Army, Navy and the Royal Marines in instrumentation and marching style becoming commonplace.

Corps of Drums in Germany

In Germany, Spielmannszug, Tambourkorps and sometimes Trommlerkorps are the names given to the German Corps of Drums, whether it is a military formation or a civilian formation. The instrumentation of these are, commonly fifes and snare drums (just like the Bundeswehr Corps of Drums that are attached to the unit military bands), Glockenspiels, Bass drums, cymbals and, on some corps, single and multiple tenor drums. Timpani, vibraphones and marimbas are used in concerts. Sometimes even a Turkish crescent is used to symbolize the band. Whatever the configuration, a drum major always leads the Corps during military and civil parades and other events, and in modern Corps even majorettes and pom pom dancers are a part of its roster.

Military Corps of Drums belong and are attached to the bands of the Bundeswehr Military Music Service while civilian Corps are dedicated civil bands and youth bands assigned in cities and towns all over Germany.

Corps of Drums in the Netherlands and in Indonesia

Drum Bands are the Dutch and Indonesian terms for the Corps of Drums, but in the Netherlands they are also called as Drumfanfares and Klaroenkorps (Drum and lyre bands, Fanfare bands and Drum and Brass bands) and in Indonesia as Marching bands.

In the Netherlands, the basic instrumentation is

  • Snare drums
  • Bass drums
  • Multiple and single tenor drums
  • Cymbals
  • Glockenspiels
  • Flutes, Fifes

Military drum bands in the Armed forces of the Netherlands would simply have only 2 or 3 of these basic instruments.

Optional or permanent instruments in these bands are flutes and piccolos, bugles, natural horns, valved bugles and brass instruments (Soprano bugles and trumpets, mellophones, Baritones, Sousaphones and Contrabass bugles).

These bands are attached to the main marching band, similar to French bands, but also perform as stand alone bands. They are led by a Drum Major, and can have majorettes and color guards, the latter now more separated from the band.

In the 1990s however these bands became paramilitary-styled and even adopted the traditions of British military bands of the Guards Division and the Royal Marines, but some of these bands chose the American marching band and drum and bugle corps practice. Some of these bands also adopted woodwind instruments turning them into full time military marching bands, and almost all drum bands use English voice commands and not Dutch commands and only a few use whistle commands and the mace moments.

In Indonesia, the Corps are treated both as military, civil or school marching and show bands and in some cases as drum and bugle corps, and are either attached to the main marching band or as stand alone bands (such is the case of many Corps of Drums in Indonesia) thus the instrumentation of these bands are:

They are led by 1-6 Drum Majors and can have a separate Director of Music (in civil and police bands only), majorettes and color guards. The drum majors in these bands have a unique use of the mace in order to corrdinate the timing and precision of the band. The Indonesian Corps also has dancing bass drummers either wearing uniforms or costumes (such is the case in the Corps of Drums of the Indonesian Armed Forces units), a unique feature of these Corps.

Another unique characteristic is that Military and Police Corps of Drums tenor and bass drummers and contrabass buglers wear combat or everyday uniform instead of the full dress uniform while playing or in performance or rehearsals.

Corps of Drums in South America

Inspired by the German style Corps of Drums, South American Corps differ in instrumentation and size.

Chile

Similar to the German Corps, the Chilean Corps of Drums are both military and civil bands, the Bandas de Guerra (War Bands) that the Chileans call them.

Military Corps of Drums belong to the Chilean Armed Forces' three services, the Carabineros de Chile and the Chilean Gendarmerie and differ in instrumentation and officers in charge (only in the Chilean Navy).

  • Chilean Army: Snare drums, fifes, bugles (led by a drum major and a bugle major)
  • Chilean Navy: Snare drums, fifes, bugles (led by a drum major)
  • Chilean Air Force: Snare drums, bugles (led by a drum major and a bugle major)
  • Chilean Carabiners: Snare drums, bugles (led by a drum major and a bugle major)
  • Chilean Gendarmerie: Snare drums, fifes, bugles (led by a drum major and a bugle major)

The military style Corps also inherit the British Corps' tradition of carrying drummers' swords attached to the belts in their dress uniforms.

Civilian Corps are usually school or college-based bands with the addition of a percussion section (Snare drums, bass drums and cymbals) and glockenspiels and are either part of a school marching band or as a standalone band in itself. In these bands, a Fife Major leads the band's fifers/flautists while on duty, and also assist the drum major and the bugle major. There are some civil Corps of Drums which are associated with municipal and city governments, and universities and colleges like the CoD of the National College.

Ecuador

Corps of Drums in Ecuador are both military and civil bands. These Corps are very similar to the German Corps, but with the addition of bugles and the single tenor drum.

Like the Chilean Corps, these bands have differences in configuration and instrumentation in the Ecuadorian Armed Forces. But the Corps snare and tenor (sometimes bass) drummers often play on drums that are painted in the service or unit colors (sometimes in the colors of Guayaquil, which are blue and white for the CoDs of the Ecuadorian Navy) and in the case of the Military Superior School "Eloy Alfaro" and the Military High Aviation School "Cosme Rendella", have the unit/school insignia attached to the bugles' and fifes' tabards.

The typical Ecuadorian Corps, called as the Peloton Comando (Commando Platoon) but are also called as the Banda de Guerra (War Band), just like in Chile in several schools and colleges, is led by a Drum Major and is composed of:

  • Snare drums
  • Fifes (only in the Ecuadorian Army and Ecuadorian Air Force)
  • Bugles (common in all three services, principal instrument in the Ecuadorian Navy)
  • Single tenor drums
  • Bass drums (optional and common in some Corps)
  • Cymbals (optional and in some Corps)
  • Glockenspiels

Ecuadorian Civil Corps of Drums are similar only to the Army and Air Force Corps but are based as youth bands stationed in schools across the nation. Notable exceptions include the Corps of Drums of the Ecuadorian National Police. Like military Corps, they are led by a drum major in all their activities. But in some Corps, there are some majorettes and tambourine players.

Venezuela

Similar to Germany and Colombia's, the Venezuelan Corps of Drums are both military and civil bands, and like Colombia's, Peru's and Ecuador's contain the same instrumentation of :

  • Snare drums
  • Bass drums
  • Cymbals
  • Single tenor drums (slung)
  • Glockenspiels
  • Bugles

The Corps is led by a single Drum Major. In some Corps even brass instruments are added into the bugle section.

Peru

Peruvian Corps of Drums are both military and civil bands, with differences in instrumentation. In whatever combination, it's led by a Conductor, Major or Majorette as a separate band or is attached to the main school or military marching band led by the Director of Music, with the drum major or majorette leading.

Corps of Drums in the Peruvian Armed Forces and the National Police of Peru (formerly the Civil Guard of Peru and the Peruvian Republican Guard), plus school or college based and town bands and Corps are composed of snare or field drums, single tenor drums, multiple tenor drum (in school Corps), bugles and glockenspiels in addition to the regular snare and bass drums and cymbals.Tambourines are common within the school-based Corps, with female majorettes assisting the conductor or the school band drum major or music director.

Colombia

Colombian Corps of Drums, similar as they are with those of Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Venezuela but are different in leadership, are led by a minimum of 3-6 drum majors or majorettes, and are composed instrumentally of:

  • Snare drums
  • Field/precision snare drums
  • Bass drums
  • Single tenor drums
  • Multiple tenor drums (civil Corps)
  • Cymbals
  • Glockenspiels
  • Bugles and trumpets
  • Tambourines (civil Corps)
  • Conga drums (civil Corps)
  • Timbales (civil Corps)
  • Suspended cymbals (civil Corps)
  • Natural trumpets (military Corps only)

Even through separate from the main marching band, a part of the band itself or as a band of its own, they are both useful as military-based and civil-based bands. The drums are either covered with cloth tabards with or painted in the military service or (for civil bands) in the school or college colors. The bugles, trumpets and glockenspiels are attached with small tabards with the military service, police, school or college insignia or emblem shown.

References

External links


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