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1st Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers Corps of Drums

Belgium 2007 (part 4)

Author - Drummer Mike Cheeseman

The unveiling ceremony was very protracted - lots of speeches and readings. Each item was preceded by an announcement in both English and I presume Flemish, given by two young ladies who had to be helped to scale the heights up onto the dais for each announcement there being no step. You would have thought someone could have found a milk or beer crate from somewhere!

After the unveiling many wreaths were then laid and it was at last time for the six Belgian Fire Brigade Buglers to sound the Last Post and Long Reveille, which they did magnificently. The ceremony over, it was time for us to move off. Now, having stood rooted to the spot for the last two hours, it felt as if our bodies had temporarily forgotten what movement was, but it was a great pleasure when everything clicked into place. We marched back to our coach appropriately playing the 1914-18 Medley, which was much appreciated by the departing crowds.

Next it was the short journey back to the Chateau for a Tattoo Finale rehearsal. We couldn’t do this in the morning as the Belgian Air Force Band couldn’t make it and it was rather important that they rehearse Highland Cathedral with the massed Pipes and Drums. We finally did our march off to the Rogues March about half an hour before the Tattoo was due to start.

 

 

There was just time for a sandwich before we began the long wait for our spot in the Tattoo. The audience of around 3,000 were rewarded by their patience when the event finally got underway at around 2100 hrs, the delay due to the late arrival of V.I.Ps who had been involved in the 2000 hrs Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate. As the last but one of the participants it wasn’t until around 2230 hrs that we finally formed up at the entrance to the arena. After the announcements in English and Flemish, the spotlight picked out the Drum Major who gave the command for the Bugles to sound.

 

The Regimental Call and Fall In were played in fine style followed by the Drummers’ Call. The Corps then stepped off into the swirl of mist (dry ice) in the floodlit arena playing Galanthia to a rousing reception. I’m not sure if they thought we were really good or they had had enough of the numerous Pipes and Drums preceding us!

Having halted, our next march in the revised programme was the 1914-18 Medley, which the audience enjoyed joining in to sing along with Tipperary etc. Next was the ceremony of ‘Retreat’, playing the Risings (Sarony) followed by the Retreat March followed by the Risings again. The two ranks of flutes then came forward to the Black Bear drum beating and all the Corps bugles sounded Retreat. Our ten minutes up, we marched off playing The British Grenadiers, inappropriate really as we were making way for the Pipes and Drums of The Scots Guards.

 

under the floodlights.wmv

It wasn’t long before we were marching on for the finale, where all the participants, including the Belgian Air Force Military Band, gathered. The Massed Pipes and Drums, led by the Scots Guards, played the well known tune Highland Cathedral, then a lone Piper played the Lament high up on the balcony of the Chateau. We finally marched off playing the Rogues March with the time approaching 2330 hrs. Mission accomplished!

It had been an exhausting but very enjoyable couple of days and all the hard work for the last nine months had paid off.

On Sunday morning it was time to pack up and load the coach for the journey home. Whilst waiting for everyone to get organised and book out of the accommodation we took a short walk along the road to visit the Messines Ridge Military Cemetery - a poignant reminder of the reason for our visit to Belgium. On the journey back to Calais Drummer Banister, with his usual exquisite sense of timing, requested that we make

a visit to the grave of his Great Uncle who fell during the Great War. The location was on our route, he claimed. Thus followed a ‘Cooks Tour’ of British Military Cemeteries in Northern France that tried the patience of our coach driver Pete to breaking point. On the third threat of “This is the last one we visit!” and lots more cries of “Are we nearly there yet, Drum Major?” we did eventually find the cemetery in the middle of nowhere. Photos hurriedly taken, it was back on the coach and finally off to Calais where we were lucky enough to drive straight onto the next departing ferry.

Our thanks to Geoff Fairfax (and I am sure there was a little help from Christine) for all his hard work drilling the Corps to such a high standard, sorting out all the uniform logistics and for making all the arrangements for a very enjoyable trip.

 

highland cathedral.wmv
rogues march 2.wmv