1st Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers Corps of Drums

Clandon Park

Author - Drummer Mike Boxall

 

 

 

 

25 Miles and 349 Years

The Cinque Ports Corps of Drums at Clandon Park, 18th April 2010

(Pictures to be added shortly)

 

 

On the 14th October 1661 a new British Regiment mustered on Putney Heath for service overseas. They were bound for Tangier in North Africa, which had recently passed to Britain through King Charles II’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza. In a strategic position at the entry to the Mediterranean, but constantly threatened by the local warlike Moors, this new possession needed a defence force.

 

Two Drummers had been authorised for every company of a hundred infantrymen in British regiments since the 1500s. So it’s safe to assume that The Tangier Regiment’s Drummers would have been heard that day on Putney Heath, and on the Regiment’s return all of 22 years later!

 

In recognition of its service the King then re-named it after “our dearest consort, the Queen’s Regiment”. The history of the Regiment, up to its amalgamation into today’s The Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshire's), is wonderfully illustrated at the regimental museum of The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment at Clandon House - only 25 miles from Putney Heath.

 

In April this year the stone flagged corridors of the museum echoed to the sounds of 14 pairs of ammo boots as the 1st Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums assembled to provide an afternoon of Beating Retreat and music performances.  

   

The museum’s curator, Ian Chatfield, made us feel immediately at home quartering us among display cases of historic uniforms, among which was a local Rifle Volunteer uniform and badges. It wasn’t long before the Drum Major ‘volunteered’ us to get out and practise, so outside in the bright morning sunshine we fumbled our way through the sections of our Beating Retreat routine.

 

After mulling over our mistakes (for me - flutes up, flutes down in The Jigs) we had a leisurely lunch. Then the 13 of us who’d remembered to bring our belts quickly got into uniform, while the Drum Major rummaged at the bottom of an old kitbag for anything resembling a ‘belts, buff, 1, Drummer Forbes for the use of’.

 

A belt, of sorts, found, the Drum Major’s problems hadn’t ended. The gravelled area in front of the House, clear for our morning’s practice, had become an obstacle course of parked cars. But after a few minutes mental re-routing the order came: ‘Bugles, Sound.’ and with Regimental Call and Fall In our Beating Retreat began.

 

Entering playing that Corps of Drums classic Galanthia we halted before ‘Advance in Review Order’ – 8 bars of The British Grenadiers coming to a crashing halt on the fifteenth pace.  Two Bass Drum beats then started us on The French March, a slow march, and into quick time with The British Grenadiers again.

 

At this point our new, un-appointed Musical Director, Bass Drummer Eric, decided to cut out Walmer Castle, our next scheduled march, and go straight to our next slow march Mountain Echoes. In the finest traditions of the Rifle Volunteer movement, we all just did what we were told and played Mountain Echoes.

 

The goodly crowd who’d assembled on the terrace and steps of Clandon House for the performance remained unaware of Eric’s surgery and continued to applaud this and our next ‘figure marching sequence’. Better known to us as ‘going round in circles’, this involves everyone following the person in front in various gyrations while playing A 1914-18 Medley and The Adjutant.

 

Uncoiling ourselves back into a standard Corps of Drums formation we halted facing the House to play Trumpet Tunes and The Jigs at the halt. Did I get the flutes up, flutes down in The Jigs right this time? Well, nearly… Fortunately my blushes were covered by the applause of the crowd following The Jigs’ abrupt end and our march off, the rousing Killaloe.

 

After a break for refreshments very kindly provided by museum curator Ian, we were on again for the first of two static performances around music stands. These feature standard marches from our music books, each march preceded by frantic page flipping as we all search for it in the non-alphabetically ordered pages.

 

Once found, however, the marches flowed pleasantly – Hazelmere, Legs Eleven, Belphegor, Children’s Love, For Flag and Empire, A Welsh Medley, Retreat Marches and others too numerous for my failing memory.

 

One unforgettable feature of our music performances is, of course, Kids’ Korner. This is where Drummer Stone launches out fearlessly into the crowd encouraging all the youngsters to come and grab a percussion instrument and join in bashing along to a couple of rousing tunes. With a full complement of 3 to 10 year-olds giving it their all, we hammered out Mighty Band of Brothers and My Grandfather’s Clock.

 

All too soon it was time to end our second performance, and our thoroughly enjoyable day at the regimental museum of The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment. Of course we can’t know what those Drummers of The Tangier Regiment 349 years ago would have made of us, but we like to think that we’re doing our bit to continue the traditions of British Army drumming of which they were such an early part.  

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