1st Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers Corps of Drums
Fifepower 9th Aug 2009
Author - Drummer Mike Boxall

FIFEPOWER

The Cinque Ports Corps of Drums at Firepower, The Royal Artillery Museum Woolwich

 

In 1557 Fifes and Drums were listed as part of the ‘trayne’ of the King’s artillery. A mere 452 years later the sound of flutes and drums sounded with the guns again as The Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers Corps of Drums marched and played at a summer event for the Firepower Museum in Woolwich.  

 

The Museum, based in the historic Royal Arsenal in Woolwich, tells the powerful story of artillery, and the scientific discoveries made through warfare. As the Regimental Museum of the Royal Regiment of Artillery it also records Gunners’ uniforms, medals and stories of courage since, in 1716, the Regiment replaced the old artillery 'traynes' that had previously been raised by Royal Warrant for specific campaigns.

 

Our first display of the afternoon was on the square in front of the Old Royal Military Academy building. This Grade II listed building, built between 1716 and 1720 and attributed to Nicholas Hawksmoor, was the first home of the Royal Military Academy whose aim was to produce "good officers of Artillery and perfect Engineers".

 

Intending to be perfect but perhaps only just achieving good, our marching display began with an ‘Advance in Review Order’ playing the first 8 bars of The British Grenadiers. Then it was into our slow march Mountain Echoes and back into quick march for the 1914 – 18 Medley.  

 

During the Medley we carried out our catastrophe-defying new manoeuvre ‘going round in circles’.  The front rank Drummers all set off in totally different directions with the files behind them blindly following. The apparent chaos soon resolved itself into everyone marching in a large circle, then uncurling and re-curling into another circle before finally re-forming back into our original four-rank Corps. And no-one got lost!

 

From then on it was plain sailing with The Jigs and Trumpet Tunes played at the halt. Finally we marched off to the first in our Regimental Marches Set, Sussex By The Sea.

 

Half an hour later we re-emerged from the Old Royal Military Academy building to set up our music stands in front of the Museum. At this ‘recital’ stage of the day’s event we played some (Drummers’) old favourites including Hazelmere, Legs Eleven, The Great Escape, Prussia’s Glory and the beginning of the Welsh Medley. (The similarity of the opening notes of the first tune, All Through The Night, and the last tune, Men of Harlech, resulted in the Drum Major quickly calling a halt to our rendition of a hitherto unheard march, All Through The Men of Harlech Night.)

 

To save our blushes we quickly moved on to a staple of Cinque Ports Corps of Drums recitals: Children’s Hour. In this section we issue the children in the crowd with triangles, tambourines, cymbals, drums etc. so they can bash along with us. Starting with My Grandfather’s Clock and continuing with Mighty Band of Brothers our little accompanists bashed along very heartily.

 

To round off our afternoon we formed up again and paraded in front of the Museum playing The Adjutant and Galanthia before the Drum Major called us to a halt for the last time and ordered ‘Dismiss’.

 

On a glorious sunny summer’s afternoon, our Firepower event had turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable day for the Corps. And maybe, despite the bright sunlight, a ghost or two from the 16th Century stirred to the sound of flutes and drums among the guns again.

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