With The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas at Herstmonceux Castle
The ancient walls and turrets of Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex made a superb
backdrop for an ABF fund-raising concert and Beating Retreat held on 10th July 2010.
The concert element was provided by The Band of The Brigade of Gurkhas; this was
followed by a marching display from the Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums and then
the Gurkha Band Beat Retreat.
The Guests of Honour, General Sir David Richards KCB CBE DSO (soon to be Chief of
The Defence Staff) and The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field DL, made this
a prestigious event. Appearing between performances by professional Gurkha musicians,
we part-timers in The Cinque Ports Corps of Drums would need to be at our best.
By 2.30 we’d all assembled and, with no time to waste, fell in on the castle’s Tea
Room car park to run through our routine in the hot sunshine. All too soon it was
time for our full rehearsal. The tight confines of the parade area in front of the
castle posed a few problems but the Drum Major had done his pre-planning and deftly
steered us around.
Rehearsal over we made our way to a meal in the refectory followed by some last-minute
kit polishing. At 7.45 as the Gurkha Band played the last piece in their concert
programme, the Radetsky March, we fell in ready for our big moment. The announcer
exhorted the crowd to give us a cheer. The Drum Major ordered ‘Bugles Sound’. Our
buglers blasted out Regimental Call and Fall In. Then we were on.
We entered playing Galanthia, finishing centred on the parade area. Our side-drummers
released their snares to give a period sound for an 18th Century slow march, The
French March. Breaking into quick time we then played our 18th Century version of
The British Grenadiers before halting and ‘snares on’. “Our” retreat march Walmer
Stepping off with the slow march Mountain Echoes, on the cut off we broke into quick
time for a ‘figure marching sequence’. For this, while playing a 1914-18 Medley and
The Adjutant, we all followed the person in front to form a large circle then doubled
back to circle in the opposite direction.
Uncoiling ourselves back into a standard Corps of Drums formation we halted facing
the crowd to play Trumpet Tunes. We remained at the halt for The Jigs which we played
through once with solos alternating with the full Corps, then all playing with the
tempo steadily increasing to end in a blur of fingers and gasps of breath. The Drum
Major then stood us ‘at ease’ and left to request permission to march the Corps off.
Permission granted with a few kind words from the Lord Lieutenant, we were brought
back to ‘attention’ and marched off to Sussex by the Sea and Killaloe. With the applause
ringing in our ears we hurried off to change and get back in time to see The Band
of The Brigade of Gurkhas Beat Retreat.
The evening was very successful for the ABF as they raised a substantial amount for
The Soldiers’ Charity.For our part it had been a pleasure and a privilege to perform
at this ABF fund-raiser. I don’t know what memories General Richards will have of
the evening, hopefully they might include some of our Corps of Drums marches, but
for me it’s those flashing kukris!
For Some more photos go to the Herstmonceux Gallery
Marching on over the castle entrance bridge at their quick ‘rifles’ pace, the Gurkha
Band proceeded to give a very entertaining and varied marching and playing display.
A high spot was the entry ‘at the double’ of two khaki-clad Gurkhas brandishing the
famous kukri. Their acrobatic display of kukri whirling, slashing and chopping vividly
demonstrated just how fearsome a weapon it is.
A lone Gurkha bagpiper high in the battlements of the castle brought The Gurkha Band’s
Beating Retreat to an end. They marched off, first to Sussex by the Sea then the
Gurkha Regimental Quick March Bravest of the Brave.