The Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums at Langley Vale Wood
Down in the forest something stirred… was it a badger, was it a bird? No, it was
the Cinque Ports Drummers assembling for the inauguration of a National Centenary
Wood next to Epsom Racecourse. The Woodland Trust is creating four national centenary
woods in memory of the millions of lives lost and affected by the First World War.
At this inauguration, an invitation-only event for over 150 VIPs, HRH The Princess
Royal was to officially name the wood.
No Royal event being really complete without a Corps of Drums, we’d been asked to
add to the WW1 ambience provided by the 10th Essex Regiment Great War Living History
Group. The group created vignettes of life on a First World War training camp including
bayonet and gas training, though judging by the pile of logs beside their camp cooker,
the first thing they’d done at the centenary wood was to chop down a tree. Hopefully
that was an ordinary tree, not a centenary tree.
A little before 0900 we formed up in an open field beside the wood. Swelling the
ranks of ex-Drum Majors in the Corps we welcomed Bb flute player Colin Fuller (formerly
Drum Major, 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment) on his first engagement
with us. So, in four files: six Side-Drummers, a Cymbalist, a Tenor Drummer, a Bass
Drummer, six 1st Bb Flutes, one 2nd Bb Flute, two F Flutes and a Piccolo, we stepped
off down the field behind Drum Major Fairfax MBE.
Halting in front of the flag pole, our previously shiny boots now covered in dust,
we played a selection of marches hopefully entertaining the VIPs until Princess Anne,
slightly delayed, arrived. After a short introduction the Princess spoke, mentioning
the part woods have played in her life and praising the work of The Woodland Trust.
When the Langley Vale Wood flag was to be raised we supplied our eight bars of Scipio
on cue. Then, while The Princess circulated among the VIPs, we played our ‘review’
pieces. Around 10.30, The Princess Royal having departed, we also retired for a short
At mid-day we re-formed and played while the VIPs returned from their excursions
into the woods where they had seen re-enactments of horse logging and charcoal making.
This spot was enlivened by the appearance of aircraft from the Great War Display
Team. Several fly-pasts gave us great views of their Sopwith Triplane, BE2c and two
When the Drum Major fell us out from this, our last session, we made our way up the
field to a curry lunch prepared by The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. After
a leisurely lunch we collected our souvenirs, blue and white Woodlands Trust mugs,
before making our separate ways home. The splendid inauguration of the Woodland Trust’s
Memorial Wood at Langley Vale had given us the opportunity to perform most of our
‘from memory’ repertoire. Now all that remains is to re-bull our boots!