1st Cinque Ports R.V. Corps of Drums at The Forces March
25th May 2014
Carter Barracks, Salisbury Plain – pictures of Victorian barrack blocks, a vast parade
square and an immaculate Guard House come to mind. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot
when we get there...
It turned out that Carter Barracks was hard to spot, mainly because it had been demolished
in the 1970s. Even in its heyday in the 1940s, the barracks had consisted mainly
of single storey wooden huts, not Victorian buildings.
But those huts had a bearing on why we had come. In 1942 they were home to 2nd (Airborne)
Battalion, The Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, a glider-borne infantry
battalion. On D-Day, D Company and parts of B Company of the ‘Ox and Bucks’ were
to achieve a crucial early success in capturing what became known as Pegasus Bridge.
As part of their training, the battalion had spent two months of cliff climbing and
exercises in Devon culminating in a march back to Carter Barracks - some 135 miles!
The first Company got back to base on the evening of the fifth day, a feat that has
inspired The Forces March, one of today’s top UK endurance events.
In The Forces March, runners, walkers and hand cyclists cover the 135 miles from
Ilfracombe, North Devon, to Carter Barracks in five highly demanding and challenging
stages. Over previous years The Forces March has raised in excess of £250,000 for
The Veterans Charity, a charity that supports veterans by providing ‘modest’ help,
like household items and communication equipment, that can be delivered without red
tape or delay.
To support this unique fund-raising challenge, The Cinque Ports Corps had pledged
to play at the final refreshment point and finishing line for the event. So it was
that, on 25th May, two minibuses and a selection of cars circled the lanes of Wiltshire
looking in vain for the imposing Victorian buildings of Carter Barracks.
When we’d all finally arrived, having twigged that Carter Barracks consisted of empty
fields and a rusty signpost, we had a quick run-through of our display routine, then
kitted up and drove to the final refreshment point. On arrival the Drum Major carefully
measured the ambient air temperature and wind speed at several likely spots and then
formed us up under the trees in the coldest and windiest spot of all.
Nothing daunted, we shivered our way through a selection of our marches and retreats
marvelling at the commitment of the event participants as they jogged, marched or
After a very welcome cup of tea, we formed up and marched part of the way back leading
a group of Somerset’s finest - Somerset Cadet Battalion (The Rifles) ACF. Wussing
out after about half a mile and leaving the Cadets to march on, we drove back to
Carter Barracks and set up our music stands either side of the finishing line to
play in the remaining marchers.
In the end our display routine wasn’t needed so, when the last marchers had been
played and cheered home, we changed and joined the participants, organisers and supporters
in the queue for the hog roast. As the carnivores among us munched on their roasted
meats and the herbivores had a cup of coffee, the concluding speeches were made and
well-deserved prizes distributed.
As we wove our way out of the fields of Carter Barracks we could look back on an
inspiring day supporting The Veterans Charity and the heroic participants in The
Forces March. Hopefully our music had spurred a few marchers on as they approached
To find out more about The Veterans Charity and The Forces March, see our Links section
for their website URLs.