Beating Retreat and Trooping of the Colour

Paul Johnson is a musician in the Band of the Irish Guards based at Wellington Barracks in central London. The Irish Guards band is one of the five foot guards bands that make up the Household Division.

What an interesting week it has been! The most exciting time of year for any musician serving in the Household Division…

Beating Retreat

Beating Retreat is a military ceremony dating back to the 16th century, and was first used in order to recall nearby patrolling units to their castle. In the 21st century, the Beating Retreat on Horse Guards Parade is now a musical spectacular.

Lt Col Stephen Barnwell had a dream of something a little different and special for the show this year, with it being a special 200-year anniversary for the 1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and also the 30-year anniversary of the Falklands war.

On both 13 and 14 June 2012 at 8:30 pm, the Massed Bands formed up on Birdcage Walk in a new formation. Instead of the usual 20 trombones across the front, the Massed Bands formed up with 10 trombones on the front rank, with another rank of 10 trombones behind them. As a trombone player, I found this very interesting. Usually on the front rank, this time I had to actually watch my dressing from not only left to right, but from the man in front. I also feel sorry for the trombones on the front rank having the remainder of the very eager and rather noisy trombone section behind them!

Beating Retreat

Beating Retreat

The Massed Bands stepped off to the rousing march of Earls Court, breaking into the march Military Escort as they wheeled onto Horse Guards Parade. (It’s easier to wheel in ‘straight lines’ when there are only 10 in the front rank.) Upon hitting the gravel at Horse Guards Parade, the Massed Bands performed a new manoeuvre called the ‘Barnwell Explosion’, in which the two ranks of 10 trombones opened out into one rank of 20 trombones.

Two parts of the show really stood out for me. The Royal Omani Mounted Bagpipers were fantastic! With the men and women all in very bright colours, it certainly bought variety to the show. The finale sequence also stood out for me because, unlike previous years, fireworks were used. There was also cannon fire in the middle of the 1812 Overture, and musket fire by the Moscow Militia.

Trooping of the Colour

Every year the Massed Bands of the Household Division take part in the Queen’s Birthday Parade. This year, like every other year, the Bands spend most of June rehearsing the music and the drill (and the standing still on parade) in preparation for this prestigious event.

With all the Queen’s celebrations, it has been rather hectic this year to organise time to rehearse for this parade as well as for the Jubilee. However, as they do every year, and with a little help from the Garrison Sergeant Major, the Massed Bands provided excellent music for the Trooping of the Colour.

Trooping of the Colour

Trooping of the Colour

This Troop for me has been rather special – my third one since passing out of training and my second one on the front rank of trombones. For some in the band, this was their first Troop, as we have had many posted in from other bands in the Corps of Army Music.

It is always a fantastic experience to be stood on the front rank whilst royalty inspect the Bands and the Guards on Parade: not only Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, but also other royals, including HRH The Duke of Cambridge, who is the Irish Guards Colonel of the Regiment.

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