Making music at Trooping the Colour

Lance Corporal Rob Howe

Lance Corporal Rob Howe

Lance Corporal Rob Howe is a percussionist in the Band of the Scots Guards (Corps of Army Music) and has recently taken part in the Queen’s Birthday Parade (QBP) or better known as Trooping The Colour.


Trooping the Colour has marked the official birthday of the British Sovereign since 1748, and has occurred annually since 1820. The Queen has attended ‘Troop’ every year of her reign except when prevented by a rail strike in 1955. Trooping the Colour allows the troops of the Household Division to pay a personal tribute to the monarch.

The Massed Bands of the Foot Guards, part of the Corps of Army Music, play an integral part in the QBP. Many say it’s the music that brings the parade to life with real pomp and pageantry. Some of the Massed Bands’ responsibilities are getting all the Guardsmen to Horse Guards Parade on time, provide music for various aspects of the parade and then escort the Queen back to Buckingham Palace.

Also taking part in the parade were the mounted Household Cavalry Bands, the Band of The Life Guards and the Band of The Blues and Royals. It was an impressive sight seeing the mounted bands arrive on Horse Guards in their splendid state dress as they provided music for the walk and trot past.

As the the Field Officer’s Trumpeter of the Sovereign’s Escort, Lance Corporal Ben Ruffer of the Band of The Life Guards had a key part on the day.  Having amassed nine years’ experience as a State Trumpeter, his role on this occasion involved a number of trumpet calls and Royal Salutes as well as advising the Field Officer and Corporal Major with key details of the parade.

There is a wide range of experience in the Massed Bands, from junior musicians to Directors of Music (Officers). In the Band of the Scots Guards alone, we had 8 musicians taking part in their first QBP but our Band Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class 2 Ralph Brill has taken part in many more!

Naturally, there are mixed emotions before participating in such a prestigious occasion. It’s exciting to be given the opportunity to take part in one of the world’s most famous parades, but also very nerve-wracking because the world is watching you and you do not want to mess it up!

Even though this was my 8th QBP, the novelty of taking part doesn’t wear off and to be given the opportunity to work with over 250 professional military musicians at such a high profile event is an honour and something I do not take for granted.



Bands leaving Horse Guards Parade

Bands leaving Horse Guards Parade

Massed Bands on the Mall

Massed Bands on the Mall

If you want to know more about a career in Army Music, visit our website where everything you need to know can be found including how to apply for one of the best jobs in the Army.

6 Scots – Castle Guard

Pte Sanchez

Pte Sanchez

6th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (6 SCOTS) is the Territorial Army Infantry for the south of Scotland Company is a dismounted rifle company covering the Greater Glasgow area. Its main role is to provide officers and soldiers who are trained and experienced in dismounted close combat to support regular units on operations.

Preparing for the Guard

As a TA battalion, we had very limited time at weekends and evenings to prepare for the Guard, and some individuals only had a few short hours of drill rehearsal before parading on the day. In the end the Jocks did very well (especially considering that several of them had not touched rifle drill before volunteering for the Guard) and the Guard mount and sentry drill was conducted without incident.

Pte Weir

Pte Weir

We were faced with a slight problem in Pte Mcutcheon from C Coy, who proved to be so thin that his kilt and leg-dress simply could not be tightened enough to prevent them constantly slipping down during final drill practice. Just before we marched on Sgt Lawrie, Guard 2IC, finally managed to rig out a sort of hidden webbing of green string and service dress ties to strap Mcutcheon’s into his kit, which was fortunate as by then he was just beginning to display a not-too-clean white vest in the ever-increasing gap between jacket and kilt!

Heavy rain

Unfortunately for all, the pessimistic weather forecast proved accurate and we were subjected to heavy rain throughout the day, meaning the jocks came off after each stag soaked to the skin and spent most of their down time drying off! This however did not put a downer on the enthusiasm of the bus loads of tourists from around the globe who constantly posed for photos beside the Jocks on guard. A Coy PSI CSgt Paterson, bravely assisting us as an extra SNCO, seemed none too bothered by the attention he was getting from the female members of the crowd, but was quick to hide this fact when Mrs Paterson came to visit the guard!

Lt d'Inverno

Lt d’Inverno

The rain got worse during the afternoon, and the sentries at the top of the war memorial castle soon realised with the ever decreasing visibility that they were actually inside the rain cloud. Long after the 105 Regt had completed their gun salute and they and their guests had retreated from the rain, we continued to man the sentry posts until 1800, by which time even Mcutcheon’s kilt had started to slip down again, and Lt d’Inverno’s white gloves were completely stained red and blue from the rain-drenched silk on his sword hilt.

Despite the weather the Jocks very much enjoyed the opportunity to stand guard on the Castle in their No 1 Dress, an opportunity which does not often come to a TA Bn. As we shared a celebratory drink in East Claremont Street before returning to Coy locations, we were all glad we had volunteered for the guard.

Celebrating my birthday in Afghanistan!

Captain Jeremy Hann writes about birthday celebrations, or the lack of them, in war-torn Afghanistan.

It was thirty three summers ago that ‘The Minstrel’ underneath Mr Piggott won the Derby; that Elvis left the building and that I arrived in the world to much celebration and ward-wide plaudits (except from my darling mother who complained to the Doctor that ‘he cannot be mine, he is far too ugly”).

Today is my birthday, and to the best of my knowledge it is the first time I have celebrated by a good day’s work.

The usual modus operandi of having champagne poured into myself and forgetting to say when, and generally over indulging, was replaced by an ice-cream and a ungentlemanly amount of sweating.

Amongst many kind emails that I have received, the one from an old friend in Brighton hoping ‘that you get totally messed-up’ was surely the strangest to send to someone in a war zone. I get the sentiment Toby, but I am glad the day is drawing to a close without the aforementioned eventuality becoming a literal reality…..

Someone with a much greater gift for memorable writing than I said that being on an operational tour is 99% boredom, punctuated by 1% extreme violence. It is to the boredom that I wish to turn. Guarding against the complacency that inevitably accompanies the repetition of the daily grind is one of the hardest tasks of remaining professional whilst on operations. It can be difficult to keep morale high whilst staring into the abyss of monotony, and how one occupies oneself outside of the patrols and other bits that make up the daily workload, defines how one deals with the unglamourous side of being away.

This is doubly hard when returning from mid-tour leave. Going from summer in England to Afghanistan is like going to bed with Marilyn Monroe and waking up with Susan Boyle.  On the whole it has been a very quiet week in Kandahar, which has meant time has dragged for us, but we should be thankful that the operation is now starting to yield a positive outcome for the people of this city.

Over the course of an operational tour, unless one has an online auction addiction, a sizeable sum can be squirreled away. This is where SOUPs (Single Officer Unnecessary Purchases) start to grab the imagination. These can run the gamut of extremes from a Malacca cane with rapier inside, to 1960s sports cars, a monocle to an ivory-handled riding crop. The key is they must be entirely unnecessary. Suggestions are most welcome and shall be passed on to the wider Royal Dragoon Guards Officer community. The most original or best idea will be presented with a baboon skull penholder; no writing bureau can ever be called complete without one.

Wildlife update….. The gargantuan ants are conspicuous by their absence and the goats are still merrily going about their daily graze, although I can’t imagine that the sand is particularly delicious or nutritious. The new guys on the scene are lizards. August is obviously the month that the Afghan lizard community carries out its business with gay abandon. They are in plentiful numbers and seem unperturbed by events leading up to the Afghan elections.