Report: 7 Military Bands to be Axed

Another story from today's Sunday Telegraph. My regrets to anyone directly affected for whom this is the first notification, but it is now in the public domain anyway.

Army's axe to fall on the marching bands
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 12/12/2004)

Seven of the Army's military marching bands are to be scrapped in Government cuts to be announced this week.

Savings could be made by dropping a famous state marching band such as the Coldstream Guards band [photograph]

The cuts, which have been ordered by Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the chief of the General Staff, are detailed in a confidential document. The changes will reduce the number of Army bands from 30 to 23.

Some of the soldiers in the bands are expected to be made redundant, although the number of job losses is not yet known.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, is expected to make the announcement this week, when he reveals the details of the Army's new infantry structure and the names of the four infantry regiments to be disbanded.

Officials said that Mr Hoon will combine the announcements of the two events because, "it was decided that it would be a good day to bury bad news".

Those bands that face the axe are identified in a classified document entitled "Regular Army Bands - Future Structure". The report was prepared for the executive committee of the Army Board by Maj Gen David Richards, the assistant chief of the General Staff, and the architect of the Army's reorganisation process.

Two line infantry bands will be lost from the King's Division, said the document, while the Scottish, Queen's and Prince of Wales's Divisions will lose one band each. The four Royal Armoured Corps bands will be reduced by two.

Further manpower reductions could be achieved, the report adds, by dissolving the Adjutant General's Corps band and the Royal Irish Regiment band when "normalisation" has been achieved in Northern Ireland.

The document also states that 35 posts could be saved if an Air Assault Band was created by amalgamating the Parachute Regiment band and Army Air Corps bands.

Possibly the most controversial recommendation is, however, that one of the state marching bands from the Foot Guards could be axed and that the remaining four state bands could be reduced from 49 to 47 musicians.

The report states that "the numbers required for redundancy is not known and has not been promulgated". It adds: "The future of bands is an emotive issue and there are, therefore, significant internal and external presentational issues arising from this work."

As part of its internal communications strategy, the report said: "Briefings will need to be delivered promptly once a decision on the future of the Corps of Army Music has been made. [The] Director of the Corps of Army Music should be allowed to brief bands prior to any public announcement." It continued: "The General Staff will be responsible for briefing the palace."

Under the heading "Impact", the report states: "The key personnel issue will be redundancy. The restructuring of the Regular Army bands will be achieved, as far as possible, by natural wastage and limiting the extensions of soldiers employed on short-term engagements.

"However, there will be a requirement for a redundancy programme, and this will be implemented in a single phase," said the report.

The decision by the Army Board to scrap seven bands is certain to provoke protests. Colonels in the King's Division have already written to the Army Board stating that they are "unanimous in strongly defending the retention of the two bands in the King's Division".

Army bands cost the Ministry of Defence about £37 million a year and produce an income from public and private engagements of £1.4 million a year.

The financial saving achieved by cutting the seven bands, would be about £8.6 million, a fraction of the ministry's £32.3 billion budget. Although the infantry is reducing in size from 40 to 36 battalions, the level of manpower will not change. The cuts to the Corps of Army Music are, however, directly linked to cost-cutting.

One senior officer in the King's Division said: "The reorganisation of the infantry has proven to be a painful but necessary process, which should have happened 10 years ago. But the cuts to the bands are all about money."

Bands have been part of the Armed Forces for hundreds of years. It is believed that early bands consisted of drummer boys, who would set the beat for marching troops as they closed with the enemy. Their role now is mainly ceremonial.

The Guards always play at official state functions such as the Trooping the Colour in June that marks the Queen's official birthday and takes place on Horse Guards Parade, in London.

One of the Foot Guards' bands also usually plays at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday in November and at the State Opening of Parliament.

All military bandsmen have an operational role in war and usually act as support staff for field hospitals.
What Bands does the Scottish division have? Weren't most already cut?
Pipes and Drums are not "Bands"
So there are two Scottish Division Bands?
RCSignals said:
So there are two Scottish Division Bands?
Until 1994 each infantry battalion had its own Military Band, so there were seven such bands in the Scottish Division. In 1994 the 7 battalions were reduced to 6, and the 7 bands were reduced to 2, the Highland and Lowland Bands of the Scottish Division.

As you rightly say, the Military Bands are not the same as the Pipes and Drums who are infantry soldiers belonging to each Battalion. There is no publicly-funded establishment for Pipes and Drums, their accoutrements were originally purchased by the regiment's officers and they typically form the Machine Gun platoon although this can vary depending on the battalion's role etc.
Not surprised that mil bands are to be chopped.. Canadian Government did that a while back.. DND reduced all reserve band positions to Drum Major/Bugle Major/Band Master and Pipe Major/Band Leader as line serials and the bands/pipes and rums they commanded/lead were made ' voluntary ' and to be provided for from ' private consription... Most still operating today are covered by moneys from Regimental Associations and the ' olds boys' networks..

No bandsman/pipers/drummers are paid for by the military unless they hold another tasking/line and serve in the band as an unpaid participant/volunteer..

sad.. but, at least thry didn't disappear and still turn out to support all regumental/promotional functions..

In the reg force the coprs of musiv were amalgamated or absorbed into larger entities , mainlt to trotted out for tourists, recruiting and to make the politicals ' look good ;..

sadder still...
I can understand the argument that military bands are good for the army's PR and in todays climate of a leaner better army a bit of a luxury, even if I don't agree with it. But what about the role carried out by these soldiers in war? Who's left doing nothing to provide the streacher bearers and medical assistants when the new leaner better army has no 'slack' and everyone else is busy?

They really havent't got a clue have they?


Kit Reviewer
You can just see the next Rembrance Sunday parade:

"Music provided by the Brixton Community Centre Steel Band - patron HCS* President T. Bliar"

That's assuming he hasn't banned us from remembering our fallen......


* = His Cnuting Slimeness
Well WWI was before Year Zero of the Bounteous New Era (previously known as 1997) so he would have plenty of precedent.
"Who's left doing nothing to provide the streacher bearers and medical assistants when the new leaner better army has no 'slack' and everyone else is busy?"

Cue call up of reserve forces (both of the medics still left in the service after constant tours) - or even more likely shipping out Civilian medical contractors!!!

I can just hear TCH blabbering on "we have found that the military necessity of medical services has reduced since the introduction of enhanced technology and stand off weapon systems"
in other words, we dont need medics, because we havent got any soldiers left to actually get wounded!

Tony/TCH/Brown - all Fcuking Wnakers!

8O feck me I had no idea the army even had 10 chunting bands never mind 30 of the feckers...........MDN's going to be gutted what with him having been the longest serving 2 i/c on the triangle in the ACC band, opps sorry AAC Band.... :D
In autumn 1990 a number of military bands were deployed to the Middle East to act in their war role supporting the medical services. In several cases the bands deployed to the Gulf well ahead of their corresponding infantry battalions. I havent heard of any similar deployments for Op Telic.
Doing away with Military Bands may seem innocuous given that the infantry, particularly the Scots, are fighting to retain their identity and traditions though their demise is more than just the disappearance of a few musicians.

Until the 1990s, when someone in their infinite wisdom decided that Regimental Bands were an anachronism and a financial burden, Bandsmen in infantry battalions provided stretcher bearers and in many instances made up the intelligence teams in each rifle company on operations in NI and elsewhere, their service was invaluable.
The presence of a Regimental Band providing music and a colourful presence at various events in a regiment's recruiting area undoubtedly enhanced recruiting. Their high visibility in overseas postings particularly in third world countries also went a long way to winning and retaining the hearts and minds of the local populace. They also boosted the morale of soldiers in barracks by providing military music (with the Pipes & Drums) for parades and entertainment at various functions.

It seems that those in power are hell bent on eradicating every vestige of tradition in our infantry. They appear to believe tradition old fashioned, obsolete, sentimental and tinged, perhaps, with classism. Soldiers thrive on tradition, it instills pride and the ability to go on just that little bit longer for fear of letting down their predecessors whose hard won battle honours grace their colours. Why else is regimental history taught to our soldiers?

So doing away with a few more bands should not be regarded lightly it is another nail in the coffin of the British infantry as we know it.
Busterdog said:
It seems that those in power are hell bent on eradicating every vestige of tradition in our infantry.
when you want to mold everything in your own vision, everything that came before must be replaced, old traditions lost and dismissed.

A typical move of Socialist/Communist Regimes as well.

The traditional British Army, with it's unique identities and traditions, doesn't fit well in a new European Military.


Kit Reviewer
Busterdog said:

It seems that those in power are hell bent on eradicating every vestige of tradition in our infantry.

"You cannot subdugate a nation that has traditions."

Bladensburg said:
Well WWI was before Year Zero of the Bounteous New Era (previously known as 1997) so he would have plenty of precedent.
I can hardly wait for the hundred foot high portraits of The Glorious Leader on every street corner......


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