Corps of Drums
Corps of drums are a common occurrence in the armed forces, particularly the army and the navy. Operationally, corps of drums are deployed as a specialist platoon that serve as assault pioneers or force protection. Having previously carried a shortsword bearing the Royal Cypher as a weapon, many also carry an SA80 bayonet as an alternative. Each infantry battalion except for the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Royal Irish Regiment and the two remaining Rifle Regiments (Rifles and Royal Gurkha Rifles), as well as the Royal Marines maintain corps of drums. They were previously a part of formations of the Royal Air Force.
The main instrument used is a snare drum, the latest version (97s-pattern) of which include a metal rod-tension and plastic heads. Another instrument used is the five key flute, typically pitched in B-flat. Common tunes such as The British Grenadiers and Hazelmere are traditionally played by military corps of drums. A range of percussion instruments such as a bass drum, tenor drums and cymbals (plus the optional glockenspiel) are also used addition to the previously mentioned instruments. All musicians save for the bass drummers, tenor drummers and cymbalists carry bugles with their instruments, which they also play not just bugle calls but also a number of marches. Notable corps of drums are maintained in units such as the Honourable Artillery Company and the Royal Logistic Corps. In the RLC, the corps of drums of that formation is more of a drumline that is famed for a "black light" display, which is a modern touch that makes it very distinct from its predecessors and counterparts.
Buglers in the Royal Marines are also trained side drummers and are situated at the front of the band. They also have experience in Herald Fanfare Trumpets. They trace themselves to the raising of the RM in 1664 with six drummers attached to each of the foundation companies that made up the first regiment of marines in the UK. Today, there are 60 buglers of the RM who carry out duties ranging from repatriation services to mass displays. All are qualified members of the Royal Marines Band Service and are alumni of the prestigious Royal Marines School of Music. Until 1949, all RM units sported separate corps of drums, today, they form a vital part of all the six bands of the RMBS.
Drummers in the 18th century were distinguished in their regimental "reversed colours" uniforms. For example, an infantry regiment that wore a red coat with yellow facings as its uniform would gave drummers who would wear yellow coats with red facings. Today corps of drums are allowed to parade in Army Combat Uniforms as well as full dress uniforms such as modern day versions of the aforementioned uniforms.
All corps of drums in the Army and the RM are led by a Drum Major, who is drawn from the ranks of the veteran drummers of the formation. In RM corps of drums, a Bugle Major serves as the senior drummer-bugler and second in command.
All Army Cadet Corps of Drums follow a syllabus that has been approved by the Army School of Ceremonial in Catterick. The Army School of Ceremonial is a team of Infantry drill and music SMEs, providing guidance on all ceremonial activity and events, training soldiers to become part of a Corps of Drums, playing side-drum, flute and bugle.
Band and Bugles
The use of the silver bugle was pioneered by The Rifles (and its
predecessor regiments) as a way of communicating on the battlefield.
Their use date back to practices developed during the Napoleonic Wars and even as far back as the American Revolutionary War. Buglers are trained to play the bugle and a fast march of 140 paces per minute.
They sound a bugle call followed by a quick drum beat to signal a quick
march, which is a break of tradition for regular bands that use a
regular drum beat. These types of bands never performs slow marches
except during occasions that require it (i.e. Trooping of the Colour, Presentation of Colours, Changing of the Queen's Guard).
Today, the Band and Bugles of The Rifles is the only one of its kind and with that specific naming custom in the British Army. The Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas also has similar customs to the former bands and bugles of the Light Division. Just like in the former bands of the rifle and Gurkha infantry regiments these bands are led by a Bugle Major, assisted by the Director of Music or Bandmaster. The Band of the Rifles maintains the traditional bugle platoon stationed at the head of the band made up of buglers from each of the battalions, a tradition formerly in force in the bands of the rifle regiments. Since 2007, the Band of the Brigade of Gurkhas has a small bugle section mirroring that of the Rifles, a tradition formerly of the military bands of each of the Gurkha rifle battalions and regiments. In addition, the reserve Band of the Royal Irish Regiment (under the Army Reserve) is modelled after that of The Rifles, as the regiment, while maintaining the traditions of the former namesake unit disbanded in 1922 following the Irish War of Independence, honours the traditions of both the light infantry Royal Irish Rangers and the line infantry Ulster Defence Regiment, themselves successors to the long line of line and light infantry regiments of Irish service in the regular and reserve ranks of the Army.