Drum Corps Coldstream Guards


Drummers in the Army were traditionally employed within rifle companies and were used to pass orders on the battlefield by drum signals. During the 19th Century, drum signals were gradually replaced by bugle calls. The drummers of the Coldstream Guards are thought to have been formed into a Corps of Drums in around 1872 as part of the Cardwell Reforms. Since then, the Corps has become renowned for its musical prowess and military ability. Established for 28 Drummers and a Drum Major (a senior non-commissioned officer or warrant officer), the members of the Corps play side drums, a bass drum, flutes, cymbals and bugles. All members are referred to as Drummer, regardless of the instrument that they play.

Unlike military bands, the Corps of Drums are very much infantry soldiers first; their musical and ceremonial role is an extra task over and above their normal duties. Most drummers have no musical knowledge prior to joining the Army. Instead they are taught on the job by the senior soldiers in the Corps, and, operational commitments permitting are sent on three-month courses at the Army School of Ceremonial in order to train them on their chosen instrument.

The Corps of Drums of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards form half of the Battalion's Fire Support Group - providing extra firepower to suppress the enemy in support of the rifle companies. Ordinarily, they train with 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns, .50cal Heavy Machine Guns and Automatic Grenade Launchers. Needless to say, machine gunning is a tough business and members of the Corps need to be fit and robust due to the weight of the weapons and ammunition they carry on the battlefield. Along with the rest of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, the Corps returned in April 2010 from a busy and demanding tour of Helmand Province in Afghanistan, where their machine gunning skills were put to good effect.

Back in the UK, while not training as machine gunners, the Corps provides musical support to the Battalion's ceremonial duties - Queen's Guard Mounts (Changing of the Guard), the Queen's Birthday Parade (Trooping the Colour) and a number of other state occasions and private functions. They work closely with the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards, and have previously performed together at the Queen's Birthday Parade, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Basel Tattoo in Switzerland.

Versatility and high standards in both machine gunning and musical ability are the hallmarks of the Corps of Drums: from performing at a private concert for Her Majesty the Queen to providing fire support against Taliban positions, the Corps of Drums of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards are widely recognised as being one of the best Corps of Drums in the British Army.

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