The Light Division
The Light Infantry
The Light Infantry
The Light Infantry
The Durham Light Infantry
The origins of the Band of the 68th Foot are uncertain: there is no record of it in early Inspection Reports, and even an account of the Regiment in the Peninsular War - when bands were becoming common throughout the Army - is equivocal. Private John Green's memoirs of that campaign, published in 1827 as The Vicissitudes of a Soldier's Life, describe the entry of the 68th and others into Madrid in 1812: 'The people shouted and rejoiced as we marched along, and the bands of the different regiments enlivened the scene by frequently playing "The Downfall of Paris"'. It will be noted that Pte Green does not mention that the 68th itself had a band at this time, though in the same year he does state that since the Regiment had been converted into a light infantry unit, it now 'manoeuvred by the sound of the bugle, instead of the word of command.' It is possible that bugles provided the only music in the 68th for some time.
It is assumed, however, that at some point in the early decades of the century a band did emerge, and that it accompanied the Regiment to the Crimea. There a close relationship was struck up with the 95th Rifles (later The Rifle Brigade), out of which emerged the adoption of 'I'm 95' as the regimental quick march; this was later supplanted by 'The Light Barque'.
The 68th had only a brief respite after returning home from the Crimea, and in 1857 was posted to India. Prior to its departure a dinner was given for the men by the officers at Crystal Palace; the music, it is recorded, was provided by the Band of the Grenadier Guards, suggesting that either the 68th Band was too weakened by war to perform or that the bandsmen were too busy enjoying the celebration along with their comrades to play.
Whilst in India the Regiment appointed its first known Bandmaster, W Neuzerling, who - despite his foreign-sounding surname - was not a civilian, but a Kneller Hall graduate. It is unclear what relationship Mr Neuzerling was to Albert Neuzerling, who enlisted into the 68th around this time and in 1874 became Bandmaster of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Foot; given the proximity of their dates, the latter was perhaps a younger brother. Mr Neuzerling's successor was also from the School: Mr B Skelton, who retired in 1879, the same year that the Regiment became involved in the Afghanistan campaign.
Though the 68th could thus claim some knowledge of military life in India, this was as nothing compared to the experience of the regiment that would later become the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. Raised in 1826 as an East India Company regiment, the 2nd Bombay Light Infantry came under British Army command in 1862 along with the other units of the Company; it was not until 1874 that it left India for the first time.
Early records of its Band are even more scarce than those of the 68th, though it is known that the 106th used 'Paddy Carey' as its regimental march up to 1878. In that year the Regiment was able to take advantage of its home posting to engage its first Kneller Hall bandmaster, James Davis; possibly it was under his influence that 'Paddy Carey' was replaced by 'Ap Shenkin' - certainly he was to see its departure, for with the 1881 amalgamation 'The Light Barque' was adopted for the new Regiment.
1881 also saw the 1st Battalion officers resolve to contribute to a fund for the establishment of a string orchestra, though music was to take a back seat soon afterwards with the Battalion's emergency departure to Egypt for the Sudanese Campaign. The 2nd Durhams meanwhile had yet another posting to India, having spent just eight years at home. It was not to be until 1902 that the Battalion could once again enjoy the peace of England; it was still at home when the Great War broke out.
In the aftermath of war the 2nd Battalion was again on its travels. A short stay in Britain was followed by nineteen years abroad, much of it again in India, though there was a six-month excursion to Shanghai in 1927. The band engaged in the usual round of activity, playing in Mess and at the Calcutta Tattoo, and forming a dance band for smaller bookings.
Notwithstanding its less-than-glamorous existence, missing out on the prestigious engagements available to those stationed in the UK, the 2nd Durhams could boast an extremely high standard of musicianship during this period, evidenced by the fact that it produced two of the great bandmasters of the century. Alf Young had enlisted in 1912 and was to rise to become Director of Music of the Royal Engineers (Chatham), whilst Richard Tulip had served through the War in the 4th Battalion before transferring to the 2nd and subsequently taking over the Band of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers - he was then appointed Professor of Piano at Kneller Hall, where he remained until his death in 1974.
The 1st Battalion also produced a brace of bandmasters in the early years of the century: Trayton Adams of the Northants and Thomas Noble of the 16th/5th Lancers. It had the benefit of remaining in the UK through the '20s and most of the '30s, with a full complement of musical combinations - military band, dance band and male voice choir - available to play in public and to broadcast, but increasingly regimental commitments came to dominate life. There were recruiting marches through County Durham, and there was training for medical orderly and traffic control duties: in 1936 the Band won the Connaught Shield in the annual Aldershot stretcher-bearing competition.
In 1937 the 2nd Battalion moved to the Sudan, en route for England, whilst the 1st made a final appearance in the Aldershot Tattoo, before leaving for Shanghai. Christmas 1938 was spent in China, with the dance band particularly busy, but thereafter both bands were disbanded, leaving the bandmaster with the difficult process of rebuilding once authorization had been received from the War Office.
F H Rose, who had been with the 2nd Battalion since 1934, was primarily responsible for this task, but in 1945 he handed over duties to George Crowhurst who was to stay with the Regiment for a decade, transferring to the 1st Battalion when the 2nd was disbanded. It was under his baton that the Band became the first to broadcast from Broadcasting House in Hamburg on the newly launched British Forces Network, and that the 1st Battalion was greeted in Liverpool when it finally came home from war in 1948.
The following year the Battalion was posted to Germany, where Mr Crowhurst added a dance orchestra to the Regiment and, at Christmas 1950, pre-empted Starlight Express with a production of Cinderella that included a roller-skating ballet; he also led the Band on summer tours of the recruiting area, playing at Durham Cathedral, at Roker Park for the football and at the South Shields Tattoo. The result of all this activity was that when the Band was visited by the Kneller Hall Inspectorate in 1952 it was graded 'outstanding'.
Orders were given in 1951 for the 2nd Battalion to be re-formed and Stanley Peacock was appointed Bandmaster. His task evidently took some time to complete, for, when new colours were presented to the Battalion in Germany in May 1953, it was the 1st Band that provided the music; within a few months, however, Mr Peacock had built a band to his satisfaction, and it made its first broadcast in November.
1953 also saw the 1st Durhams Band participate in an even more significant event - the Coronation Parade - and move to Egypt, where it rejoined the Battalion, returning from a year in Korea. By now Mr Crowhurst's enthusiasm for music had ensured that the Battalion could boast not only a string section - unusual for a line infantry band of the period - but also two separate dance bands. When Mr Crowhurst's retirement coincided with the disbandment of the 2nd Battalion in 1955, Mr Peacock brought many of his musicians from the 2nd to create a band nearly 50-strong.
Though this substantial unit was to be reduced over time, Mr Peacock's brief tenure was to provide an appearance at the 1956 Royal Tournament and a debut album. Mr Peacock retired whilst the Regiment was in Cyprus, leaving Band Sergeant Major Collins to fill the gap until his replacement arrived, though in fact the Band spent much of this time on guard duties rather than music.
1st Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 1955
The remaining years of the Band's existence saw the men active in a wide variety of locations. In 1960 they played 80 engagements in three months in County Durham, the following year they performed at the Queen's Birthday Parade in Berlin, and in 1953 they were posted to Hong Kong. Here there was an appearance by an eighteen-man dance band as guests at a Shirley Bassey concert, regular work for the Nite-Beats group and a trip to Korea in 1965 that was witnessed by George Crowhurst, now Director of Music of the Brunei Police Band.
In 1966 the Regiment returned to the United Kingdom. Two years later it was on the move again, with a posting to Cyprus. It was here in July 1968 that a parade was staged to herald the Durhams' absorption into the Light Infantry; the Band played the regimental marches of the four constituent regiments.
The incarnation as the 4th Battalion, Light Infantry was to be very short-lived. Within the year the battalion had been disbanded and the traditions of the 68th and 106th Foot were lost to the British Army.
The History of British Military Bands,
Volume Three: Infantry & Irish