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The Coldstream Guards

Directors of Music


named The Coldstream Guards


The Band of The Coldstream Guards

The Coldstream Guards claim a double distinction in the British Army: first that it is the oldest regiment in continuous existence, and second that it is the sole representative by direct descent of the New Model Army, the first regular army in Britain. Raised in 1650 by General George Monck (sometimes spelt Monk), it transferred to the new standards in 1661 in a ceremony that consisted of laying down its arms and taking them up again in the service of the King. Charles II conferred the titles of Duke of Albemarle and Lord General upon Monck, and the Regiment retained its connexion with him until his death in 1670.

The Coldstream's regimental motto is 'Nulli Secundus', Second to None, partially in recognition of its claim to be the oldest regiment. In keeping with this, the Regiment has always insisted that if it cannot march at the head of the Household Division then it will march at the end.

The Royal Warrant of 1685 that entitled the Grenadiers to add hautbois to their establishment applied also to the Coldstream.

As can be seen from pictures in possession of the Regiment, there was, in addition to a Corps of Drums, a band of eight musicians as early as 1742. By 1768 the Coldstream Guards had what was described as 'a fine Band of Musik', comprised of civilians who were hired by the month. Their only military duty was to march the guard from St James' Park to the Palace and back.

An inherent conflict between musical and military roles was exposed in 1783, when Lord Cathcart, an officer of the Regiment asked the Band to play during an aquatic excursion to Greenwich; the musicians refused on the grounds that such an engagement was 'incompatible with their several respectable and private engagements'. The officers petitioned their Colonel-in-Chief, the Duke of York, then in Hannover for leave to have a band that they could command at all times. The Duke enlisted twelve German musicians - two oboes, four clarinets, two bassoons, one trumpet, two horns and a serpent - and sent them to London. They were led by Music-Master Eley, remembered today for his slow march, 'Duke of York'. Reporting on the change, The Times of 20 May 1785 spared a thought for the dismissed musicians:

In all probability we never shall hear a regimental band equal to that which is dismissed, they have for many years been a treat to those persons who have attended the courtyard at St James's, and we sincerely hope, after so long and faithful service, they will at least be entitled to half pay for the remainder of their lives.

Mr Eley was succeeded in turn by John Weyrauch in 1800 and by James Denman in 1815. By this time the band had been augmented by flutes, key bugles and trombones and now numbered 20 performers. With this combination, the Coldstream Guards were ordered to Paris during the occupation following Waterloo.

For several years, the Coldstream Band in keeping with those of other regiments, had three black musicians playing tambourines and a 'Jingling Johnny'. The practice was discontinued in 1837.

In 1818 Thomas Lindsay Willman was appointed Bandmaster. One of the best and most popular clarinettists of his day, holding appointments with the Philharmonic and Opera orchestras as well as with the Band, he employed the curious technique of playing with the reed against his upper lip. Under his guidance the Coldstream became renowned for its woodwind section, producing most famously Henry Lazarus, who took over from Willman as principal clarinettist with the Opera orchestra in 1840. Lazarus was later to become professor of clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music, Kneller Hall and the Royal College of Music.

When Willman retired in 1825, Charles Godfrey who had joined the Band from the Surrey Militia was appointed bandmaster. Charles was the founder of the dynasty that was to have such a marked influence on military music. When he completed his military service in 1834, the Officers of the Regiment retained him as a civilian bandmaster until his death at the age of 73. His second son, Frederick Adolphus, joined the Coldstream Guards in 1856 and took over the baton on his father's death in 1863. Fred was renowned in his day as an arranger and, although his works are now a little dated in style and content, some of his transcriptions of the classics are still played. In the band at this time was Bandsman Phasey whose virtuosity on the euphonium did much to develop and popularize the instrument.

After more than half a century of Godfreys, Mr Cadwallader Thomas, who had joined the Coldstream Guards Band in 1853, took up the position of bandmaster. He was another outstanding clarinettist and had been bandmaster at the Duke of York's School for ten years prior to returning to his old regiment. He had the misfortune, however, to serve between and be overshadowed by the two Godfreys and the next incumbent, John Mackenzie Rogan.

The Coldstream Guards Band under Mackenzie Rogan was the first British Army band to visit one of the Dominions, when they toured Canada in 1896; they were also in 1907 the first Guards Band to visit France at the invitation of the French Government, having gained the approval of King Edward VII. Mackenzie Rogan was the first bandmaster in the Brigade of Guards to be granted a substantive commission with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant and after passing through all the various ranks retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel. Never before had a serving bandmaster or director of music attained this rank.

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The Coldstream Guards lay claim to having introduced Tschaikovsky's 1812 Overture to Britain. In 1896 a Coldstream officer heard the work in St Petersburg, and brought back a copy of the score for the director of music. Mackenzie Rogan played it at concerts throughout the country and brought it to the attention of Henry Wood. It remains a firm favourite at concerts to this day, its martial themes supremely well-suited to the military band.

J Mackenzie Rogan
J Mackenzie Rogan

For 20 years Mackenzie Rogan was the senior director of music of the Brigade of Guards, and he was responsible for the massed bands of the Brigade at the funeral of Queen Victoria, the coronation and funeral of King Edward VII and the coronation of King George V. Amongst the many decorations and awards that he received were the Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, Officer (Knight) of the Order of the Crown of Belgium, Cavaliere of the Order of the Crown of Italy and Officer of the Black Star of Benin (France). His service medals consisted of the Silver Medal Queen Victoria's Jubilee, Silver Medal Royal Victorian Order, Long Service Medal, Burmah Medal and two clasps (1885-87 & 1887-1889), Victory Medal, General Service Medal and Coronation Medal (1911). In October 1904 he was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1907 the Senate of the University of Toronto conferred an honorary Doctor of Music degree on him. He retired in 1920 and was succeeded by Lieutenant Robert Evans.

Robert Evans' career was unusual. He had served in both the Royal Artillery and the Coldstream Guards as a musician and, after a spell as bandmaster with the Highland Light Infantry, he became bandmaster of the Royal Garrison Artillery at Plymouth before returning to the Coldstream. It was under the command of Lieutenant Evans that in 1927 the Band once more visited Canada.

The next director of music, James Causley Windram, came from a military background; his father had been bandmaster of the Highland Light Infantry and then a commissioned bandmaster with the Royal Marines. The Band made two visits to France and also journeyed to New York for the World Fair in the spring of 1939. In January 1942, Major Williams was appointed Senior Director of Music of the Household Division, but it was to be a tragically short-lived appointment.

On 18 June 1944 a section of the Band conducted by Major Windram was playing for the service in the Guards' Chapel, Wellington Barracks when a German rocket crashed through the roof and exploded, wrecking the Chapel. Amongst those killed were Major Windram and five of the musicians; a further twelve members of the Band were injured, and all the instruments destroyed beyond repair. As a memorial to Major Windram and those killed, fellow musicians presented a beautiful conductor's stand, which can be found in the Guards Chapel, whilst a plaque was laid in the Chapel at Kneller Hall.

Douglas A Pope, bandmaster of the Royal Army Service Corps was immediately flown home from Italy where he was on tour playing to the Allied troops. In being appointed to the Coldstream Guards he achieved the unique record of four cap badges within a year, moving from the 1st Bn The Queen Own Cameron Highlanders to the Royal Military College (Sandhurst) as bandmaster on 8 September 1943, to the RASC on 1 February 1944 and then to the Coldstream on 5 September of that year. Under his leadership, the Band visited France, Holland, Belgium, Austria and Northern Italy, playing to the troops. In June 1946, whilst in Vienna, Lieutenant Pope organised a Searchlight Tattoo at the Schonbrunn Palace and raised over 10,000 for local charities. Other bands taking part were those of the Royal Dragoons and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

In 1960 the Band with the pipes, drums and dancers of Major Pope's previous regiment, The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, toured America, playing to capacity crowds.

Lieutenant-Colonel Pope was appointed Senior Director of Music, the Brigade of Guards in 1960. On his retirement in 1963, he held the retired officer appointment of Director of Music, Junior Musician's Wing, Guards Depot, Pirbright as well as that of Professor of Instrumentation at Kneller Hall.

On Colonel Pope's retirement, Captain Trevor Sharpe was transferred from the Junior Leaders Regiment, Royal Army Corps to the Coldstream Band. Apart from his numerous appearances at state functions, tattoos and massed bands, Captain Sharpe achieved a degree of fame when he successfully secured the contract for the band to play the signature tune for the popular television series Dad's Army, with his name appearing in the closing credits.

In 1972, this time with the pipes and drums of The Black Watch, the Coldstream visited the USA and Canada.

Major Sharpe was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1972 on his appointment as director of music at Kneller Hall. Retiring in 1978, he took up the position as Professor of Instrumentation, Kneller Hall.

Subsequent directors of music have been Lieutenant-Colonel 'Dick' Ridings, Major Roger Swift and Major David Marshall, with the international commitments of the Band continuing throughout. With Colonel Ridings, the Band toured Australia and New Zealand in 1984, returning there with Major Swift in 1988 to play at the bicentenary celebrations. It has also toured Japan twice as the guests of the Japan Orchestral Society.

On his retirement from the Guards, Major Swift was appointed Professor of Conducting at Kneller Hall and also became Director of Music of the Honourable Artillery Company. Major Swift has appeared at several massed bands concerts as a solo pianist playing 'Rhapsody in Blue'.

Thirty-one years after Major Pope's American tour, the Band again toured North America with the pipes and drums of The Queen's Own Highlanders (the successors to the Camerons), playing for three months. During this tour, Captain Marshall was promoted to major.

A visit to war-torn Bosnia in 1994 to play at a football match won rapturous acclaim in the international media, television pictures of the symbolic event being shown around the world.

adapted from
The History of British Military Bands,
Volume Two: Guards & Infantry

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Bandmasters & Directors of Music of The Coldstream Guards
Trooping the Colour 2000
Trooping the Colour 1999
Band Histories