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London for Ceremonial
State Ceremonial Music

State Ceremonial Music


Household Division Beating Retreat 2016,
conducted by Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Kevin Roberts MBE


‘The Battle of the Somme’
by Pipe Major W Lawrie (b. 1881 d. 1916)
of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

St John’s Episcopal Church, Ballachulish, Argyll


This bagpipe tune was named the ‘Battle of the Somme’ after its composer, Pipe Major William Lawrie died in 1916 at the age of just 35 following an illness contracted during his service at the Battle of the Somme.

As an Act of Reverence, Pipe-Major Lawrie’s pipes and medals were brought down to London in 2016 by Colour Sergeant (retired) Darren Hardy of the Coldstream Guards Band, in the centennial year of the Battle of the Somme.

Before his pipes and medals left their home in Stirling Castle, a ceremony took place at Lawrie’s graveside in Ballachulish in Scotland, where Scots Guards piper Lance Sergeant John Mitchell, played the ‘The Battle of the Somme’ tune. The video below shows the footage of this event and a clip of this highly-regarded piece.

Pipe-Major William Lawrie’s bagpipes are now back on display in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum in Stirling Castle, along with his service medals and other awards he won for his expert pipe playing. 

We hope you enjoy these two clips recorded by BFBS reporter Ali Gibson.

'Act of Reverence' - Guards’ Chapel May 2016 , for all who served and fell at the Battle of The Somme.

Pipe-Major Laurie’s bagpipes were ceremonially carried onto Horse Guards' Parade to witness a performance of his Retreat March, 'Battle of the Somme' performed by the Sovereign’s Pipe-Major, Pipe-Major Scott Methven, the last Pipe-Major of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.


Passchendaele - Lieutenant Colonel S N Haw MBE 

Officially known as the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele became infamous not only for the scale of casualties, but also for the mud. Ypres was the principal town within a salient (or bulge) in the British lines and the site of two previous battles: First Ypres (October-November 1914) and Second Ypres (April-May 1915). Haig had long wanted a British offensive in Flanders and, following a warning that the German blockade would soon cripple the British war effort, wanted to reach the Belgian coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On top of this, the possibility of a Russian withdrawal from the war threatened German redeployment from the Eastern front to increase their reserve strength dramatically. 

The British were further encouraged by the success of the attack on Messines Ridge on 7 June 1917. Nineteen huge mines were exploded simultaneously after they had been placed at the end of long tunnels under the German front lines. The capture of the ridge inflated Haig’s confidence and preparations began. Yet the flatness of the plain made stealth impossible: as with the Somme, the Germans knew an attack was imminent and the initial bombardment served as final warning. It lasted two weeks, with 4.5 million shells fired from 3,000 guns, but again failed to destroy the heavily fortified German positions. 

The infantry attack began on 31 July. Constant shelling had churned the clay soil and smashed the drainage systems. The left wing of the attack achieved its objectives but the right wing failed completely. Within a few days, the heaviest rain for 30 years had turned the soil into a quagmire, producing thick mud that clogged up the rifles and immobilised tanks. It eventually became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. 

On 16 August the attack was resumed, to little effect. Stalemate reigned for another month until an improvement in the weather prompted another attack on 20 September. The Battle of Menin Road Ridge, along with the Battle of Polygon Wood on 26 September and the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October, established British possession of the ridge east of Ypres. 

Further attacks in October failed to make much progress. The eventual capture of what little remained of Passchendaele village by British and Canadian forces on 6 November finally gave Haig an excuse to call off the offensive and claim success. 

However, Passchendaele village lay barely five miles beyond the starting point of his offensive. Having prophesied a decisive success, it had taken over three months, 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties to do little more than make the bump of the Ypres salient somewhat larger. In Haig’s defence, the rationale for an offensive was clear and many agreed that the Germans could afford the casualties less than the Allies, who were being reinforced by America’s entry into the war. Yet Haig’s decision to continue into November remains deeply controversial and the arguments, like the battle, seem destined to go on and on.

“Passchendaele” has been composed as a tribute to the brave men who gave their lives in 1917 at the eponymous battle - one of the bloodiest conflicts of the First World War. “Words of Commemoration”, written by Colour Sergeant (retired) Darren Hardy. 

I left my home for Flanders Fields

To where the poppies sway.

To go and fight for those I love,

To stand with men so brave,

But now I’m lost beneath the ground,

My body still to find.

All that remains is my name,

At Tyne Cot Passchendaele


So now I wait in Flanders fields,

Above the poppies sway.

A silent witness of a time,

That denied me of old age.

I sacrificed my future hopes,

Pray say it’s not in vain.

My name amongst the legions lost

At Tyne Cot Passchendaele


Should you come to Flanders fields,

On which the poppies sway.

Gaze upon the vale of souls,

Remember why we came.

Do not forget what happened here,

We gave you your today.

Our countless names of sacrifice,

At Tyne Cot Passchendaele.


Passchendaele Poem: Copyright © Colour Sergeant (retired) Darren Hardy, 
Band of the Coldstream Guards


The Banks of Green Willow - G Butterworth MC, arr. Haw

George Butterworth MC,  whose life was tragically and prematurely cut short in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, is generally considered to be have been one of the most talented of English composers.  He was a great collector of English folk tunes and he took inspiration from them for his original compositions - “By the Banks of the Green Willow” is one of his finest.  A talented dancer, Butterworth won Gold Medals for Morris Dancing. 

“By the Banks of the Green Willow”,  was selected and arranged by Lieutenant Colonel Simon Haw MBE for the Slow Inspection of the Line for The Queen's Birthday Parade, Trooping The Colour 2016. It was chosen as it has become the unofficial anthem for the musicians, artists and poets who fought and were lost in the First World War.  It was a rare opportunity for the Massed Bands of the Foot Guards to pay tribute to them all. 

At the onset of war in Europe in August 1914 George Butterworth enlisted as a Lieutenant with the Durham Light Infantry's 13th Battalion.  Before departing for France Butterworth destroyed all of his work which, in his opinion, fell short of excellence.  As a consequence his published musical output is somewhat scarce.

Lieutenant George Butterworth was mentioned in Despatches and was awarded the Military Cross for successfully defending a trench at Pozieres during 17-19 July 1916.  He was killed leading a raid during the Somme Offensive at Pozieres on 5 August 1916.

In the early hours of 5 August 1916, Butterworth’s unit was engaged in an attack on a trench called Munster Alley. It was here that Butterworth met his fate. Brigadier-General Henry Page Croft wrote to Butterworth’s father, extolling his heroism:

“I went up to the farthest point reached with Lieut. Kaye-Butterworth. The trench was very low and broken, and he kept urging me to keep low down. I had only reached the Battalion Headquarters on my return when I heard poor Butterworth, a brilliant musician in times of peace and an equally brilliant soldier in times of stress, was shot dead by a bullet through the head. So he, who had been so thoughtful for my safety, had suffered the same fate he had warned me against only a minute before.”



 Videos: Copyright © BFBS

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